A trip like this always takes a bit of time to process. And sometimes, the things that stand out to one immediately after the trip aren’t the same things that stand out to one a few months or even a year removed from the trip. That said, here are my three big takeaways from our trip to Ensenada (for now).
The joy of gospel-partnership. Partnerships forged by the gospel of Jesus Christ set the stage for this trip. First and foremost, Pastor Aaron and Hope Community Church’s willingness to let Taylor and I join them was huge. While we only brought two additional people, we required additional administrative oversight and added extra details to the trip. And yet, Pastor Aaron encouraged this partnership and his team welcomed us with open arms and open hearts. That shows great humility and a deep commitment to kingdom-mindedness.
But that’s not the only partnership we experienced on this trip. We had two local churches in San Diego open up their facilities for us to spend the night; one of them right before their Sunday morning service! We were served by brothers and sisters at the Yugo complex from the U.S., from Mexico, and elsewhere. We served side-by-side with Yugo staff members and church members from various churches in Ensenada. Even the building projects we funded, are not meant to be an end in and of themselves. They are intended to build gospel-bridges for local churches and local church pastors in Ensenada to walk across after we leave the country. The house we built for the De La Cruz family now gives Pastor Fidel of Comunidad Cristiana Alegria Familiar a direct venue to share the gospel with the father of that household who is not yet a Christian. At every juncture of this trip is partnership that is built upon the foundation of a common Savior, a common King, and a common purpose.
The beauty of God’s global family. Through all of these gospel-partnerships, another takeaway emerges: the stunning beauty of God’s global family. The New Testament is abundantly clear: God is seeking to draw to Himself people from every ethic background, every linguistic background, every cultural background, and every socio-economic background. In fact, immense and seemingly insurmountable diversity brought together by the unifying power of Jesus Christ is a testament to the overwhelming strength of the gospel.
During the week I saw this in two primary ways. The first and most obvious way was in our fellowship and worship with our Mexican brothers and sisters. Those who led us in singing every morning and evening were ethnically Mexican, but they graciously led us in English worship songs. Occasionally, however, they would repeat choruses or refrains of songs in Spanish. Some people continued to sing the choruses and refrains in English, others switched over to Spanish. This was also true of the church service we attended and participated in on Wednesday as our team led the congregation in a song. Our team was singing the lyrics in English, but halfway through a masterful PowerPoint technician in the back put up the lyrics to the song in both English and Spanish. In both instances we stood singing in different languages to the same God because of the same Son filled with the same Spirit. What a beautiful picture of heaven where our fellow adopted brothers and sisters will lift up the song of the Lamb who was slain in every single language known to mankind.
The second way I observed this beauty was in one particular church from Cupertino, CA. I spoke with several people from the church including the Senior Pastor and it was abundantly evident that this local church has a unique and amazing ethnic diversity. They have been intentional about reflecting the diversity of Silicon Valley and so just as the tech companies of Silicon Valley are filled with people from all over the globe, so their church is filled with people from all over the globe. People who, otherwise, shouldn’t be spending every Sunday together, shouldn’t be eating meals in one another’s homes throughout the week, and definitely shouldn’t be going on a missions trip to Ensenada together, are indeed doing those things because the Gospel of Jesus Christ binds together people from every tribe and language and people and nation. As Pastor Aaron said to me in passing, “I love the diversity of this church. I’m so jealous!” Oh to have diversity in our churches, not just for the sake of diversity, but to display the unifying power of the gospel!
The strong connection between the church and the community in Ensenada. The local churches in Ensenada don’t merely exist geographically in their neighborhoods. They are a part of their neighborhoods. So where there is poverty, the church steps in and meets that need. Where there is hunger, the church steps in and provides meals. Where there is a lack of education, the church steps in and helps educate. And there is absolutely no tension between these things that many conservative evangelicals dub as “social justice” and the absolute centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They exist in a wonderful harmony because the churches and the leaders of these churches understand that people are both physical and spiritual. And, that as the church, they are to care for the whole person, both their physical needs and their spiritual need.
Is it any wonder, then, that when Pastor Fidel’s church acquired the empty lot across from the church campus, some women of the church asked him if they could begin preparing meals in the church kitchen to serve the impoverished children of the community on Saturdays. And is it any wonder that, according to Pastor Fidel, this ministry has opened doors for his church to reach not merely children with a meal, but some of the most impoverished families of Ensenada with both physical bread the Bread of Life. I pray that churches in the United States, beginning with LCF, would not merely exist in the community of Littlerock, WA and in the county Thurston County, but I pray that we would be a part of these communities. That we would ache when our community aches. That we would hear of and feel the needs of our community and seek to meet them in wise and creative ways. And, that we would always remember that the greatest need is the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.