As many of you know, a couple brothers from the church in Recomachi went on an exploratory expedition. The expedition crew included Johnny, Lupe, Jose, and me (Shawn). The vision stemmed from Johnny, who loves to explore new areas. Having a love for adventure myself, I gladly volunteered to go along. Other church brothers had planned to go along as well, but in the end it was just the four of us.
After stuffing our backpacks full of survival gear, namely food, we went up to the local airstrip and were given wings by missionary pilot Brent Dodd. Dr. Mike, director and founder of the Samachique mission hospital, graciously went along to help us make good connections with the people of Morelos. The town of Morelo is situated at the bottom of a big canyon. Our goal was to start from there and hike east to the town of Baborigami, which is probably about fifty miles as the crow flies. (Remember that crows fly pretty directly. With canyons and mountains, it takes people a long time to get anywhere.)
We were excited about the adventure. However, flying into Morelos and seeing the vast mountain and canyon systems made us second guess ourselves a little. I leaned over and asked Johnny, “What are we doing here? What are we getting ourselves into?” He just grinned and said “We’re gonna do this. No turning back now.”
We landed in Morelos and unloaded our packs.
Left to right: Lupe, Johnny, Jose, Shawn
Thanks to Dr. Mike’s help, we made good connections in Morelos. The people treated us royally, giving us food, buying groceries for us, and giving us tips on how to find the indigenous groups we were looking for. The government officials even arranged for a vehicle to take us to the top of the canyon. We were so grateful to be spared the long hike to the top.
After the three-hour ride, we got dropped off at a little airstrip that had been dug up by the army and was now being repaired by a group from the local drug cartel. The government workers from Morelos introduced us to the workmen as medical workers from Samachique and told them to take care of us from there. The workers welcomed us warmly and really did take care of us. They took us to an old mining town nearby, gave us a place to stay for the night, and contacted the people in the area to let them know we were there with medicines.
They promised to be back in the morning to pick us up. We consulted many patients that afternoon. What an interesting people group we had come to! They were ethnic Taras, but had almost completely acclimated to the Mexican culture. Their language was different enough from ours that we couldn’t understand each other in Tara. So we used Spanish as our main language.
That evening an elderly gentleman on horseback came to the little clinic building where we would spend the night and invited us for supper. He had a beautiful, traditional farmstead very much like the early American Western pioneers had in the 1800s. It was a very good evening and we went to our little building satisfied.
The next morning, the cartel came as promised and picked us up again. They made sure we caught a ride all the way to the next village, which was also
Hispanic. We set up clinic once more and saw quite a few patients.
Mid-afternoon, after asking for directions, we shouldered our packs and hiked to houses that were scattered about. That is when we started seeing our first real indigenous people. In one of the very remote corners of the mountains, we found this inhabited house.
The people spoke our dialect of Tara, which was a great linguistic victory for us. In spite of their impoverished condition, they were hospitable and shared what little food they had—beans in clay bowls. Their eight-year-old son willingly showed us the trail from their house to our next destination. He walked with us for about 20 minutes.
Darkness began creeping on us as we climbed out of the steep gully to a high point on the edge of a vast canyon. The sight on top was enough to take our breath away. The next morning we dropped our packs and climbed to an even higher rock. The scene was even more phenomenal.
Following our little detour, we came upon several more houses and gave more medicine. The people were ethnically, linguistically, and culturally more Tara. Another victory!
That was the last little pocket of indigenous people we saw. A couple of hours after we hiked out of that village, we arrived at a Hispanic “town” consisting of four houses. In our home area, we are not familiar with backwoodsmen Mexicans.
We had a hard time grasping how remotely these people lived. Vast canyons and mountains surrounded them, yet they somehow sustained themselves. They lived hours apart, but interestingly, they all communicated with each other via radio. That’s how most people were informed that we were in the area and knew when we were going to show up or where we had slept the night before. Following is a picture of a very hospitable family with whom we spent the night. They made sure we had good food and bedding.
This family was very concerned about our welfare and warned us not to hike any farther due to “bad people” that could harm us. The lady even made us write down our names just in case we wouldn’t make it. That way she could radio to Morelos and report us missing. We appreciated it but decided to keep pushing on toward Baborigami.
After a several hours of hiking along a small dirt road in a vast mountainous area with little signs of human habitation, we were suddenly surprised by a convoy of 28 military personal in 7 trucks. A high-profile Indian leader had been killed by the cartel, so the military had been sent out to investigate. After interrogating us about who we were and what we were doing in the middle of nowhere, they agreed to give us a ride to Baborigami. It was a slow 3-4-hour drive on rough roads, but we made it safely. They were very gracious and kind to us. They even let us try out some of their gear.
We got into Baborigami late that afternoon, tired but happy. The next afternoon we caught a ride through a huge canyon back to home. The driver graciously allowed Johnny and me to sit in the luggage rack on top of the van. That gave us more of a bird’s eye view of the entire area.
Here are several observations of the area we explored on this trip:
1. Few medical resources are in the area. This is a great need.
2. The people are warm and hospitable. We ate only two meals from our packs. We were fed by the people the rest of the time. They seem very open to someone coming to help them.
3. Spanish is the predominant language, although we did find a several pockets of Tara Indians who could not speak Spanish.
4. Morelos seems like a fairly central town for most of the remote areas. If the people have medical needs, they can find a way to get to Morelos.
5. The remote mountain villages have almost no religious activities, Catholic or anamistic, and there is little Christian influence. It would be a great place to do a Bible distribution sometime in the future.
6. We also visited the Tepejuan area, another indigenous people group. We were disappointed that very little Christian work is going on among them. They desperately need Tepejuan-speaking missionaries among them. They have the New Testament and a songbook in their language.
One thing that stood out to me throughout this trip was the verse, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). On our trip, we encountered AK 47 machine guns every day. People were worried about our safety. And yet we had no need to fear because God was with us and kept us safe.
It was amazing how everybody was there to help us: the government officials of Morelos, the drug cartel, the country people, and the army itself. They all went out of their way to help us. A big thank you to all of them. And a very big thank you to all who were praying for us on this exploratory trip. It was a good experience, and we learned a lot about the area and the needs there.