Mexico Native Missions December 2022

Canyon News by Johnny Pinkham

I am thinking of the song “I Want My Friends to Pray for Me”. That about sums up our church right now. We are needing prayers. The last few weeks have been such a kaleidoscope of emotions and experiences.

The nine Pinkham’s were finally able to go to the states and visit friends and family. Through God’s amazing work and the influence of dear friends with the right connections, we were able to get our baby girl Nellie her US citizenship and passport. Because of COVID, it’s been nearly impossible to get an appointment with the consulate.

Then, because Martha, my wife, is legally only a tourist to the US, it was required she have a COVID vaccination to cross the border. But through a lot of folks praying for us, we got across legally and without them even asking.

The week we were going to go stateside, our boys were in a four-wheeler accident and our youngest ended up with 20 stitches in his head and a surgery to put his jaw back together. His biggest fears were that he wasn’t going to be able to eat ice cream at Mamaw’s house in Tennessee! We visited 18 states and saw so many old and new friends that we came back feeling really excited about continuing in God’s plan for our lives. There is always that feeling of guilt about leaving my folks and me being the only son, never being there to cut firewood or plant garden or never having eaten Thanksgiving dinner with them in over 20 years. But life is short and eternity is what really matters in the end. These sad, fleeting years are meant to finish our calling from God. If we are not willing to forsake father and mother, lands and comfort, we are not worthy to be a disciple. I realize that not all are asked to make those changes.

Anyway we got back and flew into school. We couldn’t find a teacher, so I girded on the teacher’s outfit and am sitting behind a desk every day grading papers and explaining division and ancient Phoenician culture- which I think we know a lot less about than we let on.

I’m teaching 6th,7th,8th, and 9th grades. Juana started teaching 4th and 5th grades and preschool. Jose started teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, but after a few weeks, he began having anger and attitude problems towards nearly  everyone.  So, he chose to stop teaching which was a relief. It seems there is sin in his heart and we as a church are praying for his repentance and complete commitment to Christ again. As I write this, he is still a member but doesn’t have any responsibility. Pray for him. He has lived with our family as a son for 6 years now.

I’ve been able to get out to visit only a few villages the last months, mostly over around Kuchiwelachi.

The church had been talking about trying to reach out to the villages surrounding Recomachi more, so we decided to buy a cow, and have a big event and invite everyone here for all day preaching. It sounded like a good idea, and a lot of work. We weren’t wrong. Deed and Truth Ministries stepped up to help us make it possible. We bought a cow, cut and hauled several mountains of firewood, made lots of runs to town, and sent word out to all the corners of our people group. We asked Tim Stoltzfus from Sierra Vista, AZ to come preach for us. A friend, Walter from the Samachique hospital, came to take care of any sick folks who showed up and to help out in any way he could. The event was a blessing to all of us and we trust God will grow the seed that were planted in the hearts of our neighbors.

One very special blessing to me personally was that 17 years ago I helped a little four-year-old girl named Filamena, who had hot oil dumped on her head, and half her head was fried. One time she was crying right before one of her many surgeries and while I was holding her, she gave me a kiss. The first one given to me by a Tara.

Four-year-old Filamena
Filamena now

I have seen her twice in the past 17 years while passing out Tara new testaments and then two years ago with the mp3 distribution. Saturday after I finished translating Tim’s salvation message, I walked up to my classroom where a bunch of folks were sitting, and right in front of me was my little girl Filamena, all grown up in her early twenties. She was smiling big and hoping I would recognize her. I couldn’t believe it. I have prayed so much for her over the years. Seventeen years ago she was a lot of my purpose for ministry here over a two year period. But she was always that tiny, little, burnt headed, bald four-year-old. Now she is a woman unmarried, never been to school and has a beautiful full head of hair. I was so excited to introduce her to my wife and children and church family. They’ve all seen the pictures and heard the stories. She heard about the party and another family from her village who we had stayed with almost 19 years ago decided to walk the 6 hours over here from Owilachi. They all left Saturday night, but Filamena and her nine-year-old brother stayed a few extra days with my family. I have been able to ask lots of questions I’ve always wanted to know. Like the time her little cousin was about dead from malnutrition and diarrhea. I had no medicine with me while we were passing out Tarahumara new testaments. I got a flight a few days later and dropped the medicine tied in a bag over their house. “Did you guys know what to do? Did he live?” Turns out he was the 14-year-old boy who escorted her to the hill overlooking our house, then he turned around and walked 6 hrs. home. Last night, I pulled out my photo album from back then and I showed her the pictures of her burns and surgeries. She was shocked when she saw her bald head and all the bloody surgeries. I explained why she has a scar below her ear where the injection port was to inflate the skin expander imbedded under her scalp. But best of all I told her about Christ who can heal all our burns and scars. I begged her to follow him. She was crying several times that night. Maybe, just maybe…

Weekend Meeting   by Tim Stoltzfus

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus promised, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” We were blessed this past weekend to again see how Christ is building His church among the Tarahumaras. Sara and I and our two youngest children, Jonathan and Krista, left our home in Hereford, Arizona, at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday, November 23. We arrived at the border town, Agua Prieta, a bit after 6:00. After getting our visas and vehicle permit we continued south arriving in Samachique shortly before 5:30 p.m.

The reason we went for this weekend was because the church in Recomachi decided to invite all the villages of their people group to come to Recomachi on Saturday. They planned to have preaching and a big meal including beef from a cow butchered for the occasion. A friend from Samachique agreed to come and be the chef for this special occasion.

On Thursday, Johnny arrived before noon and we went with him to invite some of Manuel’s in-laws from Quirare to the big gathering on Saturday. Then we headed for Recomachi arriving there late afternoon.

On Friday, Johnny headed back out to Samachique to coordinate transportation for some Tarahumara churches who were planning to come from a distance. Robert Heibert from Cuauhtémoc, and Todd, Travon, and Rochelle Kropf from Arizona, had arrived in Samachique Thursday evening to help with transportation for the churches from Choguita and Nararachi. By late Friday evening all the above had arrived safely in Recomachi.

Meanwhile the cow had still not been found. Manuel and the cow’s owner, Rodrigo, searched high and low Thursday and Friday. During the day on Friday they saw it and tried to shoot it, but after falling over, it jumped up and ran off and despite their valiant efforts to find it, they had no success. Friday night and part of Saturday morning most of the men from the church searched for another cow but finally mid-morning the search was called off and the cooks began preparing a meal with chicken instead of beef. By the time the weekend was past the missing cow seemed like a minor detail. While our earnest prayers for a cow were not answered, God did answer the greater prayers for people to come and for safety on the roads and for the opportunity for many to hear the Gospel. By Saturday morning many were arriving on foot from all directions. I did not hear an official count of the people but I think there were at least 250 there on Saturday.

There were several church services throughout the weekend. On Thursday evening the local church attended. By Friday evening, they were joined by numerous visitors for the evening service. On Saturday starting around noontime we had a three-hour service with several preaching and some sharing their testimony interspersed with singing. The Christians sat in for this service as well as a number of non-Christians. Many of the non-Christians stayed outside though during this time and observed from a distance, or stood or sat in small groups and visited.

Shortly after 3:00 the meal was served. They filed through the church building to get their food, then they mostly gathered in front of the church and school to eat it. During this time, they also gave away 10 roosters to the delight of the grateful recipients. Then they gave bags of candy to all the children. Immediately following this while every- one was still close I preached an evangelistic message with Johnny translating.

Soon after this outdoor service many began their long trek home. Early Sunday morning Robert left with the load from Choguita. After the morning service the Kropfs left with the group from Nararachi. The long-awaited, earnestly-prayed-for, diligently-worked-for weekend was nearly ended. Those who remained, which was mostly the local church and a few visitors, enjoyed the noon meal together in a very relaxed setting compared with the rest of the weekend.

One of the ways that God transforms our lives when we become disciples of Jesus is that he makes us into servants. It was evident that He is doing this in the church at Recomachi. They exhibited beautiful teamwork as they served the many who visited their community this weekend. The ladies spent hours making hundreds of tortillas. The men and boys also helped with meal preparations and carrying heavier items for the ladies or running after items they needed as well as coordinating transportation and serving as guides to those driving vehicles.

God is at work building His church. He is building His church in Recomachi. Part of the vision for this weekend was that churches be established in other communities as well. We pray that the seed sown this weekend will bear fruit for eternity.

Tent Meetings in Recomachi by Rochelle Kropf

“It’s more like Tent Meetings,” was Johnny’s response to my question about the weekend ahead. We were heading for Recomachi from Samachique and I was squeezed between two Tarahumara ladies; one young with a babe on her lap, one elderly with a stack of tortillas on hers.

Johnny explained then that many unbelievers were invited as well. The first couple sessions were for the local church but Saturday and Sunday were open to one and all, believers and unbelievers from neighboring villages.

They also invited Tim Stoltzfus from our church in Arizona to come preach for them. And last minute called on my brothers, Todd and Travon Kropf, as well as Robert Heibert from Cuauhtémoc, to help drive some of the believers from the villages of Nararachi and Choguita which are both located further away. Nararachi is a 5 day walk from Recomachi but by road is about 6 1/2 hours. Two hours of that is paved road; the rest is some of the rougher dirt roads I’ve traveled. Choguita is a little bit closer. Both of these villages have believers and originally, the plan was to fly them in to Samachique, but the ladies were scared to get on the plane. Johnny really didn’t want them to stay behind, so it was a blessing to be able to help make this trip reality for them.

All of our time in Recomachi was good but Saturday may have been the highlight. Around 300 Tarahumara showed up (some having walked 6+ hours) and we had singing, testimonies, and preaching sessions. Of course there was food and fellowship too and even a bit of fun! The church brethren had planned to butcher a cow and have a grand feast so several of the men spent a lot of time looking for a cow. One they managed to shoot went down then got up and ran off. Eventually they decided to pursue another cow but even that one remained elusive until finally the decision was made to settle for chicken.

They had also hired a cook, Noaa and his family, from Samachique to do the food on Saturday which worked out well.

One fun part was the “door prizes” Johnny’s gave away: 10 roosters! It definitely made for some laughter and smiles. And so did the candy giveaway for the little ones! Another thing that brought joy to my heart was getting to know some of the children. A little fellow named Kevin took the initiative to tell me “hola” and shake my hand. Later he tried to speak to me very slowly and distinctly in an attempt to get me to understand! I thought that was pretty cute. Janie was my faithful little translator. She did a super job. She also taught me how to ask someone’s name in Tarahumara, and it worked!

Krista and I had the fun of having an impromptu art class and helping some of the children with their tiny little painting projects that were included in the candy packs. Many who came on foot left again Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Walter, Robert and the ones from Choguita also left early Sunday. Around 11 we had church then a hasty lunch for the ones heading out. That being the believers from Nararachi and my brothers and me. It was a long afternoon and evening, but our travels went well and soon after dark, we dropped our passengers off at their village and told them adios. We wished we could communicate more effectively but trust they could understand our love and care if not our words.