The Catholic Church Changed Mexico and all of the Western World

Most of us are aware that it was the Catholic Church that sent the many Missionaries across the great blue sea in order to Christianize the tribes that were abundant. Many of these people worshiped many Gods, from fire to water to the earth. One Native American Church believes that the Mother Earth’s inhabitants came out of the ground through a hollow log. Many of the early conquerors credited with bringing the Christian ways to this continent killed many people in their path in the name of their God, they stole or tricked local natives into masses of gold and silver. Many of the early cultures actually thought the horse and rider were of one spirit and being. There are so many names of early explorers sent to the west from Spain and elsewhere in the name of God. Some names like Cortez, Ponce de Leon, Marcos de Niza and so many more might bring memories of grade school history lessons. It would not be fair to say that all of those who explored and came here to Christianize the natives were bad, as there were amazing individuals as well. Arguably one of the most beloved early Priests that made his way across the great expanses of Mexico and the southwest was Father Kino. He was noted for bringing not only the word of God to thousands of people, but bringing new farming techniques, crops, cattle, horses and sheep. He set up many Mission sites along his path and taught people how to implement these techniques of farming. He taught them to raise and care for cattle, horses and sheep. Many of his followers stayed and became leaders in the communities they came to convert. It is fair to say that whether we are talking about people doing things in the name of God have not changed over the years. There are wonderful people like Father Kino, Martin Luther King, Ghandi and many more, and there also the other side of the spectrum like the many leaders in the middle east, Louis Farrakham, and others teaching hate in the Lords name.

Influence of the Mormon Church in Mexico

Mexico is known as a very religious nation. When most people think about this they think of the Catholic influence and or dominance, but there are many other churches with strong influences in Mexico like the Mormon Church for example. The Mormons, also referred to as members of the Church of Later Day Saints are known around the world for sending missionaries around. We have all seen the young 18 year olds riding their bicycles around wearing the conservative white shirts and dark ties. Many of us hide or do not open the door when we see them outside. If one took the time to listen to them they are very nice servants of their Lord. It is not uncommon for them to offer to help someone out around their house if they feel such a service is warranted. These missions done by so many of the faithful Mormon boys are done not only to spread the word of God, but it also serves to deepen the faith of these servants. As they make their rounds they are constantly growing as young men in ways those of us who have not endured this practice cannot perceive. The act of serving others is a long standing practice of most religions, taken to a higher level by those like the Latter Day Saints who not only spread the word of God to so many, but during their two year mission experience mean dogs, inclement weather, rude people, but the fear of the unknown on a daily basis. It is through their faith that they endure so much in the name of their Lord and for their spiritual growth. So the next time you see the young men walking or riding by consider what their journey is all about.

Spring Break

As many people of the Christian faith, (And others, trying to fit in) are fasting or participating in some sort of denial for Lent, we are seeing another practice known as Spring Break. Spring Break always seems to fall right before Semana Santa aka Mexican Spring Break. Lent is the 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter whereby good Catholics and some other Christian religions do variations of fasting. Fasting typically means going without food, however the widely practiced observance of lent rarely means going without food by those supposedly fasting. The practice of Fasting was origionally observed as a way of preparing for Easter and the resurrection. So many people have taken a religious experience and turned into a weight loss program, a temporary abstinent of alcohol, chocolate or other trivial ritual. What is important about the observance is the observance. How many people claiming to give up something for lent really do not have a clue of this purpose. Any good Catholic would say that the daily observance of Christ in prayer is equally as important in the practice as denying one’s self of some worldly obsession. This altering of a sacred religious practice brings me back to Spring Break. In Mexico we refer to Semana Santa, (The Holy Week before Easter) as Mexican Spring Break. This is another example of a religious time being hijacked by the masses for a less than inspiring practice having nothing to do with abstinence. This in no way is to imply that Hispanics are less Christian than others, as those in Mexico as a whole are as good in the faith as any when speaking as a culture. The art of religion has simply taken a few steps away from the values once preached on the street by the one so many Christians call God.

Mexico and its Churches

Churches in Mexico are a very integral part of the overall society. The Hispanic population is overwhelmingly Catholic but many Latinos also practice religions such as Presbyterian, Mormon, Baptist, Jehovahs Witness and most all other Christian religions. It is interesting that the typical Mexican refers to these religions as Christiano but do not typically put Catholicism into the same category. Christians are defined as people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This believe is also a defining aspect of the Catholic religion, yet many Mexican people differentiate themselves from Christians

It is likely that all religions that are recognized as religions and not cults are found in Mexico and throughout Latin America, but it is believed that over 90 percent of Mexicans are of some Christian faith. The Jewish Faith would be the largest non Christian persuasion, and they are a strong influence in and around Mexico’s capital city. There are not Synagogues in all cities but most communities that have over one hundred thousand people has a Synagogue. Communities without a large enough population to support an official Synagogue often meet in each others homes or meeting halls. Many communities in Mexico also have schools that are religious based. Catholic schools are the most common and they have a presence in most all medium to large cities. Many of these schools have daily prayer and incorporate religion in the daily lives of their students. All in all Churches and religion are a very important part of the daily lives of the majority of Hispanic families in Mexico and the rest of the Latino world.

The Many Faiths of Mexico

In Mexico there is a diverse sense of Religion. Overall Mexico is considered to be a very religious country. Catholics are certainly the dominate group in regards to the masses of believers. There are almost twice as many Catholics than any other religion in Mexico. This is made obvious by the numerous statues of Virgin Mary found in cities all over Mexico. The Virgin Mary is very much a part of the Catholic experience, much like the cross is to all Christian Religions, and the Hanukah is in the Jewish faith. If one spends time in any average Mexico city, one would see evidence of Christianity, from Catholic Missions to Mormon Temples, Baptist, Lutheran, and non denominational churches. There are Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors and of course the common white shirts and conservative ties found on the Mormon Missionaries. In many communities there are churches across the street from churches, and English speaking Church across the street from a Spanish one of the same faith. Down the street there may be a Catholic school and across the street the church, and diagonally a another school or another church.

Though each of these sectors of Christianity all vary in different ways, they all share one common denominator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Most say that it is the faith in Jesus Christ that is what will save the soul.

It is this faith that holds so many Mexican Families together and keeps them striving for the family values found with the word of the savior.

Along with the many faiths found under the umbrella of Christianity there are also many Jewish influences found in Mexico and one of the largest, most influential groups in Mexico City is Jewish, and there are many Synagogues throughout Mexico. All in all Christianity is a blessing found in Mexico

When the Spaniards introduced Christ to the Natives

The influence of Christ was first seen in Mexico with the arrival of the Spaniards. Early Priests had to overcome many issues in their efforts to” Christianize” the Native People. In the northern state of Sonora the natives included primarily the Pimas and the Tohono Odom peoples but also had Yaquis, Apache and a few other migratory cultures. The first Christian Churches started appearing in the late 1600’s. Several of the priests were killed for trying too aggressively to introduce the new concept of one God, and Christianity. The Tohono Odham culture was first introduced to the Missionaries as Papagos. They largely rejected this name because its literal meaning is tepary bean eater, which was what the Pimas referred to them as when they were first introduced to the Conquistadors. There were many instances of uprisings, both by the Pimas and the Tohono Odham that resulted in deaths of Missionaries, Priests as well as burning of churches. It wasn’t until Padre Eusibio Fransisco Kino, came into the region that the natives accepted the Missionaries and their purpose. Arguably Padre Kino, a Jesuit Priest, was the most qualified leader to be sent from the Vatican. Kino was an accomplished Rancher and Farmer, and with him he brought cattle and introduced new crops. Padre Kino demonstrated improved farming techniques which gained the trust of the locals. The introduction of cattle and horses, though introduced before Kino originally by the first of the Conquistadors, also changed a culture, and a continent. Padre Kino did help the tribal members learn to manage and care for the animals. There are many of these missions still standing and certainly worth a visit. From San Javier Del Bac down to Caborca and several others in the Altar area still being visited today.

The Padre Kino Mission in Caborca is one that has been burned down, seen several of its Missionary Priests martyred by both The Papagos and the Pimas. It however is most famous for being used by the local Indians and Mexicans to withstand a raid by American Filibusters trying to conquer and steal land. In the mid eighteen hundreds a group of well armed Americans thought they could simply take control and conquer the land for their purposes. All but one of the gringos was executed when a Mexican battalion rode in to assist in the event. The boy who was spared kept asking who was the lady in the blue dress. Many of the locals interviewed say that the Virgin Mary was seen there in her custom blue dress extinguishing the fuse on a barrel of dynamite that was repeatedly ignited and pinched.

The Word of Christ brings Blessings in Mexico

It is the faith in Jesus and the words from the Bible that inspire so many expatriates to see the needs all around them, and give. So many Norte Americanos living in Mexico that attend Church on a regular basis are reminded daily of their many blessings, and therefore choose to give back in so many ways. It can be seen in many communities where citizens from the United States have chosen to either retire or visit often. The constant reminder of God’s word coupled with the ever present need of those born and living less fortunate lives brings out the best in those who can give. In Puerto Penasco, Family of God Church members actively give back in so many ways that it is mind boggling. Thousands of meals are served monthly, Medical Clinics are held regularly from general practice to optometry. Homes are built for the elderly and the sick, blankets, clothes, toys, and other daily needs are collected and distributed. As all of these activities are carried out, they are associated with the word of God. Children and Mothers understand that the goodness they receive is associated with God’s grace. Parishioners, see the affects of their giving which in turn gives them personal rewards as well. It is extremely rewarding to see the look in a child’s face when they receive something unexpected and so important to daily life as a hot meal, a blanket or even a simple toy. Some of the families blessed by the efforts of the Christian Church parishioners have never seen the inside of a Church or heard the word of God, and some will never have the opportunity to do so. Since so many of the givers do not speak Spanish, the recipients of the offerings may miss part of the message. But those who witness more of a message during their receipt of necessities often make a stronger effort to seek out the message more and even tend to want to give themselves.

Puerto Penasco Christian Fellowship new building update

Dear Friends and co-laborers for Christ,

We wanted to write to each of you and give you some information regarding the latest update on acquiring property for Family of God Christian Fellowship in Rocky Point.

We recently made an offer on a parcel of property in the southeast part of Puerto Peñasco.  Actually, this property is very close to our current location.  It is located just north of where the Railroad tracks cross the main artery on the east side of town which is called Josefa de Dominguez Ave (commonly referred to simply as ‘Josefa’).  The parcel consists of 14 lots – a full city block – with an abandoned building and paved parking area situated on the most eastern four lots.  The building was originally constructed to be an Ice plant and then more recently housed a concrete block plant.  The property has not been used for the past several years.

Please read the following description of the property as well as the vision which our leadership team feels God would want us to use such a property.  Such an undertaking will only be worthwhile if God is glorified and His name is declared boldly with the use of such a facility.

The main building consists of :

  • One large room (approximately 30’ x 65’) which we believe would be ideal for an auditorium/sanctuary/all purpose room.  Not only do we believe this would allow us to have ample and more conducive space for our Sunday Worship Services, we also believe this is a space which could be utilized to host meetings for Vida Joven (known as Young Life in the States) and other outreach rallies of sorts.   This meeting space is ground level and is accessed by a large entry doorway to be more easily accessed by people of all ages with any possible disabilities (this has been an issue with our current second story location).
  • Additionally, there is another large room of similar dimensions that we believe could be divided up into classroom space for Sunday School and other weekly Bible Studies as well as space for a computer lab for which we already have received 25 computers) and classroom space for a potential Seminary and other Pastoral Training for local Pastors as well as vocational and language classes for local nationals.
  • The front of the building has two additional large rooms:

o   One which seems ideal for office and counseling space, and

o   One which we dream could possibly be transformed into a kitchen.

  • There is a large patio space outside this latter room where we can envision having an area for Church gatherings but also where many needy people could be served by an ongoing Soup Kitchen of sorts.

The lots where the building is located has a surface parking lot in place – concrete and in very good condition – with light posts.

On the other end of the parcel of property, there are some unfinished structures which in time could be transformed into buildings which we believe could be used to house:

  • A permanent Medical Clinic to be used to store our medical team’s supplies and medicines and house the monthly clinics which we currently hold in different locations around the city.
  • Community Thrift Store where clothing, housewares, etc. could be obtained by vouchers/gift certificates.  These vouchers/gift certificates would be earned by volunteering to assist in community programs, Mission programs, Church projects, etc.  The idea behind such is to build up the self-worth of individuals in our community.  We believe that simply giving items can and has produced a sense of worthlessness to many in this community.  We want to come alongside people – meet them where they are in their situation – and encourage and help them to know and understand their value in the eyes of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • An additional Food Bank to compliment the current existing one which we sponsor along with our sister Church, Unidad Familiar.
  • Also, a city park exists across Josefa from the Building where we envision Children’s programs – both after school and on Saturdays.  Hopefully, an additional Saturday Mission site will be planted here as well with dreams of bringing nationals in our neighborhood who are not attending any local Christian Church to become a part of our local body.

At this time, as many of you know, many men and women and families are being deported from the United States.  Many more are voluntarily moving back to Mexico from the United States.  Even in this depressing economic era, we are finding that our city is growing in numbers.  The need is great as few jobs are available in contrast to the growing population.  Additionally, many of those deported are trying to get home to a destination that lies further south from us.  One of our dreams for a suitable facility would also be to have a temporary refuge of some sort.  Please read a brief synopsis of one our Elder’s vision for such a ministry:

“The economic situation in the Arizona is producing a repatriation of Mexicans. Many of these people are crossing the borders without money or food and attempting to walk or ride the “rails” south into central Mexico. There is a steady flow of these men going through Puerto Peñasco already. Family of God Church will be located alongside these “rails” that they will be riding. We could place a sign on our site announcing FOG Church as a “Safe Refuge” for these weary travelers. In many ways these people are refugees even though they are returning to their native country. We could give them a warm meal or two, some fresh clothing,  a Bible to read along the way, some encouragement & advice if possible, and then send them back on the road home.”

Our Mission here at Family of God is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  We state in our Mission Statement that we believe this is possible by:

  • Growing in our Knowledge of Him,
  • Expressing our Love for Him,
  • Sharing Him with others, and
  • Serving Him by serving others.

Everything that we do as a Church will always be centered around this Mission Statement.  We only want to have a building with facilities which will help us be more productive in accomplishing this mission. Will you first and foremost pray for this end?  We do not want to progress one step forward if this is not God’s will for us as a body of believers.

I know this email is long and for that we apologize but let us give you some of the pertinent details.  As mentioned at the onset of this email, we stated that we had recently made an offer for this property.

After many counter offers, we eventually arrived with a letter of intent being accepted by the seller whereby we offered a sales price of $300,000.00. Our Real Estate Agent, John Witt, has donated his 5% sales commission to be credited towards the Sales Price bringing the price to $285,000.00 with terms as follows:

  • $60,000 Down Payment
  • 25 year amortization at 6.5% with 5 Year Balloon Payment with no pre-payment penalty
  • Additional $40K down payment after 2 years at which time monthly payment would be adjusted accordingly.

The seller also mentioned that he would accept a cash price of $260,000 which would translate to a sales price of $247,000 after applying the John Witt’s sales commission.

Our letter of intent was delivered with an earnest deposit of $5000.00 (which becomes non-refundable in a few weeks) with the remainder of the down payment due at closing, which if we proceed, would be on December 24 of this year.  We are in the midst of a ‘due diligence’ period for inspection and time to determine all liens or issues with this property. This time frame also gives us time to seek your prayers and your comments and thoughts as you pray for this step in the life of our Church.  Also, this time allows for us to continue raising funds for the Building fund.  We have approximately $75,000 currently raised which we believe would also be the amount needed for renovation with volunteer labor included from local organizations and our Church attendees as well as visiting Mission and Church Groups from the U.S. (who have already volunteered their services).  However, our current funds would be required if we proceed for the down payment as well which would leave us with no funds for renovation if we were to proceed right now.

We do not wish to be and will not be a Church that is consumed with finances. Our Pastor and our leadership feel confident that we exist only to glorify our glorious God and Savior and be faithful to fulfill our role in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, 20) by making disciples as we baptize and teach and preach His Word.  Yes, we need facilities of some sort to accomplish this as a Church - but not if that facility consumes our time and resources to simply exist. However, we also believe that we serve a Mighty God who “owns the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).  He has all the resources and we also know that He has given many of His children the spiritual gift of giving just as he has given others the gift of mercy as well as those who have the gift of teaching or that of Pastor or evangelist (c.f. Romans 12).  He will provide if this is His plan.

Would you please pray for God’s wisdom for us as a Church and for us to know if we are to move forward with this endeavor?  Would you please also pray what part God would you have you play in raising the funds needed?

We will pray for God to give us the full cash price in funds by the necessary time frame.  We have applied for a grant from a Church Foundation in Phoenix but as of yet do not know if and/or when we might hear something.  Perhaps you know of other resources for such grants or gifts. We do not want our monthly needs to limit our current ministry and also realize that a larger facility will also bring more expenses.  Therefore we believe that we need to either raise the entire purchase price or receive pledges for the next 5 years to meet the purchase price with terms.  We believe this amount needs to be given in addition to any amount that you or others might be currently giving to our regular budget.

We have attached a pledge sheet for your use should you feel led by God to participate in this effort.  Some of you are already faithfully giving on a monthly basis to our Building Fund.  We ask you as well to complete the pledge sheet with your current commitment or a new commitment so that we as a Building Committee will be able to ascertain what we feel we can legitimately plan on receiving for this proposed project.

Again, we apologize for such a lengthy email but we feel this is of the utmost importance and want to make sure that we are completely in the will of God in further pursuing the purchase of this property.

We are grateful for your faithful and fervent prayers for Family of God Christian Fellowship.   We feel blessed to serve alongside you as we seek to bring Jesus to our little city of Puerto Peñasco.

For His Glory,

Building Committee, Family of God Christian Fellowship