My Experience with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico

My first mission trip to the “third world” was in 1991 with Black Buffalo Ministries. Our destination was Creel, Mexico, and two weeks later, the impact of this poverty-stricken people and the uniqueness of the Tarahumara were forever lodged in my soul. Back at home, I longed to return to the Sierra Madre’s, but personal circumstances changed drastically, and all my hope for future interaction with the Tarahumara was gone.

One specific event from that mission trip stands out in my memory. I was carrying a 50 pound bag of dried corn on my back from a warehouse to our bus in preparation for a food and clothing distribution to a Tarahumara village. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement behind me. Turning around, I saw a woman stooped over and picking up individual kernels of corn which dropped from a tiny hole in my sack. As she placed each kernel in the pocket of her skirt, the magnitude of her hunger struck me with a force from which I have never recovered … thankfully. Since the early 90’s, the general health of the Tarahumara has improved drastically, yet the need remains extreme.
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Fast forward to 2008 when one of my intercessors told me that she believed the Lord would begin sending me to Mexico to teach the Word. I had not traveled to Mexico in 17 years, and I had no connections there. Just days after this word from my intercessor, my first invitation to Mexico came from a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) base leader who was a student in the YWAM Denver School of Worship where I was teaching. One thing led to another and soon I was traveling to Mexico several times each year!

You can imagine my delight when I was invited by YWAM to teach a Discipleship Training School (DTS) in – you guessed it – Creel, Mexico! There were a few Tarahumara students in that school, and I found myself excitedly reliving much of the 1991 trip. My translator was an American woman who was married to a Tarahumara; his primary ministry was translating the Bible for his people! My genuine fascination with his culture as well as his work prompted many personal conversations, and we became good friends.

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The last time I taught at the YWAM Creel base, I had the honor of presenting a Walk Thru the Bible Old Testament seminar. The class consisted of 35 adults from 4 different nations – Mexico, U.S., The Netherlands, Costa Rica and Germany – as well as 8 Tarahumara toddlers running around! Thirty of the thirty-five were Tarahumara church leaders! I taught the seminar 4 hours each day for 4 days, with translation into Spanish. Literacy in the group ranged from college graduates to illiterate Tara’s. Some of the students understood English only, others only Spanish, and a few, neither! Culturally, the Tarahumara are not a demonstrative people, so when I saw the first smile, I was elated! As each day passed, more and more students were openly participating with smiles, and an occasional chuckle; at times the men even volunteered a response or a question, or offered to lead the group through the hand signs! By the end of the seminar, every person, every age, regardless of language, culture, education or race was in a circle doing all the hand signs with smiles on their beautiful faces! It was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences of my 35+ year career!

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Torah Scribe in Israel

Masada Scribe (4)

Masada is home to some excavated ruins of a synagogue.
Inside the synagogue was a Scribe who was copying the Torah by hand. You can faintly see the steam that was continually over the parchment to keep it from cracking. Scribes must memorize approximately 4000 Jewish laws, and all of the letters (Hebrew reads from right to left) must be the same size; none of them may touch another. If mistakes are made, the parchment must be disposed of. It was fascinating to watch!

Houston Airport

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I saw two Catholic priests at the Denver airport, and then saw them again in Houston. Since we were waiting for the same plane to Chihuahua City, I approached them, asking if I could speak with them; they graciously consented and gave me their attention.
One of them could speak English well and began translating for the other straight away.
They were from Rome and had been teaching some seminarians in Denver. I asked them how their concept of God had changed through their years of ministry (they were both older than I), and how that had affected their teaching.
Their eyes sparkled with love and light as they began describing how they had learned that God is less “strict” and more merciful and patient than they had ever imagined. They both said that they now teach with much more hope and joy than they did when they were younger.
They relayed a story about two women in their 30’s who had approached them in Spain to thank them for being priests, and how surprised and blessed they were by that because of the prevalent anti-religion attitude in Europe.
We talked further about how important their job is to accurately represent the Father-heart of God, especially in regard to the worldwide destruction of the family. They strongly agreed, and later asked me to pray for the situation they would be facing in Chihuahua City.
It was definitely a mutually encouraging encounter.

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Mary Jean

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