A few days passed, and we headed to the church early in the morning to depart. When I say early, I mean 2:00 A.M. Large vans and trailers were scattered all over the church parking lot. It probably looked like we were preparing for either the rapture or a drug bust. Once everything was organized, we prayed and hit the road.
According to Google Maps, the distance from Sulphur Springs, Texas, to Villa Aldama, Tamaulipas, is approximately 870 miles. It’s about a 15-hour drive.
Three-fourths of the way through the trip, we reached the border city of Brownsville, Texas. After waiting a little while at the checkpoint, we were cleared to cross the border. This was the first time I’d been out of the country.
Once we made it to Aldama, we had to check-in at our motel and unload our stuff. At first glance, the motel looked like any average motel you’d find in the United States. The only noticeable difference was the cobblestone floor of the courtyard. The rooms were surprisingly nice, too. After leaving the hotel, we drove around town and visited the home of the local pastor we’d be working with throughout the week.
As we were driving through town, one of the most noticeable features to me was the huge range of living style. We’d drive past a few nicer stores and more modern homes, and then a few miles down the road there would be nothing but huts made of mud and grass–like something you’d see in National Geographic.
The main section of Aldama had stores and restaurants all over. There was even a town square with a large stage. This was where our evening worship services took place. You can see the stage area in a couple of pictures. I’m in the yellow shirt giving my testimony. Standing next to me in the striped shirt is Carlos, one of our interpreters.
The Town Square
About half of our mission work took place around the town square. After eating breakfast at the local pastor’s house each morning, we went to the town square for street evangelism. We split up into smaller groups with a translator assigned to each group. The translator for my group was a really nice guy named Gary.
Since Mr. Gary was the one that could actually speak Spanish, he did the majority of the witnessing. I didn’t want to interrupt him just to get in a few words. For the most part, I greeted anyone we met and told them what my salvation meant to me, and Mr. Gary carried on with the majority of the conversation.
As mentioned previously, we had nightly worship services on the stage in the town square that anyone could attend. Each service consisted of singing, a couple of testimonies, and a sermon and invitation. I had originally offered to give my testimony at the first service, but that night it rained, so I had to wait until later in the week to share. There were a handful of people that came to know Christ through the worship services, including a guy that was the Mexican version of a hot dog vendor that set up shop near the stage one night.
In addition to our activities in the town square, we were separated into groups to offer vacation Bible school to local kids in different areas. A couple of groups did this in the town area, but the rest were assigned to the smaller villages surrounding Aldama. The locations I can remember were Paso Hondo, Santa Maria, and Nacimiento. The picture of the village above was taken in Paso Hondo, although it’s a good representation of what I saw with my group in Nacimiento. Interestingly enough, I noticed an older model Coke machine outside one of the huts.
We had to leave the town and drive a few miles on a dirt road to get to Nacimiento. The Nacimiento village had a small church building where we held VBS activities for the community. Before we got there, we literally went walking around the village telling everyone to, “Come to the church,” in Spanish. Each day, we had a group of about 30 kids in the church. In true VBS fashion, we did skits and had different activities for the kids to do. We had the mandatory VBS cookies and Kool-Aid, too. I was able to share my testimony there, also. Even though there wasn’t any traditional “preaching,” we did have the privilege to see a few of the people there accept Christ.
I got to play soccer with some of the local kids while I was there. Our goals were consisted of cinder blocks and old oil drums. Some of the guys there were really good.
Uncle Wilton came to Nacimiento on the last day and led us up a trail in the mountains. It brought us to the edge of what looked like a huge sinkhole. After doing some research, it turns out the sinkhole is called Cenote El Zacaton and is fairly well-known. It’s the deepest, water-filled sinkhole known in the world. It’s over 350 meters deep (Gary 141). Bret Gilliam wrote that it was the site of a world-record scuba dive in 1994 (cited in Gary 141).
The End of the Trip
We spent our last day in Mexico at the beach. I learned about my uncle’s too-strong Gatorade that has the ability to “make you a man.” It was a pretty normal beach visit, except for one of the members of the NBFBC youth group getting baptized in the Gulf of Mexico.
Once back in the United States, we stopped in San Antonio for a night. We were able to check out the River Walk, and we ate at the restaurant that was owned by one of the guys in our mission group. It turns out the mission group from the previous year had stopped at his restaurant after their trip. He talked to them and found out about everything and asked to join the group the following year.
It was an awesome experience, from the evangelism to the food at the pastor’s house every day. I’m really glad I was blessed with the opportunity to go.