Fifteen minutes after getting off the airplane, John Reaser, the head of Shoulder to Shoulder, encouraged me to “look for things in Mazatlan that are different, and things that are the same”.
Shoulder to Shoulder is an organization partnering with over forty local churches in Mazatlán, Mexico. I and a small group of students were in Mazatlán to serve alongside Monte Carmelo. Monte Carmelo, one of Shoulder to Shoulder’s partner churches, is filled with amazing people but located in a not-so-great part of town. They have a special heart for children – they want to create a space for kids to come to church and feel like a part of the community, instead of getting siphoned off into one of the cartels. They love the Gospel, each other, and, amazingly, us, while we were there.
The trip was incredible. Concrete work, hosting a vacation bible school, running a marriage conference, leading Sunday service (through a translator, naturally), and spending time with church members in their homes – all of it created such a strong connection between us and the church we got to serve alongside.
Much of it was incredibly different from my normal routine – in the place of a turkey sandwich and chips for lunch, the ladies at the church made ridiculously good tacos. In the place of easy conversations with everyone around me, conversations were disjointed and sometimes difficult, unless we had a translator around. I’ve got a little bit of Spanglish in me, but not enough to get past figuring out where the bathroom is. There were real moments of awkwardness and discomfort for everyone throughout the week.
But despite all the differences, we experienced so many beautiful similarities.
We shared a universal love for coffee and food. We loved getting to share about kids and grandkids, and beautiful places we’d visited. The things that unite us as believers go deeper still.
All over the world, there are men and women who we’ve never met that God calls our family. We’ve been placed in this family. The things we have in common - our salvation, our shared hope, the life transforming power of the Gospel - These things draw us closer than language, closer than culture or political alignment.
It was remarkable to worship alongside my brothers and sisters in Mazatlán who spoke a different language and experienced totally different life circumstances. Their love of God was evident, their passion to advance the Kingdom, obvious. We have the same God doing incredible work in our lives, the same power working in and through us, and are drawn together in friendship by God’s love.
For me, the best news is that we’re headed back again next year.
I and our team built so many cool friendships, and we genuinely don’t believe God is done with using the Creek Church in Mazatlán.
I hope you join us!
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