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Episode #43 – Living in Chiapas

October 14, 2007

with Martha Kilpatrick and hosted by John Enslow
Special Guest: Julie

(M)  Well, today John and I are here with Julie, who is visiting for a couple of days from Mexico.  She and Keith we have referred to and we put their website as a link to ours.  But Julie is our dear, dear sister in the Lord and Keith and the children, Alexia and Samuel.  The children are having a little vacation.  Keith is still on the mission field.  They have a medical mission to do eye surgeries in one of the poorest parts of Mexico, Chiapas.  Julie is that how you pronounce it correctly?  Chiapas?  And Keith has much… his career was in the medical field so he is well equipped for that kind of mission and they’ve gone down there and been there seven months now.  I just want to know what it’s like, Julie, to step from American lifestyle with all of the comforts of life and step into Mexico and live a completely different life in a new culture.  And you’ve learned the language quickly.
(Julie)  Well, I’m working on it.
(M)  You’ll be working on it a long time I’ll bet.
(Julie)  Yeah.  I think so.  Well, it has been a shock.  Honestly I think it’s been … It’s just been so different than what I had imagined.  I think that it still feels funny to us right now.  I can see how the Lord is going to begin to transition us as our life increases in Mexico and decreases in the United States.  But right now it feels like, a little bit like being straddled and crossed two very, very different worlds.  It’s caused me to see American culture very differently.  I think I went into it thinking that I knew Mexico.  We had vacationed in Mexico and I had grown up in Texas, and I have always been around Hispanic people, and I think that I…  I think I knew them.  I think I thought I knew them better than I did.  But for one thing we live in Chiapas, which is right on the border of Guatemala and is a pretty unique state.  Within the united states of Mexico in that it has a largely indigenous population.  There’s twenty six different dialects spoken in that one state.  And it’s probably about the same size as Texas.  It was a part of Guatemala for a number of years and was one of the last states to unite with Mexico, so it has its own distinct culture.  I don’t think I knew that going into it.  We really live among the Indians, the indigenous Indians more than we live among the Mexican people as such.  We live among the poor, the very, very poor.  And I certainly don’t think, I mean…  We did what to a lot of…  Our friends and family thought we were crazy.  We left an upper middle class American life and moved straight into living among the poor and living…
(M)  …as the poor…
(Julie)  as the poor in a lot of ways.  I mean, we have still retained a lot of comforts and certainly don’t live desperately as some of them do, but we have tried to as much as possible adapt to their life in a lot of ways.  And I think there have been hardships I didn’t expect, but there have also been glories I didn’t expect too.  I didn’t expect the poor to change me like they have begun to change me.
(M)  Oh, how so, Julie?
(Julie)  I see the simplicity of their life.  I see the strength of their faith.  I see the rest, the rest of their lives.  I think the thing that shocked me coming home this time after seven months…  I don’t know.  I think I thought that I would go down there and I would understand it all.  I think I probably took far more a mental approach to the whole thing than I realized.  And in reality it’s affected me…  I don’t even know what word I would put to it.  It’s like it’s just begun to change me living with them day in and day out.  And I appreciate the simplicity of their lifestyle.  I come back to the United States and I see what a frenzy we live in here.  It’s a very different kind of pressure.  Their pressure down there is the pressure just to survive day to day and have food for your children every day.  But our pressure here is trying to keep up with a whole lot of really imaginary pressures.  More than anything trying to keep up with the cultures stuck in over-drive and I find myself far more drawn to life among the poor.  It’s simpler.  It’s more peaceful.
(M)  Down to the basics of life…
(Julie)  It is.  It’s down to the basics.  I’ve seen scripture fulfilled among them that they are rich in faith.  Like Guermo, the one that you, that Shulamite recently partnered to help buy his family a new home…  Guermo has amazing faith and amazing joy and yet he lives in circumstances that…
(M)  That would be intolerable to us.
(Julie)  …would be intolerable to us.  The poor know how to wait.  The people that come to our campaign …this may be a run on but…  The people that come to our campaign, the medical campaign, come to receive the surgeries, sometimes they wait outside in the heat sitting on folding wooden chairs for days, sometimes three or four days to receive the surgery.
(M)  Really?
(Julie)  They’re patient.  They never complain.  And I think Americans just wouldn’t last one day under those conditions.  They would be furious.  I realize now that there’s a real sense of entitlement when you have resources.  But when you’re among the poor, they have no resources.  Their only hope is that the generosity of someone else is going to come through.  They’re accustomed to living that way.
(M)  That’s the dependence on the Lord that He has to reduce us to, isn’t it?
(Julie)  Yes. Yes.
(M)  What kind of eye surgeries have you seen since you’ve been there?
(Julie)  Well, the types of surgeries predominantly that they do down there are…  They do trigiums , which are cancer growths on the eyes.  They do what they call strybismo, which are crossed eyes.  We’ve just done two campaigns where they uncrossed eyes in children.  Cataracts are a huge problem down in Chiapas.  Chiapas has the highest mal-nutrition rate in all of Mexico and there’s a number of birth defects as a result of their poor nutrition.  Children there are born with cataracts.  I really don’t understand that.  I always thought before that cataracts were kind of a conditionally developed thing.  But children there are born with cataracts so they’re literally born blind, but in a curable condition.  And so the doctors come from the United States and they perform mostly, by far, it’s cataract surgeries.  Second to that would probably be trigiums and strybisma, which are crossed eyes.
(J)  Is crossed eyes…  Are you dealing with primarily the muscles around the eyes?
(Julie)  Yes. Yes.   It’s a muscular thing.  But the doctors  who come generally have different specialties so we adapt a campaign.  Five days a week down there at the clinic we have a doctor, a general physician and a dentist that provide free medical services.  There’s a pharmacy.  There’s an eye glass distribution center.  They provide those services to the poor five days a week.  And then the clinic also takes all the staff and its equipment and goes to the mountain areas about once every two weeks.  They call it a field trip and they take everyone out to do that.  Through that we keep a running list of the patients with different types of needs.  And then when a doctor comes, some type of ophthalmologist, whatever his or her specialty is, we will find those patients and ask them…  call them in so to speak to receive surgeries.
(J)  When we’ve gone up to the mountains of Honduras into Lamone and some of the outer regions, the roads are horrible.  Is it similar?
(Julie)  Yes.  Yes.  We’re usually driving on…  It’s about equivalent to driving in a river bed.
(J)  Ok.  So then basically you’ve got all this equipment that’s delicate and everything and you’ve got to get it up these mountains in a river bed.
(Julie)  Right.  Right.  Pretty much.
(M)  What do you during the campaigns, Julie?
(Julie)  My job is the kitchen.  We are in a rural area and so when we have a campaign we typically will have anywhere from thirty five to about fifty five volunteers that come.  And that would include the doctors, their nurses and medical staff as well as…  We use a number of volunteers.  We have translators.  We have preachers.
(J)  Are most of these people from the States?
(Julie)  Most of the people are from the United States, but increasingly one thing we’re real excited about since we’ve been down there, we’re seeing more and more participation from the Mexican nationals, which is really nice.  So anyhow the volunteers come in and we have sleeping facilities to sleep about forty five.  Then we have near hotels about twenty minutes away that we can keep the rest.  But we feed everybody, so my job is
(M)  …three meals a day.
(Julie)  …three meals a day for, you know, thirty to fifty people.  And that’s what we keep busy with, which I think is a huge joke because I was never that great of a cook.  And it’s quite an interesting role.
(M)  And they love your cooking I hear.
(Julie)  It’s been amazing.  Before each campaign that we’ve done…    and since we’ve been down there we’ve probably done about five campaigns I think, something like that.  And before each one the Lord will come to me and say, “Give Me the kitchen,”  because the responsibility of it, I’m not very good at organizing and I really have never considered myself that great of a cook, so it’s overwhelming.  He will have to come and just say, “Give Me the kitchen.  Give Me the kitchen.  Invite it to be Mine.”  And that’s what I do.  I offer Him up whatever little part I have.  And it’s been precious to me to see that He is so faithful to come in.  And sometimes we’ve had people ranting and raving about the food and of course we’re snickering in the back ground because we know how many small… you know small, if there’s such a thing as small miracle…  how many miracles the Lord has performed to even make it possible to get the food out and prepared and you have to kind of learn a whole new way of cooking down in Mexico.  It’s what’s available and what’s not available.  Just seems like there’s always things that we don’t expect, but He pulls it off, and I appreciate that.
(J)  Are the supplies and food easy to get?
(Julie)  Well, we have to go to the capitol, which is two hours away.
(M)  How many times do you go for a campaign?
(Julie)  Usually at least two or three times.  We’ll have to make two or three trips and we will fill up that fifteen passenger van.
(M)  Really?
(Julie)  …to stock up on all the supplies that we need, both medical supplies and food supplies.  A lot of our medical supplies are donated by companies in the United States.
(M)  Well, we had the privilege of a very generous donor to Shulamite Ministries for the poor and we went to Julie and Keith and said we’d like to do something for someone really poor there.  And so you came back with this man and his family.  Tell about the family and how they were living.
(Julie)  Ok.  His name is Guermo and he and his wife have six children.  I love the names of their kids.  They have a Moses and they have an Aaron and they have twins named Adam and Eve.  Really precious children.  They have been living basically on the edge of the river in a little colonia named Cardnes.  And the family is at the clinic a lot.  It has been at the clinic many, many, many times over the last couple of years with parasites and just very sick.  Guermo, himself, is a very, very thin man and frequently has stomach problems.  They had a well at their old house but it was a ground level well, really a little more than a cistern, so every time the rains came…  We have a rainy season in that part of Mexico from May until about October…  And when the rains would come it would just flood straight into the well.  And so they would end up with parasites and be very ill and teeth problems and just lots of problems.
(M)  What is a colonia?
(Julie)  A colonia is a village and that’s the way Mexicans organize.  They’ll have a township, kind of like a township system, but the township is considered the largest city plus all the colonias around it.  So Cardnes is the nearest colonia to us.  And Guermo rides his bike to work every day.  And Keith says he’s the happiest man in the world, and he really has an amazing, unshakeable joy.  But he has lived in this condition with his family for many, many years.  Through this donation we were able to look for him another house and we began to pray about it and once the money was converted we had about forty five thousand pecos to spend on his house.  And the house that the Lord had for them is just wonderful and was exactly forty five thousand pecos.  It’s in town.  It’s close to the children’s school.  They’ll be able to walk to school now in just a much safer situation.  They won’t be near the river.  They have city water and city electricity.  Before they did not have electricity.  And so they’ll have that.  She will have a kitchen.  It was really neat to see.  And maybe in the future I can put on the website or whatever the actual details.  I know her desire was a kitchen and it has a separate really neat little enclosed kitchen area, bedrooms, a space for beds for all of the children.  The house they lived in before had no windows and no doors.  It was one room for nine people…  for it was eight people, for eight people to be living in one room.  And now they have two bedrooms plus another long room that could easily be divided into two more small little bedrooms and then the separate kitchen and a big backyard and just a really, really neat provision.
(J)  Guermo works, he works there at the clinic?
(Julie)  Yes.  He works…  He is one of the grounds keepers at the clinic.
(Martha)  So how did the family feel about it when they got this house?
(Julie)  Well, I just got an e-mail from Keith today that said that the first thing they wanted to do when they had their house was have their church over.  Apparently they had always been too ashamed to have the church over to their house.  And so they wanted to have a prayer meeting and celebrate in the Lord what He had provided.
(M)  And I think he told Keith he had had a men’s meeting at the house?  And Keith made the comment.  Correct me if I’m wrong.  It’s already being used for the Lord?
(Julie)  Yes.
(M)  So.  Well, that’s been real exciting to us and we hope to go down in September.  So we’ll be able to see.
(Julie)  I think it’s really special because I had been looking back through my journals and Guermo was one of the first ones that the Lord had put on my heart, because I knew his situation with his family was not good.  And I found this not too long ago that God had given me a promise for him.  I had begun to ask the Lord what is Your will for Guermo?  What is Your plan for Guermo?   Because it’s a new thing to live among the poor and it really challenges your, our, my…  Let me just say for me.  It challenged my American faith that is very prosperity laced.  And when you go down and you live among the poor and you’re living among people who…  It’s not even a possibility for them to come to so many of the things that we set out as idols of sorts, that we want God to give us.
(M)  As a necessity…
(Julie)  Yes.  And to realize that all these things are not it…  I mean we live among people who have never had a TV, have never been exposed to a computer.  Most of these people don’t even have cell phones or anything like that.  Their lives are very, very, very simple.  Their desires are very simple.  Guermo never really even asked for this house as such, but I had begun to ask the Lord, “What is Your plan for Him.”  And the Lord had given me Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans that I have and they are plans to prosper him.”  And another thing that I didn’t tell about Guermo.   Guermo was born with…  His fingers are webbed.  Two of his fingers are connected and need to be surgically separated, and he has kind of like a webbing condition.  It’s really not all that uncommon in that area.  But it’s kind of a webbed condition between his fingers and toes.  And he has lived all of his life with these two fingers connected that need to be separated.  And about the same time with nobody knowing what the others were doing…  About the same time God gave him a new house and has made provision for him to have the surgery, have these fingers separated.  So we just see that in so many different ways God is stepping in to bless this family and encourage them.  Guermo has son named Saline, who’s fourteen.  And Saline now works at the clinic also.  He mows for us in the summers.  It’s precious to me to see that God is showing Himself faithful to Guermo for Saline’s benefit as well at a time when Saline is really coming of age and watching that here his father has served faithfully in a very humble position for many, many, many years without complaint and that God is stepping in and providing for this family this way.  I think that’s just special to me that …
(M)  Yeah.  That the gift would speak of God to the next generation.
(Julie)  Yeah.
(M)  That’s bigger than the gift itself.
(Julie)  Right.
(M)  It speaks of God.

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