How would you describe the mission of our partner in Mexico?
Mexico is one of the few countries where both the Disciples and Congregational (now U.C.C.) denominations shared the gospel and helped plant churches over a hundred years ago. The Roundtable (Mesa Conjunta) of our Mexican partner churches is now focused on the training of lay and clergy leaders for the growing number of the two denominations’ congregations. Long term goals are to develop a network of support for new mission service projects and further collaboration in areas such as the joint ordination of pastors.
How do you fit into their mission?
Each of the denominations in the Roundtable are challenged by lack of financial and leadership support by the congregations. Helping develop new, alternative funding sources and helping congregations and church leaders heighten their experience of what it means to be “church” and be in covenant with other congregations are current emphases of my work.
What led you to engage in this calling?
When I graduated from Claremont seminary near Los Angeles in 1986 there was one struggling Spanish speaking Disciples congregation in the Regions of Arizona and Southern California. I feel called to share and celebrate with our partners in Mexico the news of a more inclusive church in the United States, a church better prepared to welcome neighbors to the south. Eastmont Community Center in East Los Angeles, where I was privileged to serve and learn for 8 years, was one of the few places where Disciples reached out to Spanish speaking neighbors living in the U.S.. One of the most satisfying aspects of my work at Eastmont was hosting church visitors and enabling them to interact with East Los Angeles residents and enjoy the Mexican-American culture. I see our work in Mexico as contributing to closer, mutually beneficial relationships with our neighbors to the south.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
Gal 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Reading the New Testament in Spanish in Mexico, this verse made a deeper impression on me and I have found myself returning to it in conversations and in my preaching.
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Mexico, our partner, or yourself?
Proximity to the wealthy neighbor to the north has been a mixed blessing for the people of Mexico. A major challenge for people in both Mexico and the U.S. is to go beyond the misconceptions and misunderstanding of Mexico resulting from conditions on the border of the two countries. Since spending a year in Guadalajara in 1979-80, it strikes me as tragic that our experience and view of Mexico has been colored and shaped by the issues and conditions along the border.
Fortunately for us, the churches of our historic partners are concentrated in central Mexico and thereby offer a completely different experience of a vibrant, richly diverse and fascinating culture. Getting to know the people and history of the Disciples in the beautiful, historic city of San Luis Potosi has been for Kate and me a learning experience we hope others from the U.S. would be able to enjoy. For us the proximity of Mexico to the U.S. is a great blessing in our lives. How to communicate and share the experience and the learnings is and will be the major challenge for us.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
There is still real risk associated with making the confession of faith in Jesus Christ and joining an evangelical Protestant Church in Mexico. That fact was dramatically impressed on us when we visited the Congregational Church in Ahualulco in the state of Jalisco. The seeds for that church’s planting were watered by a missionary’s blood and that of a Mexican friend when they were both assaulted by a mob in the town. Since that Ahualulco visit we have been more alert to the testimonies of Christians suffering ostracism, discrimination and family divisions in a heavily Catholic country.
These testimonies help us remember that the Christian faith often leads us to accept and take the more difficult path. Taking risks is a theme I want to explore more in my Bible reading and thinking while I am serving in Mexico. It seems to be a neglected aspect of our faith experience in the U.S. with a Protestant Christian majority.
Which books have influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology (choose 3-6):
What else has influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology (choose 2-4):
“Los Olvidados ” , “Treasure of the Sierra Madre ”, and “Missing ” are powerful films. I also want to mention the help of the wonderful Folkways album “Traditional Songs of Mexico ” in my study of Spanish and the Mexican culture.
Learn more through Douglas's blog Erasing Borders.Find out more about our mission work in: