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 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 undertaken by the churches and further collaboration in areas such as the joint ordination of pastors.
How do you fit into their mission?
My passions include the study of Women in Religion, teaching/leading adults and working for and with women. This past July I was invited to teach a class at the Theological Encounter (Curso de Verano) on Biblical Exegesis. Women in the Bible was where I chose to focus (the women who are named in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17.) Nineteen students took my course (3hours/day for 5 days) and had the opportunity to exegete the book of Ruth and make presentation to the class in groups. This was mostly new territory for the students (only 8 of whom were women,) and definitely a stretch for me since I taught the class in Spanish!
In Spring of 2014 I have been teaching a course on The Parables of Jesus for SEBA, the Disciples Seminary in Aguascalientes. On Saturdays for two hours my course reaches 10-12 seminary students who will be presenting their own exegesis of one of the parables for a final project. We continue to meet new people through our teaching and look forward to what they can teach me as well.
My purpose for being in Mexico is to encourage and enhance theological education and to promote women in religion. I will continue to teach classes and have been invited back for next summer’s Curso de Verano. I attend and speak at women’s groups, retreats and meetings whenever possible and was a featured speaker for International Women’s Day in March, 2013. Both Doug and I preach quite often as well.
What led you to engage in this calling?
My call from God leads me to be a teacher in nearly everything I do. When my retirement community chaplaincy came to an end, I prayed to God for guidance to find a place where I can teach but also continue to grow in faith. My husband and I both desired to participate in the mission field and we both felt drawn to Mexico. I see our work in Mexico as contributing God’s plan for loving our neighbors and helping to build closer, mutually beneficial relationships with each other.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
I am particularly drawn to Luke 10: 25-37, the parable generally known as the Good Samaritan. The challenge by the lawyer and that exchange with Jesus as well as the parable speaks to me especially concerning the meaning of neighbor, and exactly WHO is our neighbor.
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. Unfortunately, the typical U.S. experience and view of Mexico has become defined by the issues and conditions along the border.
The churches of our partners (Disciples of Christ and UCC/Congregational Churches) are concentrated in central Mexico and thereby offer a completely different experience from the border. Getting to know the people and history of the Disciples in San Luis Potosi has been a learning experience we hope others from the U.S. will be able to enjoy, if not personally, then at least through the interpretation of our experience.. For us the proximity of Mexico to the U.S. is a great blessing in our lives and we invite friends (present and future) to visit and share that blessing as well.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
Being a Christian in Mexico doesn’t sound as if there should be risk involved (afterall, Mexico is a Christian country). However, we have found that being a protestant, known in Mexico as a Christian as opposed to being Catholic does involve risk and even some persecution. 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 his 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. Now I finally understand the distinction between being Christian and Catholic…an understanding that I did not have when I was a Chaplain at a retirement community in Southern California. While a Chaplain, I would ask residents or groups to give their religious affiliation, and I was always astonished that the residents of Mexican descent would label themselves Catholic, not Christian. In my well-meaning manner, I would assure them that if they were Catholic, they were most certainly Christian. And the residents would look at me as if to say, I don’t think so….
Which books have influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology:
Canasta de Cuentos Mexicanos short stories of B. Traven set in Mexico
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Religions of Mesoamerica by David Carrasco
Which films that have influenced your understanding of your country, work, or theology:
The movie “La Otra Conquista” is about how the Mayans incorporated Catholicism (of their Spanish conquerors) into their own religion featuring the goddess (who now becomes Mary).
“The Mission” is another film that has influenced my understanding of Mexico and other cultures that were conquered by the Spanish.
“Like Water for Chocolate” is good for entertainment purposes and for a better view of this rich and diverse culture. I recently met a woman who is about 68 years old and she is a newlywed: because she was the youngest female child in her family, her job was to take care of her parents until they died. She was unable to marry until both her parents had died. Similar to the main character in the movie who could not marry because she had to take care of her mother, this is part of the culture here in Mexico.
Favorite recipe for local food:
One of my favorite dishes at casueladas (potlucks) has been a green spaghetti. My friend Marisela taught me to make it.
Prepare spaghetti by boiling in water with a whole onion and a whole garlic bulb (with the outer skin removed and ends cut off) Add salt and vegetable oil to the boiling water as well. When done, drain and remove onion and garlic and discard (I grilled the onion later).
Roast 3-5 poblano chiles in fire on stove or in hot pan. When blistered and roasted all over, put in a plastic bag and seal it for 20 minutes or so. When cool to touch, scrape off skin, remove seeds and place cut up pepper in blender. Begin with 2-3 peppers in blender. Add sour cream (16 oz) and blend. Taste to test the hotness of the pepper (picoso) and if not hot enough, add another pepper. When correct “heat” from the pepper is achieved, mix the blended pepper/sour cream mixture into the spaghetti until evenly mixed. Serve! Yum!
Learn more through Kathleen's blog Erasing Borders.Find out more about our mission work in: