I’ve had the blessing to travel multiple times to photograph with Adventures in Life in Oaxaca, Mexico and each time I have learned something new about the people of Oaxaca that has blessed me and encouraged my faith. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is the need to build relationships and earn trust with the folks I am photographing. While Adventures in Life is technically an organisation that takes folks on “short term missions” to Mexico, at the heart of AIL is a desire to make a long term lasting impact in the lives of the people they minister to and with.
The only way that happens is by making and sustaining long term relationships.
Dave Miller recently shared a conversation he had with a big church in the US that was wanting to minister in Oaxaca. They had heard about Dave and the work that AIL was doing in Oaxaca, and wanted Dave to introduce them (the big US church) to his friends and contacts in Oaxaca.
Dave understands and really thinks like a Mexican when it comes to ministry and how things “get done” in Mexico. It something he has learned over the years through trial and error and much observation, and he really wants to share the Love of Christ with his friends in Mexico. Because of that, he is quick to listen and slow to move when it comes to groups coming to Oaxaca and wanting to work with him. Or in the case of the big US church, they just wanted his contacts and didn’t want to “work or partner” with him.
Dave has had other big US churches come and want to work with him, but he has had to say no, because they wanted to “do things their way” not taking into account what the local church or long term missionaries wanted or needed. He had to take a pass on working with those churches. That’s what he had to do as well with the latest big US church that wanted to meet his contacts.
At this point you might think its a pride thing and that Dave didn’t want to share his futbol with anyone, but that’s not the case. Dave really eats, drinks, and breathes Mexico! He spends half the year ministering in Mexico and working with local churches and missionaries. Much of that time is spent building new relationships and deepening old existing ones. These relationships have come over time, as he has ministered alongside local missionaries and churches. Dave Miller, with Pastor Chable’s Family
Having sweat, bled, cried, prayed and lived with them over the years, he has earned their trust and respect. Something Dave has come to cherish and guard. The folks he is ministering with, are his friends and he has become part of their family. This isn’t just ministry contacts they, the big US churches, want him to introduce them to, it really is his family.
Don’t know about y’all, but family really is sacred. Not something you mess with. When you meet family, and become family, it’s an honor that you don’t take lightly. Especially since it’s not something that comes easily or quickly, even with the family of Christ, both in Mexico or in the US.
In the end, it really is all about our relationship with Christ and with each other, as we seek to share Christ with those who don’t know Him yet.
Respect the family!
If you want to come experience Oaxaca first hand, feel free to contact Dave at email@example.com
Next door to the church in San Baltazar is a family that has a textile manufacturing business, they make knit ware on the loom, from wool, cotton, silk and other assorted materials. The father, Julian, has been a big help in the past as was part of the team of locals that helped build the church over the years.
Doug, Noemi, Elizabeth and Brian in front of the church in San Baltazar in February 2012
Doug got to know Julian during their time of working together while building the church. Doug took a photo of himself and Julian that found its way back to Julian, via Dave, and now hangs proudly in the house of Julian. Talking with Jaime, Julian’s son, he said his dad still talks about Doug and his experience helping build the church.Jaime and Dave, who is holding the photo of Doug & Julian
Dave shares…As I walked in the door, I saw it. A picture I have seen a million times on my computer. It is one I have used on the Adventures in Life Ministry web site. It was a picture of my friend Doug and the new friend he made in Oaxaca, Julian, Jaime’s dad.Everyone in the family remembered Doug and the day that photo was taken. I listened as they shared about their dad helping us build the church next door and his work with us alongside Doug in Tlacolula.
Wednesday was a full day. Getting all my gear in order and trying to realx before traveling off to Oaxaca. Went to class. We all got blessed by hearing Cyndy share a little bit about how she became a follower of Christ and what God was doing in her life. How she is excited that she can now use her love for photography and her love for short term missions as the same time, to serve Christ with her gifts.
After sharing some of our photos in class…it was time to head south, so I thought.
Cyndy and Danie took me to the Greyhound station so I could catch the shuttle to the Tijuana airport. When we got to the Broadway location somebody moved the station and didn’t tell me. I should have known this wasn’t gonna be an “easy” trip to Oaxaca.
When we got to the new Greyhound location, 1313 National Ave in the East Village area, Cyndy and Danie got all geeked up and had to go and take photos of the address, since the class homework for this week was to take photos of “13.”
I said my “good-byes” and went to get my ticket to the Tijuana airport. Time comes and I get on the wrong bus, the bus to L.A. After sitting on the bus for a few minutes, something just didn’t feel right. So I ask and they tell me I’m on the bus to L.A. I get off, go to the bathroom, and when I get out…my bus to the Tijuana airport is leaving without me! Ugh. The next shuttle didn’t leave till 1130pm, which would have gotten me in to the airport at 1215am, cutting it close.
Me sitting on the wrong bus…not realizing this fact yet!
That’s when I meet Johnny and Raul. They both work for Greyhound and had just gotten off work. They live in Tijuana and asked if I wanted a ride to the border to catch my bus. I paused to think for what seemed like an hour…praying and working out worst case scenarios in my head. What if they kill me, kidnap me or kick me out the car with all my stuff in Tijuana…I said “sure.”
We jump in the car, start flying down the freeway and along the way we pass the bus. I ask if they are gonna drop me off at the bus terminal in San Ysidro, they said they would drop me off on the other side of the border where the busses cross. At this point I have no choice but to go along for the ride.
The whole drive south I’m praying and looking start to share that I’m a child of the Most High King, on a mission from God to go to Oaxaca. Which opened me up to the question of what will I be doing in Oaxaca? Again, I start to think…do I tell them I’m a photographer and open myself up to be a target?
Why am I thinking these things? Johnny and Raul seem like nice guys, despite the fact that Johnny has an Oakland Raiders helmet hanging from his mirror! That’s when I just had to laugh and go along for the ride!
I believe God provided a way for me to go to Oaxaca so I could photograph the work He is doing through Adventure in Life in Mexico. I belive the enemy is at work trying to discourage, distract, and destroy the plans of God as followers of Christ step out in faith to minister for His sake.
Needless to say I was able to catch my bus and make my way to the Tijuana airport. I wish that was the end of this stories adventures…nope!
After getting to the airport and getting my visa, I go through the first of many checkpoints in the airport. They stop me because I have 3 laptop computers with me. “Why do you have the laptops?”
Dan and Jack, part of the Jesus Geeks Team, working at the Chick-Fil-A office in Mira Mesa
I explain that they were donated, thanks to Jack Costner and the Jesus Geeks, for missionaries in Oaxaca. I’m told you are allowed to bring 1 computer with you, and if I want to bring the extra computers I have to pay taxes, even if they are being donated. They didn’t care who was gonna get them. So I paid the taxes.
Almost on the plane…I’m sitting at the gate waiting for the plane to board, when the Volaris agents started walking around checking carry-on bags and asking folks to check them at the gate. Of course that is not gonna happen! It doesn’t matter that my carry-on roller and backpack weigh twice as much as my checked bag. The gal says something to me in Spanish, I don’t know a lot of Spanish but I gathered that she wanted me to go and check my bag. Nope. So for the next 20 minutes as they’re walking around taking bags I’m trying to lay low and hide my roller. I wish I had it on video, kinda funny. Thankfully I made it on the plane with both my bags.
My trusty Think Tank Airport International roller
On a side note, if your a photographer…Think Tank Photo have the best gear for your gear! I’m “rolling” with the Airport International ver. 1 and Shapeshifter backpack.
Now it’s 10pm in Oaxaca and I’m ready! Praise God!