11th ANNUAL SUMMER MISSION TRIP TO CHIAPAS, MÉXICO

THROUGH HEBRON USA AND HEBRÓN de DESARROLLO TZELTAL

WHEN: JULY 1-9, 2017

WHERE: A VILLAGE TBD IN CHIAPAS

WHAT: CROSS-CULTURAL MISSION OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH AN INDIGENOUS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

HOW: JOIN THE FPC TEAM

WHY: DEEPEN YOUR FAITH THROUGH INTERACTION WITH AN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS AS YOU DEMONSTRATE THE LOVE OF CHRIST TO THEM

I am an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach and President of Hebron USA, a non-profit Christian mission organization headquartered in North Carolina. I am a veteran of seventeen mission trips to Chiapas through Hebron USA spanning nearly fifty-six weeks since July 2007. I am also a Commissioned Ruling Elder now serving as Director of Missions at FPC. I am writing to introduce you to the wonderful mission work underway in Chiapas and to extend the invitation to participate in eleventh annual FPC trip to Chiapas. My hope is to put together a team of 14 missionaries to travel to Chiapas in July 2017.

It is not too much to say that my mission service in Chiapas has changed my life. The same is true for adults and teens that have traveled to Chiapas over the years on trips sponsored by FPC and over the last fifteen years on trips sponsored by churches throughout the United States. My purpose in organizing these annual trips is to share the opportunity I have enjoyed in my own life. I have seen firsthand the work underway in Chiapas and I have built relationships in Christ with the people of the Tzeltal Synod, with people in my own church and with those from other churches with whom I have worked. This is not a nice service project but is a Christian endeavor that can only be understood as such. The ripple effect of going to Chiapas, or on any other Christian mission trip, is that when you return you will be ready for service here and now in a way that you would not otherwise have been.

CHIAPAS. Chiapas is the southern-most state in Mexico. The capital is Tuxtla Gutiérrez into which we fly. The state of Chiapas is home to a number of indigenous people groups that speak their own languages and have their own customs. Chiapas abuts Guatemala to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Much of Chiapas is mountainous. Most people survive by being subsistence farmers. Chiapas contains several significant sites of Mayan heritage, Palenque being the largest. The Spanish colonial city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas is where groups usually spend their free day.

TZELTAL. The word Tzeltal refers to the indigenous people group who speak the Tzeltal language. Short of stature and dark in complexion, the Tzeltal live in central Chiapas in the mountains and also in the lowlands near Guatemala. Although most Mexicans are nominally Roman Catholic, the vast majority are not practicing Christians. The National Presbyterian Church of México is extremely active in Tzeltal areas. The Tzeltal Synod is comprised of three presbyteries. Tzeltal people worship in the Tzeltal language, led by Tzeltal pastors or elders, reading from the Tzeltal Bible and singing from the Tzeltal Presbyterian hymnal. Tzeltal worship services are robust celebrations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the highlands, where Hebron USA works, most Tzeltal follow traditional farming methods to feed themselves. The Tzeltal people are unfailingly polite and kind.

HEBRON USA.  This non-profit grew out of the mission work in Chiapas by Salem Presbytery. Its mission statement follows:

Hebron USA exists to share the love of Jesus Christ

By walking hand-in-hand in cross-cultural partnerships

And by serving with and supporting the servants of

The people in southern México.

The work of Hebron USA is several fold. First, it supports Rev. Pablo Feliciano Cruz and his wife Jan in their mission work in Chiapas. Pablo is Tzeltal although college educated in the U.S. His wife Jan hails from Michigan. Second, Hebron USA has funded, constructed and helps operate Dispensario Tzeltal Manos de Cristo (“Hands of Christ”), the beautiful health clinic in Ocosingo that serves the indigenous population that is now woefully under-served by the Mexican health care system. Third, Hebron USA coordinates American mission groups that choose to work with the Tzeltal in Chiapas. Finally, through American pastors, it provides theological education to Tzeltal pastors and commissioned ruling elders.

HEBRÓN de DESARROLLO TZELTAL. This organization is the Mexican non-profit organized in 2009 that is Hebron USA’s Tzeltal counterpart in mission. It is headed by Rev. Pablo Feliciano Cruz and is an offshoot of the Tzeltal Synod. The name means Hebron for Tzeltal Development. It works closely with the Tzeltal Synod to identify needed projects that American groups might play a constructive role in working with Tzeltal people to complete. It also administers Manos de Cristo.

RELATIONSHIPS. The linchpin of the work of Hebron USA in Chiapas is building relationships. The primary relationship is that of mission travelers with Jesus Christ and it is through the active living out of loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself by heeding the call of Jesus to “follow me” that this relationship is strengthened. Few people return from Chiapas without having been profoundly affected and without a recognition of a much deeper personal faith. We build important relationships within the group by working elbow to elbow with people that we might recognize but whom we do not know well, relationships that last long after the return from Chiapas. For a presbytery wide trip those relationships are built from church-to-church and help foster a sense of community within the presbytery. Finally, there is the relationship built across cultural lines by working with, worshiping with, eating with and living in and around our Tzeltal brothers and sisters in Christ. For veterans of more than one trip to Chiapas, this means seeing old friends when one returns. For everyone this means coming to see Christ at work in people who do not look like us or speak our language while hastening the day when all people are one in Christ.

WHY CHIAPAS? The needs of this world are great. The tendency is to think that problems of social inequities and social justice, education, hunger, etc. are so vast that nothing we do will make a difference. The truth is that God calls us to action and demands of us that we do something. He does not call us to act everywhere but surely calls us to act somewhere. Some are called to service in Portsmouth or Hampton, some to serve in New Orleans. Some, however, are called to foreign lands. All are called as disciples to work to bring the kingdom into being. The question might properly be asked “why not Chiapas?”

THE CASE FOR HANDS-ON MISSION.

Read John 21: 15-17 “Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs”

Read Matthew 25:31-45 “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”

Read Matthew 19: 16-22 “Come, follow me”

Read Luke 10: 25-37 “You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself”

TYPICAL DAY.

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner family style. Some meals to include Tzeltal brothers.
  • Construction work 7:00 am to 1:00 pm.
  • Afternoon Bible school for children three days.
  • Worship services two-three times in Tzeltal churches. One elder from the group will preach at each service. Group to sing one-two songs for congregation.
  • Devotional time.
  • Free day at end of week: potential options include Toniná (the Mayan ruins south of Ocosingo) and San Cristóbal de Las Casas (Spanish colonial city near Tuxtla founded in 1528).

NITTY GRITTY

TOTAL COST OF AIRFARE: $850 PER TRAVELER

TOTAL COST TO HEBRON USA: $500 PER TRAVELER

  • Randy DuVall will serve as the facilitator/organizer of the trip.
  • We fly round trip from Norfolk to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. All airline reservations have been made. We have 14 spaces available. Departure Saturday July 1st. Return Sunday July 9th.
  • Lodging is at the church in village where we will work. We sleep on air mattresses or in hammocks.
  • The village where we will work will be determined during my travel to Chiapas March 11-April 2, 2017. Pablo and I will visit and assess potential village construction projects.
  • Meals are usually prepared by Jan Feliciano and her staff. Jan is meticulous about hygiene and sanitation. While we eat a lot of beans and rice, the majority of meals will look familiar to Americans. When staying in a village, the first and last meals of the week are prepared by the women of the church in the village but the women have been trained by Jan to observe the same hygiene and sanitation routine. There is always peanut butter and jelly.
  • Hebron USA provides all construction materials and tools. Participants bring only their gloves. Americans are usually the laborers while Tzeltal craftsmen provide the expertise. This is subject to the capabilities of the group.
  • Hebron USA provides all transportation within Chiapas. All meals are included in the price charged by Hebron USA. Admission to Toniná is included.
  • Incidentals are the responsibility of the traveler. In the village, this amounts to buying a soda in the afternoon and placing something in the collection plate during worship.
  • The group provides all Bible school materials.Respectfully submittedRandy DuVall, El president de Hebron USADirector of Missions, FPC Virginia Beach

To commit to the trip or learn more contact

Randy DuVall, Director of Missions missions@firstpresvb.org