By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Lisa Rose knew it was a divine appointment from the very beginning. She knew it from the first time she googled the Mixtec language 12 years ago and realized she had the most unengaged unreached people group in the Americas living right in her backyard.
But now the miracles are multiplying as she and others in Montgomery Baptist Association (MBA) are seeing the work among Mixtec people in Montgomery open doors to reach their relatives back in Mexico.
“It’s been amazing to see God work,” said Rose, director of church mobilization for MBA.
Through the past 12 years MBA churches have invested consistently in the Mixtec, with Rose discipling women and John Halbrooks serving as pastor of a small Mixtec church plant meeting at Highland Gardens Baptist Church.
“It’s been long and hard — we don’t have thousands coming every Sunday,” Rose said.
‘People of the clouds’
But they do have nine hard-fought for believers who have come to faith.
And in early 2018, MBA hosted a summit for people working to reach the Mixtec in other parts of the nation and in Mexico. Roughly 726,000 Mixtec — or “people of the clouds” — live high in Mexico’s mountains with another 100,000 or so living in the U.S., mostly in California and New York.
At the summit Rose and Halbrooks talked with Thomas Thorpe, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, and learned he had been having trouble making connections with an unreached city of Mixtec people high in the mountains of Mexico. He had gone to visit twice but the second time he’d gone they wouldn’t let him in.
The Mixtec tend to be very suspicious of anyone who might threaten the “Mixtec way” of life, Rose said.
As she and Halbrooks talked with Thorpe they thought what if — just what if — the Mixtec believers in Montgomery could send word back to their relatives in Mexico that these people of God were friends not enemies.
It seemed like it could be the key.
And the Mixtec church in Montgomery was on board. They sent messages to their family in Mexico and in mid-August they sent Halbrooks, Rose and Sherry White, director of the Mixtec medical clinic in Montgomery, off with two suitcases full of gifts for their relatives.
“Our goal was to start relationships with some key families,” Halbrooks said.
When they arrived Thorpe drove them into the mountains of Mexico to visit one of those key families. When they arrived this time they were welcomed in — and invited to spend the night.
“They cooked us their best meals over an open fire and we shared pictures of their family back in Montgomery and talked and laughed,” Halbrooks said.
And the next morning the man of the house loaded them up in his truck and took them to go try to find the other families. That morning two families heard the gospel for the very first time and when the little team left the city Thorpe had a plan to come back with some tools and help the family they were staying with install the sink in the house they were building.
“We’re praying that when [Thorpe] goes back to visit, it will go very well and that the family will wonder more and more why he loves them like he does,” Halbrooks said.
As the team drove away from the city Thorpe told them the families would immediately start talking about what it means to follow Christ.
“The dad was a very respected man in the community and they view following Jesus as turning their backs on the Mixtec way,” Halbrooks said. “If they make a decision it will be a family decision — and it will cost them greatly. My prayer is that God would open that city and shatter the darkness with the light of the gospel.”
God is working
Thorpe said he’s praying the same thing — and he can see that God is already doing amazing work through these connections.
“Montgomery Baptist Association has become a strategic partner for our work in Mexico because they, through their relationships with Mixtecs in Montgomery, have opened the door for our team into a community that had been previously closed to the gospel,” he said. “How exciting it will be for IMB work as more Southern Baptist churches in the United States engage migrant workers in their communities and connect with IMB personnel in their home countries.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Some names have been changed for security reasons.