It was a joy to resume our programs after nearly everything in Mexico came to a halt in April due to the flu emergency. We recently returned from our first campaign in the State of Queretaro at the Otomi Indian communities. The Otomi are the 5th largest Indian population in Mexico, and like most other tribes, the majority live in poverty and exclusion. Some Otomi Indians move to the cities, others to the US, and those who remain on their lands are faced with high unemployment and marginalization.
Arriving in Amealco, Queretaro was like stepping into another time zone. Women, clad in their traditional brightly colored skirts and embroidered blouses work the fields with their young children strapped to their backs. Men are scarce in these communities.
We held our first mothers workshop with 45 women – aged 23 to 60 – with broods ranging from 2 to 13 children. The cultural gap was huge at first: my strongly accentuated Spanish stood out, when some of them only spoke Otomi; my Western garb, contrasting with their exuberant costumes; my smooth white skin compared with their sun burnt and chiseled faces. But before long we were laughing together like old friends. The mothers were seated at small children's desks in the local school classroom as I asked for their names and how many children they had. We finally declared the mother of 13 the champion of the group, and the ice was decidedly broken. We were then able to talk about the profession of motherhood, the need to establish a deep communication with each child, and the benefits of reading with children.
During the kids' activities, the children's behavior reflected their harsh living conditions and the lack of a father figure for most (a walloping 90% of the fathers have gone to the US). The children were a rowdy crowd – outspoken and tough. A small group of teenagers who had been watching the program from a distance later explained to us that they had left the school four years before, and had neither studied nor worked since. They were waiting for their opportunity to go and join their fathers, brothers, or cousins in the US to try to find a better life.
In another school, we divided the 360 students into smaller groups and held seven consecutive programs in order to give them more personalized attention. As part of our program, we ask the children a series of questions to encourage meaningful discussion. When asked our strategic question: what does it mean to be a gentleman? It was hard to get the boy's participation. One of them even jokingly answered that it means to beat up the women, reflecting a sad pervading reality. Our hearts broke for these dear children and young people - very much a lost generation in need of all the help and training we can give them.
We also held our first program in a government refuge for battered women, most of them having escaped spousal violence with just the clothes on their back. Our workshop, which stressed self-esteem and personal connection with their (often unwanted) children was very well-received. While we worked with the mothers, dear Stephanie, our 18-year-old volunteer, successfully captured the children’s attention with her storytelling.
Once more, we would like to thank Activated Ministries from the bottom of our hearts for your support of our program through the sponsorship of Christian books. The people you helped us reach this time were some of the neediest we have known. We were able to not only give books to the children, but also give a free copy of the "From Jesus with Love for Women" book to the Otomi mothers after the workshops. Although seemingly from another world altogether, these women love the Lord and were thrilled to be able to receive His words for them.
Your support is helping us impact many corners of Mexico. Although there is so much more to do, each soul reached with the message of God’s love is a great victory.