Mexico (MNN) — Recently, two indigenous missionary women supported by Christian Aid Mission were expelled from a tribal village.
Expelled for Faith
The two missionaries came to the Triqui people group in Oaxaca several years ago. Because of restrictions on sharing religious beliefs, they had to be accepted by the community before sharing the Gospel. Christian Aid’s co-Director for Latin America, Luis Janeiro, explains it takes around seven years to be accepted by tribal villagers, translate scripture, share the Gospel, and finally build up a church.
“The way to reach these people is that you need to be first accepted in the community. So, you need to come to the community with an ideal service according to the skills you have… As you’re accepted by the community, you can start sharing your testimony, and Bible stories, and that’s how churches get started there.”
The missionaries set up a bakery to contribute to the community, allowing them to eventually share the Gospel with the villagers. Over the last few years, they’ve built relationships and helped people come to Christ.
However, while they were recently having fellowship with a new believer, local authorities asked them to come to a meeting and escorted them to it while holding weapons. When the women arrived, about 40 men from the community accused them of robbing them of their language since the women were learning it to minister to people.
The women tried to defend themselves, but the villagers wouldn’t listen and forced them to leave.
“Basically, they were given an ultimatum to just leave right there and never come back to the town. So, I think they were just allowed to get their stuff out of there,” Janeiro says.
Background of Tribal Villages
Tribal villages like this often expel people when they bring in external influences such as foreign religions or certain political systems. The villages even have their own electoral systems.
“The Mexican government many years ago recognized that [these villagers’] identity is not really Mexican, but that they have their own culture, their own language, their own national identity. So, the government allows them to have a certain flexibility and to have their own, what they call customs, or their own traditions, and their own, even, sort of laws.”
The people have remained almost entirely the same since before the Spaniards and Europeans came. And they “take pride in the fact that they have remained unconquered.” The people celebrate that they have kept their traditions and beliefs – usually animistic or syncretic views – the same and kept other beliefs and systems out.
Janeiro notes these villages even put signs at the entrance of their villages, declaring religious preaching and political party activity is prohibited, and if someone brings them in, they will face consequences.
This has made sharing the Truth with tribal villagers exceptionally difficult.
However, God did great things through the two missionaries who were expelled.
The Faith of New Believers
Villagers who became Christians wanted to continue hearing the Gospel. They helped set up a home for the missionaries in a nearby community so they could visit and continue hearing the Truth.
Janeiro says it’s great news the villagers are so excited about hearing the Bible. However, he is concerned about them.
“These people that want to continue learning about the Bible and about the Lord from the missionaries, that are going to be visiting missionaries in that other community, they will very likely face opposition from their own community, and in some cases, that opposition has gotten to the extreme of people being expelled from their communities, losing their housing, their land, even their animals,” he says. “They’re going to be considered like they are betraying their traditions and the pride of their community.”
Pray the Lord will use these new believers to minister to the rest of the community.
“The purpose is that the whole community could get to know the Lord and understand salvation.”
There are around 30,000 Triqui people, most of whom are unreached by the Gospel. In Mexico, there are about 300 people groups that hold animistic and syncretic views.
“They live in poverty in all senses, not only economic poverty, but family poverty, spiritual poverty, social poverty,” says Janeiro.
Of the 300 people groups, Janeiro estimates about 100,000 people remain unreached in Mexico.
Pray for the missionaries who have been expelled to continue effectively sharing the Gospel wherever they are. Pray God will give them and the new believers wisdom and protection as they learn and teach.