P R E S I D E N T S P A G E
New Life in Mexico
I spoke at Mexicos only annual home school conference in September, and I am excited. Im excited because I saw home schooling beginning to spread and thrive in another culture, in answer to the prayers of many American home schoolers. Even more, Im excited because I had a fresh encounter with the all-powerful, miracle-working God we serve.
I traveled to Mexico at the invitation of Mike and Pam Richardson, American missionaries who live near the city of Saltillo, and who have organized the Mexican home school conference for the past three years. All of my expectations proved to be wholly inadequate for what I would experience on this trip. First, I expected to be in a dry, desolate desert in north-central Mexico. Instead, Saltillo is a beautiful city in the midst of the mountains and was reasonably green, although not a Seattle kind of green. Sure, there were some areas of squalor, and many cars were old and beat-up, but the city far exceeded my expectations in terms of the economic status, the quality of many buildings, and especially the beauty of the countryside.
But more breathtaking than the scenery was the sight of 500 people at the home school conference, representing about 140 families. This was significant growth from about 90 families the year before. Although there were several American missionaries present, the vast majority of the crowd were Mexican nationals who were in the early stages of home schooling, or who were considering it for the near future. And there were dozens of beautiful children with captivating dark brown eyes and abundant energy.
I spoke six times in three days, including a Sunday morning worship service combined from several evangelical churches in the Saltillo area.
I especially valued my interaction with the people who attended the conference. (A 15-year-old boy with dual Mexican-American citizenship served as my personal translator during the breaks.) One lady told me that she had once heard a speaker on family relationships and parenting who had only two children. She had thought, What does he know? I have four children! But, she said, since I had 10 children she could listen to my teaching. Others had very good questions and much enthusiasm for home schooling.
It was refreshing and encouraging to see how these people quickly caught the basic message I was there to deliver: While home schooling is a wonderful academic experience, its highest purpose is to allow parents the extraordinary opportunity to teach their children to believe in God. Discipleship is the highest and best purpose for home schooling.
If my hope for the future of home schooling grew on this trip, my faith in God grew even more. This was not due to my teaching, nor to the peoples reaction to my teaching. Rather, my faith grew by getting to know Mike and Pam Richardson and their cutting-edge missionary endeavor in Mexico.
Pam is expecting the Richardsons seventh child. They live in the small village of Arteaga, which is just a few minutes up in the mountains from Saltillo. Arteaga, while surrounded by beautiful scenery, shows much more evidence of poverty than I saw in nearby Saltillo. Nevertheless, God has provided Mike and Pam with a comfortable home which is adequate for their needs.
The Richardsons are engaged in what I believe is the prototype of the most important missions opportunity of our lifetime. They are serving as missionaries to the families in Mexico who are interested in home education. They understand the value of the opportunity to talk with people about their children and their educational needs, as a means of opening the door for the Gospel. This is a formula which could sweep the world. Families need help. Home schoolers know how to help families. We know how to point people to a good education. And while we are at it, we get to introduce people to Christ.
Evangelistic efforts are a big part of what the Richardsons do. For example, there is an open air market in their village every Sunday afternoon which attracts thousands and thousands from surrounding areas. Their 19-year-old son Michael told me he has passed out 10,000 tracts in a single afternoon at this market.
The Richardsons live entirely on faith. They have little regular support. They pay all of the expenses for the home school organizationmailing, printing, building rentals, etc.without charging anyone for the services they provide. The conference was free. They did not charge exhibitors (who in turn lowered their normal prices so the people could afford the materials).
I was impressed with all of this and with Gods provision. However, I soon stopped being merely impressed, and began to understand that I was in the presence of people who were experiencing the active blessing of God in ways so powerful that I was reminded of stories of George Mueller and Hudson Taylor.
I noticed on Sunday afternoon that the Richardsons son, Michael, walked with a limp. On the way back to the airport, Mike pointed out a mountain, Thats the mountain Michael and Jeremy and I climbed once Michael could walk again. Thats when I learned the story of their sons medical condition:
Michael has generalized dystonia, a rare nuerological disease that affects the working of the muscle. When the Richardsons moved to Mexico in response to the call of God five years ago, Michael was in a wheelchair with no prospects for recovery. Upon their arrival, a man in the church took an interest in Michaels medical situation. He located a pediatric neurologist who was not only trained at Johns Hopkins University, but was also well-versed on this particular disease. While Michaels disease has no all-out cure, this doctor recommended a series of injections into Michaels legs with the potential of controlling the effects of the disease. These injections are used by specialists in the U.S., but they are not used in large muscle groups like the legs, because it is believed that they will not work.
Mike and Pam did not know what to do for their son. They didnt know whether this was the right treatment, and they were worried that it could be dangerous. One thing they knew for sure: they didnt have enough money for the shots. They were exactly 317 pesos short, which at the time was about $100.
The Richardsons prayed and asked the Lord to send them guidance for this treatment. And they asked that if the Lord wanted Michael to have these shots, He would send 317 pesos.
They told only one person about the appointment they made to have the shots. And they told no one about their financial need.
The evening before the appointment, a friend came to them with a gift. He said that another friend had been prompted by God to send them 300 pesos for Michaels medical needs. The Richardsons were grateful and excited. But they were also still uncertain of Gods direction, since they were still 17 pesos short. Just then, their friend, who had left and returned to his car, came running back. I almost forgot, he said, handing them a small bag. My daughter wanted to help, too. She cleaned out her piggy bank. In the bag was exactly 17 pesos.
Thats not the only story the Richardsons told me of how God met their needs for Michaels medical care. Nor is it the only story I heard about Gods work through them. They constantly are called upon to help meet the needs of families in their circles of ministry who live in abject poverty.
They told me about one family with many children, who live on $30 a week that the father makes working every single day in a chicken house. That story got to me, and I pulled out my wallet and gave them a small amount for that family. I couldnt hear a story like that and not respond.
I write about Mexico and the Richardsons to encourage you with stories of their faith and the exciting role that home schooling can play in world missions. But if you feel compelled to respond directly, like I did, you can send a tax deductible gift to them at Vida Nueva Ministries, 1001 South 10th Street, Suite G-529, McAllen, Texas 78501. They have a conviction that they should not share their needs or ask for gifts. They have not asked me to write this article or to ask for gifts. I write only to share their vision, their courage, and their work. If God moves you to give to the Richardsons, I wanted you to know how to contact them.
We serve a living God. It is refreshing to meet people who remind us that our faith is not placed in Him in vain.