July 2009

IMG_0255When the first indigenous Indian students came to Oaxaca seeking a High School Education under the care and direction of Armonia Ministries, it was necessary to find a High School that would accept them. All of the Indian students had low grade point averages (GPA) and many did not speak Spanish very well since they had used their native dialects in their mountain villages, some Chinanteca, some Zapoteca. Also they were relatively darked skinned. All of these served as limitations, and as a result all the High Schools in Oaxaca city refused entrance to them. Saul Cruz and Armonia found this High School several miles outside Oaxaca City and they were enrolled. Now some three years later, High Schools in Oaxaca have opened their doors to these students. And they have refused to change schools! They are happy and accepted where they are. I had the pleasure of meeting the Principal in April as well as several teachers. It is a happy, productive school and I think they made a good decision.

He demonstrates insulated construction material

He demonstrates insulated construction material

Saul Cruz Ramos is the director of Armonia Ministries in Mexico. Here he is demonstrating insulated siding to be used in the new student residence in Oaxaca, Mexico. This provides strength and insulation against heat and cold. This student residence is scheduled for completion in the fall, hopefully in time for the school term to begin. Armonia has purchased land several miles outside of the city of Oaxaca. In the meantime the students, about 40 in number, are living in a rented residence in Oaxaca. In the last several years, nine students have been admitted to Universities in Mexico City having completed High School while living in student residences supported by and closely supervised by Armonia. For me this is the most exciting program that Armonia has undertaken because it provides a pathway for indigenous Indian children from the mountains of Mexico to become educated and have a chance for a productive life. Without this education they have no hope of progress.

Let me tell you a series of personal stories about the people who work at Armonia and are served by Armonia. Many of you will have personal stories to add. Let’s tell of the struggles and successes and incredible adventures of all of us as we work together to empower the poor and disadvantaged in the world!

IMG_0285High in the Sierra Madre mountains of southeastern Mexico little Joaquin, age 13, walks and runs six miles over mountain trails. Wildcats and mountain lions make this terrain their home. He reaches the bus for Yalalag and rides another 8 miles. He has heard there are opportunities for a high school education there. None is provided in his village.

“I left my village to get an education. My father said “you cannot stay here, you must go on. There is nothing for you in the village. You must go on to school. I believed my father and vowed never to return as a peasant to my village.”

Joachin, now 25, is an honor student at the four year University in Oaxaca. When he finishes he will be a professional engineer. He was picked up and nurtured by Armonia, a Christian Transformation organization, who fed him, sheltered him, and supported him through a high school education in Yalalag after he made his way there at age 13 and later in Oaxaca. And they taught him to speak Spanish. Even though a Mexican,he spoke his Indian dialect and broken Spanish, impossible to understand in a Mexican University.

Huicholes Sewer e
We turn from the choked, frenetic highway into the dusty dirt road and leave the incessant traffic of Mexico City. Several cows glance indifferently as we push by. A small short Mexican boy with thin little legs waves shyly as we pass. We pass up a shallow hill with blue-gray distant mountains behind, beyond a few stores, farmacia, taller de mechanico (garage), a sleepy dirty little community, and turn left. We come to a stop. The road ceases to exist and instead we see a long uneven rough cleared area, impossible to drive. Down the middle snakes a wet, winding, smelly trench. Little snakes of water trickle from each cardboard shack lining the narrow creek-trench. Smelly creek. Sewer? Could it be?

Did I say Cardboard? Yes, shacks made of cardboard soaked in Creosote. A little waterproof but not fire repellent. Shortly after Huicholes (that’s the name of the settlement) was settled there was a fire and three people died in one little shack. And during that first winter at Huicholes, every newborn died.

This is the face of poverty in the third world. This is the face of poverty in Mexico. The little town is called Huicholes and it came to be in the night, suddenly and without warning. This is also the place where Armonia Ministries intervened. Let me tell you how Huicholes came to be, and how Armonia Ministries, a Christian Transformation Center in Mexico transformed the lives of those in Huicholes