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Xpujil Update – Christmas 2014

Dear Friends:

In the villages where we build cisterns, not many Christmas lights glow. That’s fine.  Our Presbyterian partners have their own traditions.  For most, the highlight will be an evening long worship service on the 24th.  Kids will sing.  Grown-ups will lead prayers, sing hymns, and read Scripture.  Most churches do not have a pastor, so church members will deliver the Christmas message.  Following worship, there will be a big meal featuring chicken, turkey, tamales, tortillas, coffee and hot atole (corn drink).  Very few gifts will be exchanged between friends or family members.  Resources are limited, families are big, and gift giving is not part of the Christmas tradition.  Nevertheless, folks will give thanks again and again for the abundance of blessings received from the Lord, even though they have also endured, illness, death of loved ones, unimaginable heartbreak, and poor harvests during the past year. 

Unfortunately, too many families in Calakmul County will not give much thought to God or Jesus during Christmas.  Instead, their focus will mostly be on raising levels of good cheer through alcohol consumption.  I’m not talking about a glass or two of wine enjoyed over the course of an evening, or a couple of beers to go accompany snacks or dinner.  I’m talking about outright alcohol abuse.  The kind that leads to skyrocketing incidents of public intoxication, battery, assaults, and domestic violence.  The red flashing lights atop police vehicles will be the Christmas lights that too many folks in our part of Mexico will remember this holiday season.

This vast difference between these well-established local Christmas traditions is a reminder to all Calakmul Presbyterians—and their Christ following brethren—of just how blessed we are to have the hope, comfort, and strength that flows from a life lived in relationship with Jesus.  Indeed, our cistern ministry exists to help share this good news with everyone.  We engage families when and where they are most comfortable, and try to love them as God loves them.  This endeavor is undertaken faithfully, even in villages where Christians do not have a voice.  Our hope is to establish new relationships during cistern construction, and then follow up in subsequent years by creating an ethic of trust and caring as we focus on concern for one’s neighbors through steadfast participation in our little ministry.  More than simply building more cisterns or collecting money to repay a debt, we proclaim the joy of being part of the body of Jesus Christ, who loves to see communities lean on Him during both good times and bad, and work in his name to bring peace, health, goodness, and mercy.

2014 CISTERN OWNERS MEETINGS RECAP

From December 4-9; Victor Guzman, Felipe Torres, Andy Combs (long-time partner from Brownsville, TN) and I met with the cistern owners from eight different villages.  It is always exciting to reunite with our cistern owner partners as we work together to help their neighbors solve their clean water issues.  Many took the opportunity to repay a portion of their cistern construction loan.  We have received $33,050 pesos in repayments in 2014, and a total of $313,800 pesos in cistern repayments during the past ten years.  That money has built seven cisterns (and one church roof) in three different villages.  In 2015, the village of 11 de Mayo will build two new cisterns paid for with their own cistern repayment money.  Those cisterns will be the third and fourth cisterns funded exclusively by 11 de Mayo family loan repayments.  Whenever cisterns are built, love for one’s neighbor will be on display, and God’s Word and his children will be right there in the thick of it, making it happen.

Without being compelled by accruing interest, losing collateral, or the threat of foreclosure, it requires something special for a cistern recipient family to make a repayment.   The strength and commitment needed to pay back was recently personified by Manuel Luna from 11 de Mayo. Manuel and his wife Rosa are both in their late seventies.  His family members and neighbors helped us build his cistern back in 2009.  Every year, Manuel attends our annual cistern owner meetings.  This year, he arrived at the meeting barefoot during a rainstorm.  He greeted us warmly, spoke of health concerns for himself and his wife, and his gratitude to God for the water in his cistern.  Then he offered a $1,000 peso repayment—his first.  Andy Combs and I were overwhelmed by Manuel’s unselfish act of gratitude to God.  The value of that contribution goes beyond what can be measured by a spreadsheet or calculator.

NEW CISTERN MOLD

Throughout October and November, Felipe Torres and Victor Guzman worked with metal workers in Chetumal to create the newest cistern mold.  Cistern Mold 3.0 includes all the modifications that Victor—one of our top foremen who works with the molds all the time—wanted for the new design.  About one third of the cost was covered using repayment funds from our cistern recipient partners.

The rest was covered by contributions from our American partners.  Thanks and gracias!

We hope to have a second and, hopefully, a third new mold ready by May of 2015.  Each mold costs approximately $2,300 U.S. dollars—too much to be covered by the 10% we set aside from the cistern owner repayments.  As future financial gifts are made, we will purchase the new molds.

2015 MISSION TRIPS

Lord willing, we will have American cistern building teams working with our local Mexican partners on the following dates: 

February 18-23; March 28-April 4; April 4-10; May 12-19; May 26-June 2; June 16-23; June 23-30; July 1-11; and July 12-20.

If you or someone you know would like to work with us during any of the May or June dates—and see the new mold or molds in action—please contact me with an email me or phone call.

Thank You

Thank you.  Thank you so much for creating and sustaining this blessed partnership.  United, through faith, prayer, work, gifts, and gratitude; we give glory to our Creator in amazing ways that touch so many lives, on both sides of the border.  Glory be to God. 

May you enjoy a healthy and peaceful Christmas season.

Todd Luke

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