February 6-14, 2010 was a nine-day trip to south Texas and Northern Mexico in which I was able to re-connect with my cousin, Roger Tomlinson and his ministry (Dayspring Outreach) and my brother Marty Bogart and his family. I flew to Mc Allen, Texas, where my cousin picked me up and took me to his US base in Edinburg, Texas. After spending a couple of nights, Roger and I, along with Roger’s wife Carolyn, packed up and drove the four hour trip into Mexico, where Dayspring has a center at La Haciendita, Nuevo Leon. Since I was in training for a 10K race the next month, I spend nearly every morning running along the roads of the orange orchard surrounding the Dayspring property (I had done the same in Edinburg during the couple of days we spent there before entering Mexico).
During the next five days, I met the 2010 students at the Dayspring Center where I was a guest teacher. This session I taught a quick overview of Church History. There was plenty of time to interact with the students and staff. The visit included a trip for Roger and Carolyn and I into Cadereyta for what are affectionately referred to as “sliders”—probably the best street tacos I have ever eaten.
We drove out of Mexico at week’s end and connected for the weekend with my brother Marty, his wife Circe and girls Circe and Audrey. One of the main events in this segment of the trip was Marty’s ceremony of dedication of his new office building owned by himself and his partner Bill Hudson. I enjoyed talking with Circe’s father Jorge Zarinana, who was visiting from Queretaro. Then it was back home to Fresno to resume ministry and family life there.
April, 15, 2009 Dear friends,
This has been a very full spring so far. I am involved in my two half-time ministry positions (Director of the JARON Bible Institute and Associate Pastor at Campus Bible Church of Fresno, California). Beyond these responsiblities I will have taught five college and university courses by the time June 1 rolls around. So you can see that it was a nice break (and a very fulfilling experience) to interrupt the schedule and travel to Texas and northern Mexico to engage in a week of intensive ministry (March 6-15) with my cousin, Roger Tomlinson of Dayspring Outreach.
One of the personal benefits of this trip is the chance to take an extra couple of days and visit my brother, Marty Bogart and his family in south Texas. Marty, Roger and I usually spend time catching up and reminiscing about our childhood days in the 60s. For us, at least, it is a lot of fun.
On Sunday, Roger and his wife Carolyn and I drove across the border into Mexico, crossing a narrow arm of the state of Tamaulipas and pushing on into Nuevo Leon. Our destination is the village of La Haciendita, about ten miles outside Cadereyta, which in turn is 20 miles or so from the third-largest city in the country: Monterrey.
With all of the news about drug-related killings along the Mexican border, we were extra-watchful on our journey. The only signs of tension we saw during this week were beefed-up checkpoints of the Mexican Army along the route. This time about half of the soldiers were wearing ski masks to hide their identities against possible reprisals by the bad guys. It was a bit sobering, but as far as we were concerned, perfectly routine.
The week of teaching began on Monday with classes in apologetics for the mixed class of about 15 Mexicans and Americans. Apologetics is the reasoned defense and explanation of the Christian faith in response to various questions and attacks. I had to brush a bit of dust off my notes from the last time I taught this course at JARON BIble Institute and then reformat them in the weeks before the trip. It was a pleasure to review this information and interact with the students –all of whom are very bright and eager to learn. I became friends with nearly all of them.
The Americans come mostly from widely-scattered parts of the Midwest. Likewise, the Mexicans are from several different regions of that country. Though they come from diverse backgrounds, they all share the passion for ministry in the unchurched cities, villages and rural areas of Mexico. It was my privilege to take part in their training.
Dayspring Outreach has several facilities in the country–two in Nuevo Leon, one in Oaxaca and one in Vera Cruz— and there may also be others I am unaware of (For more informatiuon on Dayspring, check out the link on the homepage of this website). I was very impressed by the work Roger has been doing these past twenty years or so. He is obviously very committed to the spread of the gospel in Mexico and shows a high degree of innovative ability and persistence to accomplish what he has.
After the return to yet another Dayspring base, this time in south Texas, my brother Marty scheduled a venue at his office for me to present a basic seminar on the background, teachings and goals of Islam. I developed this workshop out of my 17 years of teaching courses in world religion as an adjunct professor in various colleges and universities in central California. I have enjoyed presenting it dozens of times in a variety of formats and venues–sometimes presenting the basic facts of the subject and other times contrasting it with Christian faith.
This gathering turned out to be rather small–only a few of us around a conference table in my brother’s accounting office, but I found the more informal setting very refreshing. The next day, Marty dropped my off at the local airport and I flew home through Dallas to resume my spring schedule.
Let me describe one incident that really stuck out during that week of ministry. Imagine wanting to call your family from a rural area in a foreign country a couple of thousand miles away from home. So, after dinner, one evening I borrow one of Roger’s cell phones and take a stroll . It is dark and chilly and the rain is coming down in a fine mist. With flashlight in hand, I climb to the unfinished top floor of a small apartment block being built in the Dayspring compound for the permanent staff. No roof or walls have gone up yet on this upper storey, so I stand there savoring the damp darkness in this far-away corner of the world. I dial the access code for the US and then my home number. The call goes through and I am talking to Melinda as clearly as if I were next door. Then the signal is lost for a moment, so I dial again, this time standing in a different corner of the roof-top where the signal is stronger. The conversation continues, this time with no interruptions. After checking in and sharing about my day, I sign off, climb down and head for my room to prepare for the next day’s classes.
I know that in the Twenty-first Century, calling someone long distance sounds pretty normal. At home, I use a cell phone regularly to call all sorts of people. Yet it struck me, standing in the rain on that dark roof in rural Mexico, how interconnected the world has become and how relatively convenient it is to do business or missions work almost anywhere on the face of the globe. It is truly a pleasure to serve Jesus Christ and his coming kingdom in these very interesting times of ours.
Thanks for listening,
Greetings! I have just returned from a trip to Mexico (June 21-30), which your gifts and prayers have made possible. I wanted to send this letter right away to thank you and to report on the significant ministry, which occurred.
The objective of this ministry project to central Mexico was to set up the JARON Bible Institute Extension in Tehuacan (a city of some 300,000 people four hours southeast of Mexico City) and begin the first two classes: New Testament Survey and Principles of Bible Interpretation. My traveling partner and main interpreter, Gil Hernandez and I arrived in Tehuacan at 3:00 pm on Saturday, June 21. We ate, showered and got settled in. That evening I met with a couple to plan their Christian wedding to be held the next day.
On Sunday I preached at one of the host churches called Manada Pequena (Little Flock). Afterwards we were whisked off to the wedding ceremony. There were maybe 80 guests in attendance in a nice rented courtyard. I performed the ceremony with Gil interpreting. Afterward there was a nice dinner with some very different kinds of Mexican cuisine.
The JBI classes began Monday with two tracks of a New Testament Survey course: an early session from 6:30-8:30 am and an evening session from 7:30 – 9:30 pm. We had expected perhaps 30 students between the two tracks. Monday we had 85 and it grew during the week to 96. I have to say that the Tehuacan folks more than fulfilled their end of the arrangement. They made and distributed nice brochures about the Bible Institute, as well as posting a large attractive banner at the class site, saying “Instituto Biblico JARON: Campus Tehuacan”. The class materials were all translated and the notes copied and bound into a spiral notebook. My English PowerPoint slides were translated and ready for class each day, with all the technology provided.
Tuesday I accompanied several of the leaders to the local jail for their weekly ministry there (Yes, I spent time in a Mexican jail). I taught 18-20 prisoners for well over an hour on the life of Jacob and his transformation from a shady character into a man of faith. These men later chipped in on a gift for my family—very touching, considering their situation.
Friday Gil and I had breakfast with Ezekiel Vasquez and his family, who are key leaders in the group of churches hosting us. We sat for almost two hours as these people poured out their dreams to train people who can expand ministry in this region. I was encouraged by their vision to break through the traditional boundaries of denomination to see the Bible Institute offered to all who would benefit. Even this first week there were Brethren, Baptists, Nazarenes and others enrolled in the classes. For Mexico, this is “thinking outside the box”. These leaders emphasized that the 96 enrollments had materialized by word of mouth and a brochure they handed out a couple of weeks prior to the event. They believe that, with radio advertising, etc., there could be as many as 300-400 in the future.
Saturday my colleagues, Gene Beck and Kenton Rahn arrived to teach Bible Interpretation the week after I left. That evening the three of us participated in a time in which students could pose Bible questions. Many of the questions showed profound insights and a background of Christian experience. I trust our answers were helpful to the 50 or so gathered.
The next Sunday Gil and I accompanied Enrique (another of the key leaders) to the neighboring city of Coapan where we preached via loudspeaker to a good portion of the 10,000 people in that place. I wasn’t feeling well that morning but managed to get through the very strategic time of ministry. I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon resting and recovering from a week of physical stress and a touch of Montezuma’s Revenge. Sunday evening I finished the New Testament class, said some farewells to the assembled students, was very moved by their words and tokens of thanks and then went back to my lodgings to continue my recovery. Thankfully, I was nearly 100% by the next morning for the long trip home, arriving in Fresno after midnight.
You may wonder how we could do justice to a subject like the New Testament in just six sessions of two hours apiece. The answer is that we can’t— but that was the time available. In training Christian leaders who are “working people”, we give them as much as we can in a limited time, and do so in a form that is challenging, interesting, relevant and above all, practical. What we aim for is a good overview of the flow of the subject, the major teachings, key turning-points and issues. The rest they can get from the extensive notes we provide and from the readings in the Bible itself. I am convinced that this is the best way to train leaders in this context. We’ll see how effective it is as time goes by.
Personally I had the time of my life. I forgot how much I love the real Mexico, where people are more gracious and relaxed. The people there went to great lengths to show us the fantastic variety of Mexican food. I never ate a single enchilada —and tacos only on one occasion. Instead there were mimelas, champurado, chicharones, a very different kind of chile relleno, yucateca pork, membrillo and other dishes, the names of which I forget. I hope to bring some teams in the future to help with ministry to women and children. Maybe some of you can participate and enjoy this culture. I think I can promise that your Spanish will improve, you will see the real Mexico and be able to do some significant ministry.
Of course all the real glory goes to our Lord Jesus, but it is with heartfelt sense of gratitude that I say thanks again to you for making this possible.
My cousin, Roger Tomlinson, asked me to return and teach at the Dayspring Outreach Missions Training Center in La Haciendita, Nuevo Leon, (Northern Mexico). The project covered the two weeks of February 23- March 5.
The class consisted of a mixed group of about 20 Mexican and American students, who were instructed in:
- Missions strategies among people from a variety of religious backgrounds.
- Pastoral counseling and conflict resolution.
All of my teaching was done through a translator in order to be perfectly clear to the students and to get them used to a bilingual setting. After this, accompanied the team on an outreach weekend five hours away in a remote mountain part of southern Nuevo Leon, near Doctor Arroyo. It was a blessing to serve the Body of Christ in these out-of-the-way spots.
Thanks for your prayers and interest. Mike Bogart
Some of the students at Dayspring’s Training Center