On Thursday I had two interviews. The first was with an layman in First Presbyteran Church, San Antonio, RIck Lane. Rick's family owned a large furniture company based in Alta Vista, VA. I think he is a hyper active Christian. His testimony is one providential happenstance after another. He moved to San Antonio because he wanted to get involved in helping Mexico and he knew the family would be getting out of the furniture business, a decision motivated by a study he had done once he completed his college education that said they had to reduce U.S. manufacturing and turn elsewhere to stay competitive. Given the corruption in Mexico and the nedd to pay bribes, the viability of a low margin business also operating in Mexico appeared ntenable. Eventually, Rick's family did not have to make a decision as the company was taken over in an unsolicited takeover bid.
His mother, father and he were engaged in mission work already through a variety of Methodist and para-church mission efforts so when he married a Presbyterian, it was inevitable that his interest in mission in Mexico and Presbyterian Border Ministry would converge. It did when he met the former coordinator of Poryecto Amistad 5 or 6 years ago. When Chris and Roberto Medina shared with him their desire to find a curriculum for training parents and teachers to use the Bible to teach transformative values, Rick already had contacts. That led to the Amistad Schools in the Presbyterian Churches in the region in which Amistad is working.
I also interviewed Robert's cousin, Ruben Armendariz, who is about 80 but working full time for Mission Presbytery whose office is in San Antonio. Ruben is a retired professor at McCormack and we have many mutual friends. Even though I did not go to McCormack, the graduates are kind enough not hold it against me. Ruben is a warehouse of knowledge and experience. He talked about how the first Mexican churches were organized and assisted by the Presbyteries in Texas, but when it came time for themto join a presbytery because they had reached the level of being a church, the presbyteries formed a Texas Mexican Presbytery. That was in the early 19th century. The actual decision to do evangelism among the Mexicans was in fact imperialistic: they had to be turned into good citizens. Yet, when they became good citizens, at least of the kingdom, the Presbyteries of Texas did not give them citizenship. It was not until the 1950's that the Mexican churches became members of regular presbyteries.
Today, says Ruben, Mexican churhces are dying throughout Texas because they refuse to change. Having adopted the austere worship of their founders, 19th century theology and customs, and demanding that worship be in Spanish which many of the new generation of Latinos do not speak, the churches are dwindling. I observed that, sadly, these reasons are the same as cause the dwindling of many Anglo churches. Language seems not to be a problem except that younger and older generations speak past each other and lack respect for the need for a worship format that speaks to all the generations. I guess we'll be fighting the battled into the 22nd century.
I did take some RnR at Riverwalk in the afternoon to try and digest my conversations with Rick and Ruben.
Today, Friday, I left San Antonio behind and traveled to Laredo Texas 150 miles to the south where Proyecto Amistad is located. I easily connected with Roberto Medena, the coordinator who is about 40. I crossed on my Motorcycle and waited to meet him at a Plaza in Nuevo Laredo and then followed him to lunch and then to the office where I will stay. Just so you know. I was not threatened on the whole trip.
Then this evening, I went for a walk in the neighborhood where I found factories, one of which makes the boxes that connect you to the cable networks. I also found a park that rivals any parks anywhere where parents sat and watched their children play, as a few couples clandestinely made out. It's amazing how much things are the same everywhere. (See Photos)