A Day in the Life: Sarah and Dustin Reed in Mexico City
Sarah and Dustin Reed serve with CMF in Mexico City, Mexico, doing holistic ministry in impoverished urban communities. They work with children, youth, and families, alongside local leaders, using their passion for music and the arts to bring educational programs and systemic transformation. Here, they give an example of a day in the life of their ministry.
All four of us pick up Julio and Vicky (local partners in ministry) in Chimalhuacán and drive into Los Reyes, where we climb the unpaved urban hills of San Sebastian to Doña Cuca’s house. The family announces our arrival to their block, door by door, and slowly children and neighbors pour into the small living room. The concrete steps of the front porch are covered with the cut lower halves of water bottles and buckets with sprawling herbs and flowers. Once inside, it’s hard to pass through the hall without gagging at the stench of waste. We pass through a sheet curtain to the living room, which is beautifully decorated for Día de Muertos with a large ofrenda, a table with pictures of family who have passed, candles, flowers, and favorite foods of their departed.
For a moment it was shocking to be confronted by the picture of Cuca’s young adult son, who recently passed away but who used to join us weekly. Attending his funeral this year was one of most painful experiences of our lives, as the implications of this healthy young man’s death were of hopelessness and our failure as the global church, an end that was set in motion long before we knew him, as his cognition was taken by an addiction to sniffing glue.
We have found that working outside of the physical church, we have gotten to know the most marginalized and hard to reach. Culturally, in these Mexican communities, people will not step foot in a Christian church which are known here for their legalism (dependence on religious man-made laws), however, they will invite a pastor into their home to pray with them, or even let them teach from the Bible. What a shining example we saw of this as last Thursday, in our small weekly home church, Julio taught the Bible under a giant picture of the beautiful Saint Guadalupe (which would offend Mexican Christians), and we danced and sang worship in front of the elaborate ofrenda.
For many Mexicans, becoming a Christian would mean giving up attending parties, dancing, all alcohol, and even significant national holidays like Día de Muertos, the Posada, and Semana Santa. Many Christians we know here will not even eat pan de muerto, a bread baked in every home at this time of year, especially if it has been sitting on an ofrenda, believed to have been visited by departed family members. Although we certainly do not believe that we are feeding the spirits of our dead relatives once a year, we see that this tradition at its core is a way to honor their ancestors, at the same time offering a little peace to a people who have had to come to terms with so much death. To explain the legalism of the Christian church in these types of communities, our friend and active member of a Christian church, Lupita, told us about the time her brother was visiting a church when the pastor ripped the necklace of Guadalupe (a very popular accessory for Mexican women) off of his girlfriend’s neck.
Thankfully, we do not believe in a God who asks or expects us to be perfect and have perfect beliefs in order to know him. Rather, Jesus himself became human and suffered in order that we may be part of God’s family through him. A relationship with Jesus transforms us over time to be more like him, and cannot happen by human law. Although we don’t agree with all of her beliefs, Doña Cuca is clearly experiencing transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit as we see in her kindness, strong faith, and eagerness to learn the word of God.
We are not interested nor are we here to preach the Christian church, but the Christ. The four walls (or in this case, two walls and dirt floor) of the church have no power to heal addiction, trauma, or broken families. The church is the people of God, serving and loving people in the name of Jesus, the living word and the only One in whom is hope and the power to heal and save.
We are determined to serve in the slums of Mexico City but found ourselves frustrated with all the time and effort we were spending within the church building. Moving forward we will be working independently with local leaders to serve in the streets, in schools, and in homes. As we danced in Doña Cuca’s living room with the children, made crafts with Vicky and the women, and took the kids outside in the uneven dirt roads to play soccer, we were overwhelmed by joy and gratitude for this life we get to share with “the least of these.”