Friday, January 15, 2016

Big fun with missionaries and volunteers -- SIL Mexico Branch

When our friends Larry and Linda offered to give us a tour of Larry's workplace, we said yes. When they said we could be there for devotions with the snowbirds who had just arrived for their winter of volunteer work, we could hardly wait for Monday morning. We were going hang out with some of our heroes: missionaries, retired missionaries, and people who volunteer to help missionaries.

The building where we met is one of several that make up the SIL Mexico Branch facility. A few minutes before 8:00 am, people, mostly retirement aged, began to gather in a meeting room lined with blue, yellow and green banners. New Testament into a language spoken in Mexico. The translators' names and date of completion were on the banners as well. Yellow banners represent languages which are currently being worked on. A dozen lime-green banners hang on either side of the stage. These are languages which don't yet have any part of the Bible, and on which no SIL translators are working. By 8:00, most of the seats were filled with volunteers or missionaries working from the Mexico Branch headquarters.The blue banners -- by far the largest group, reaching across the back of the room and all the way up one side -- represent completed translations (sometimes with a revision) of the

The devotional time began with a song, "The Family of God," which everybody seemed to know (the woman leading mentioned that it was sung every morning), followed by a reading of Psalm 27:4. After that, we sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness, one of my favorite hymns ("all the verses!" the leader said). When we finished singing, she gave us an assignment: write our own fourth verse. I've been pondering this since then, but haven't yet written it.

Linda had been excited to hear from the speaker, hoping he would share his own story, which would have been wonderful. Instead, he gave an update on some of the changes at the SIL Mexico Branch since the last time the volunteers were all together (in the spring of 2015). The information he gave was helpful and encouraging, especially for helping incorporate new volunteers with veterans. He finished by saying, "God bless you! Go to work!"

When the devotional time ended, the room cleared quickly as people headed for their work areas. We headed down a hallway lined with clothing and other everyday items from life in various parts of Mexico over the past 75 years or so. I wanted to see the sewing/quilting group, Dean wanted to see the computer building he'd seen a sign for, and Linda wanted to show us the stamp room.

The volunteers in the sewing room were just getting started. They mend clothes for the missionaries and make quilts that are sold to raise money for translation work, among other projects. Since it was the beginning of the first day, the volunteers were still getting their winter's work organized, so after a couple pictures, we headed on.

As we walked to another building, we passed two men discussing the deck-building project at Larry and Linda's house. Since they weren't entirely sure how to get there, we all drove back to the house together, postponing the rest of the tour until later in the day.

Before long, the volunteers had torn off half of the sagging deck previous owners had built (badly) outside the dining room. Once it was down, they asked if Dean would mind whacking down a particularly nasty weed called cats' claw that had grown up under the deck. He welcomed the opportunity to get some exercise. Before long, we were able to head back to the offices to resume our tour.

We arrived just after the morning break, and found the stamp room after a question or two. There, volunteers sort donated postage stamps for sale to collectors. This project has raised a surprising amount of money for the ministry each year (I forgot to write down the amount, but  I know it was more than $1000.00). Then we set off to find the computer building.  Linda didn't remember that there was anything more than an office with one IT worker who supports all the missionaries and projects SIL has in Mexico, but we asked around and soon found ourselves outside a room with one guy, a lot of equipment, and a tiny museum of computer history. The phone rang several times in the few minutes we were there, but we got a quick explanation of his work. We were impressed (as we have been other times) by how much computers have improved the life and work of missionaries. We also had a quick tour of the repair shop and the area where furniture is reupholstered to extend the life of donated (or just old) items. We also got to visit the boutique, which is a kind of thrift shop where missionaries can share standard thrift-store type items.

I've loved and supported SIL missionaries since college, so the opportunity to visit them at work was fantastic. The base of volunteers who support missionaries in non-financial, practical ways, donating their time and having fun while they're doing it, is a whole other set of heroes to emulate.

Statistics:
Service Length: 47 minutes
Sermon Length: 18 minutes
Visitor Treatment: first time volunteers were asked to stand and give their names (and where they came from).
Our Rough Count: 77
Musicians: maybe piano? I forgot to notice, but I'm pretty sure we didn't sing a capella
Songs: Family of God
            Great is Thy Faithfulness
            Happy Birthday