Saturday, August 4, 2012

Research Investigation Project

Now that we're getting a wee bit more settled, we're beginning to think a little more about the reason we moved to Apizaco in the first place and that is to be in a more strategic location from which to carry out the research that we've been asked to do about the Totonacan people group.

Totonacan dancers performing a traditional
folk dance in honor of the local saint. Cuautotola, Puebla.

Research seems to be a much-overlooked aspect of ministry and not something that we'd thought a lot about, to be honest with you, so it's been a very interesting subject to learn more about. Hearing our Area Leader's thoughts about research, however, we quickly saw the value and importance of research in a ministry context.  Gathering information is a most critical part of the ministry process in order to be able to develop the most effective, strategic and productive ministry strategy possible.

At first we were merely considering gathering ethnographic research (aimed at describing a particular culture and society) and/or strategic mission research (gathering data about things that can be mapped, such as locations of churches, percentage of Christians in each province, etc.), but the more we have learned about the Totonacan people and their context, the more interested we have become in doing research of a different sort.

The Totonacans aren't exactly what you would call an 'unreached people group', since there are many Totonacan churches that have already been planted among them.  There continues to be a missionary presence in Totonacan communities and many of the pastors of these churches are themselves Totonacans. They do seem to be, however, what you could term an 'un-discipled people group' and there is still much work to be done in the areas of personal discipleship and Bible translation (only 3 of 7 or 8 dialects have a New Testament in their language and even those aren't widely used).

Totonacan musicians playing accompaniment
to the folk dance.  Cuatotola, Puebla.

While ethnographic and strategic mission research will certainly be included in our research project, we would also like to look at some more specific issues of how churches have been planted among the Totonacan people and what does discipleship look like in the existing Totonacan churches (unfortunately, as is the case in many places, discipleship is more about classroom learning than a personal discipleship relationship such as Jesus modeled).

As we have been looking around for some good resources to help us with this research challenge, we discovered a resource called Breakthrough from GMI (Global Mapping International).  Written by Stan Nussbaum, Breakthrough is a resource that assists those in ministry to evaluate their ministries to see areas that could be improved and helps them learn more from their experiences than they might otherwise.  The guide aims to help you 'develop basic skills in field research, apply them to one issue or aspect of your ministry, and take action based on the insights that emerge from your research' (pg. 1).

We ordered the guide (although we plan to also order the e-book when it is available as it has more content) and are just beginning to read through it to learn more about this resource.  Even though this guide is more geared towards people who have already been in ministry for a while, it can also be adapted for a situation like ours where we are wanting to gather information in order to develop a strategy for future ministry.

Totonacan musicians. Cuatotola, Puebla.

Here is another quote I really like from page 1:

'This guide will help you get a clearer picture of other people's thoughts and feelings about your ministry. By understanding people better, you will get into a better position to hear what God wants to tell you about serving them.'

My thought on this quote is that this takes a lot of humility to be willing not just to hear other people's thoughts and feelings about one's ministry, but to also change and/or correct mistakes or methods that aren't as productive or as effective as they could be.  I have known/do know many in ministry for whom this would be difficult.

So, we're super excited to keep on reading this resource and learning more about how to do research in ministry, even though it scares us a little at the same time! We're kind of new to this whole research scene and I think we have a lot to learn.  We're not just excited about conducting the research in the Totonacan communities, however, but also about the possibility of helping others do this kind of research in their ministries as well!  The more we learn about it, the more value we see in adding good research skills to prayer over ministry problems and strategy development...and that's something we'd like to share with others.

Totonacan musicians in front
of the Catholic church.  Cuautotola, Puebla.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Getting Settled

It was a week ago today that we packed up our van and made our final trip to our new house here in Apizaco, looking rather like the Beverly Hillbillies with a cot and a daybed strapped to the roof and five bicycles piled on the rack behind (minus the Granny in the rocker, of course!). Fortunately, we weren't stopped by the police on the way, sometimes they see an overloaded vehicle as an opportunity to gain a bit of extra cash...

Miguel had made a trip to Apizaco the day before with some things, but as we were packing the final things, we quickly realized that he should have taken more on that trip...but we were able to pack it in, leaving barely enough room for the poor dog right inside the door!  He had such little space, in fact, that he didn't have room to lay down due to the cooler next to him.  I spent half the trip with him panting in my left ear, so I  finally just held the cooler on my lap so that he could lay down and quit the heavy breathing already!

Once we arrived, it was a blessing to eat lunch with the Rupe's and Misael (LAMM directors and their coworker, we call him 'Misa') before beginning the chore of settling in. One of my sisters gave me some wise advice long ago that I have not forgotten...any time you arrive somewhere, get the sleeping arrangement taken care of first, she said.  That way it's taken care of before it's dark and you find out the lights don't work and you don't know where the flashlights or candles are and you're tired and frustrated...well, you get the picture!

So while Miguel and Micah went shopping for some appliances (Miguel left the next day for a trip to the sierra (mountains) to help set up for a Totonacan youth camp, so he needed to get me set up with a means of cooking and preserving food before he left), I set about getting our 'beds' ready.

I say 'beds' because most of us were going to sleep on the floor. We had a cot and one twin-size foam mattress that I commandeered as I can no longer handle sleeping on anything much less than comfortable and the cot isn't comfortable.  Gracia got the cot and the rest of the guys had to sleep on piles of sleeping bags and blankets. I was able to locate the sheets and get the sleeping arrangements taken care of before moving on to the kitchen.

Obviously, the priority in the kitchen was to locate the coffee-making equipment and along the way I unpacked a few other things as well...pretty soon Miguel got back from the store with a new refrigerator and stove. I don't think I've ever had new appliances before!

I'm very happy with the fridge, even though it's not full-sized...

Micah was just excited about the food!

My kitchen shelves...not elegant, 
but definitely functional
I found some brightly colored place mats to help add some flair.  

My lovely stove!  I've been using the oven
quite a bit already...yesterday I made lasagna
and today I baked some banana bread.

We don't have a lot of wall decor, but we do have a little.
A friend recently gave us the picture of the lady
making corn tortillas...I love it!

I believe the grinder is called a quern (saddle quern?) 
in English, metate in Spanish.

While Miguel was gone on his trip, I got the rest of the kitchen set up, as well as the dining room.  That's where we spend most of our time anyway...I tried to hook up the washing machine, but there were issues, so I just left it for when Miguel got home.  And of course, then it took him only a few minutes to figure it out!

On Monday, we went to Walmart and found some good prices on some mattresses.  We bought two twin-sized and one 'queen'...I'm pretty sure it's not a real queen-size, though, as it's a bit on the small side.  But, it works and it's much more comfortable than the flimsy foam mattress I was sleeping on!

Now what we lack are things like bed frames, living room furniture, bedside tables, bookshelves, dining room table, chairs, curtains...but as they say here, poco a poco, little by little, we will make our house a home...