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Students impact indigenous communities in mountainous region in North Mexico

The group from Montemorelos University passed out godpods, blankets, and toys, as well as providing free medical care to the communities.

Students impact indigenous communities in mountainous region in North Mexico

Pastor Agustín Andrade, chaplain at Montemorelos Univerity, distributes solar radios, or godpods, with bible study lessons and songs in the Rarámuris language donated by Adventist World Radio for the Extreme Mission trip at La Sierra Tarahumara mountainous region in Chihuahua, North Mexico, Dec. 6-12, 2018. Nearly 50 students, teachers, medical staff and volunteers took part sharing hope, blankets and medical services to hundreds of people in five indigenous communities. [Photo courtesy of Montemorelos University]

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Nearly 50 students, teachers, medical staff and volunteers from Montemorelos University, recently visited several indigenous communities in the mountainous region in the State of Chihuahua in North Mexico, sharing hope and giving out toys, blankets, clothing, bible books, and solar radios. The 300 solar radios, or godpods, included bible study lessons, songs and programs in the Rarámuris native language, and were donated by Adventist World Radio. In addition, free medical and ophthalmology services were offered to dozens of families.

“La Sierra Tarahumara is a place of great need,” said Pastor Agustin Andrade, chaplain of the School of Arts, Architecture, Design and Communication at Montemorelos University.   People have little shelter and endure cold winters every year, he added. “They have much spiritual need.”

Of the 50,000 Tarahumara inhabitants in Chihuahua, the great majority are monolingual, explained Andrade. “This ethnic group preserves many pre-Columbian customs, and for years they have received an important Jesuit influence.”  The region has less than 200 Adventist members and it was important to impact the membership there but also the surrounding communities, said Andrade.

This year’s “Extreme Mission” project, which took place Dec. 6-12, 2018, included visits to five communities: Guachochi, Nácarare, Basihuare, San Juanito and Cusárare.

This is the second time that the mountainous region has been visited by university students  since 2007. This time, the focus was also on teaching values to children, repairing Adventist churches, and providing blankets and clothing for families.

Focus on values

Booklets highlighting 10 values, especially designed by students enrolled in the visual communication design degree, were prepared for the three grade levels–ages 4-7, 8-10, and 11-13 years old.

“It was different in each community since many communities we worked in schools with children who were used to working on lessons and writing, yet other children have never received any academic teaching,” explained Rúbi López, professor and coordinator of the visual communication design program.

Church repairs

As part of the missionary project, students and faculty of the architecture program assessed three Adventist church buildings three months before the mission trip. Students took upgraded and repaired churches the seven-day impact in the region.

The Guachochi Adventist Church was the first to be upgraded. Measurements of the church were made to generate the plans while four design teams focused on adding bathrooms, a hall and kitchen, and the baptismal pool, as well as the pastoral office.

In the Basíhuare Adventist Church and the San Juanito Adventist Church buildings, bathrooms were remodeled and the walls were painted.

It was important to involve students in the project because missionary projects have the purpose of reinforcing the student’s missionary commitment, said Rubén Hernández, professor in the architecture program and coordinator of the completed projects.

“We want students to know that their career is not only to make money, but to preach the gospel through architecture, bettering the lives of individuals, and this was one of the most direct ways available,” said Hernández. “We have to make a difference as Adventist architects with that mission.”

Large collaborative project

Organizers said the “Extreme Mission – Sierra Tarahumara” represented a large investment of funds, logistics and attention to the community thanks to donations by more than 100 persons and organizations.

In all, more than 2,000 persons benefited from the initiative. About 700 blankets, 200 toys, and 1,000 pairs of shoes were distributed, as well as gloves and scarfs.

“It’s not about going out to distract ourselves, it’s about going out to fulfill a mission so that the students, teachers and members can see how valuable it is to work as a team to fulfill God’s mission,” Andrade said.

Plans are set to visit to the project in La Sierra Tarahumara in two years. The architecture repair work will continue during the coming months.

To learn more about Montemorelos University, its programs and initiatives, visit um.edu.mx