Not Growing Weary in Doing Good: Calvary Chapels Unite on the Mission Field In Mexico
Story, photos & video by Josh Larson
Deep in the mountains and nestled away in a small valley, an Indigenous Mexican village sits completely isolated from the outside world. Occultic practices and messages of false hope run rampant as influences from beyond the tribe are rare. Miles away from any phone lines and without cell service, children spend their entire childhood knowing little else.
Ryan & Shae Steffensen, missionaries in Baja California, Mexico, enjoy watching a mission team from Calvary Corvallis, OR, play with local children during a March 2021 trip. The team spent a week sharing the Gospel and serving the local community.
Although the village is sparsely populated, missionaries Ryan and Shae Steffensen make the one-hour drive every month from their town in Baja California, Mexico, to spend time with the kids. Young people growing up in this area have few options for entertainment, and the highlight of the month is when the Steffensens and their small team of interns and family facilitate an afternoon of sports, crafts, and a skit. Once the team captures the attention and focus of the kids, they tell them about God’s love. As a result of consistently sowing the seed of the Gospel, the Steffensens regularly see children respond to the invitation to receive Jesus.
Children from the village of San Antonio de las Minas in Baja California participate in a game with a team from Calvary Corvallis.
They hoped that this trip in March 2021 would be no different, given that a 40-person mission team eager to share the Gospel was joining them. After a long week of serving in the Steffensen’s town of San Antonio de las Minas, this team of youth and adults from Calvary Corvallis, OR, loaded their five vans to capacity to venture into the village.
The team’s caravan zig-zagged through the desert and up a large mountain pass. As they weaved through the village and pulled up to a dirt soccer field, it started to become clear that this outreach would not go as planned. Not a single person was in sight. The whole village resembled a ghost town, the only sound being the panting of a few malnourished dogs.
(Learn about a full-service travel agency hosting custom Bible land tours designed for those with a passion for God’s Word and His people from one of our sponsors, Mayfair Travel)
After looking around for 10 minutes for a sign of life, a team member was finally able to locate a local man. A quick conversation revealed that a community elder had recently passed away. The entire village was observing a time of mourning, and every resident was staying inside for the next three days.
The team immediately knew that this day would be much different than what they were expecting. Without kids to interact with, the group’s efforts to bring the Good News to them appeared to be in vain.
The area surrounding San Antonio de las Minas is in view as Daniel Chen (in tan sweatshirt), high school pastor at Calvary Corvallis, assembles a work crew. A team from Calvary Chapel Salem, OR, also came to assist with the construction and clean-up tasks.
Although the situation seemed bleak, the missionaries and team pastors wanted to keep the group in the village for the day, hoping for any opportunity to be a light to the community. Daniel Chen, high school pastor at Calvary Corvallis, remarked that although the team followed a schedule and had an expectation for what the day would hold, they ultimately recognized that the Lord was in control. “I write all these plans that say ‘We’re doing this, we’re doing that,’” Daniel reflected. “But once we get to Mexico, things change, and we just have to live in that expectancy and be like, ‘Lord, what is Your will for us today?’”
Brothers Hudson and Tavien Strait (left and right) play soccer with a local boy, Aaron Espinosa (center).
As the day went on, the mission team played soccer and enjoyed fellowship. After a few hours passed, something changed. A couple of little girls showed up on the sideline to see what was happening. Nobody knew why these girls were able to leave their homes, but in a few short minutes, they were joined by a large crowd of kids.
Young men from San Antonio de las Minas perform a skit that demonstrates the realities of heaven and hell. From left to right: Yair Nandayapa, Israel Martinez, and Kris Fregoso.
The soccer game continued with the addition of a few children as other team members quickly began preparing for a Gospel presentation. Although later than expected, the team was both shocked and excited about this opportunity. Some of the young men had prepared a comical skit that would not only entertain the kids but also illustrate the love God has toward them. After handing out pieces of cake and other sweets to the kids, the team gathered everybody together to take in the show.
Children listened intently as the message about the realities of heaven and hell culminated in the life and death of Jesus. The invitation to receive God’s free gift of salvation was spoken to them in a way that even young kids could understand. Many of them heard this for the very first time, and as a result of the team’s willingness to be used by God, numerous kids were introduced to Jesus that day.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
Garrett Smith (left), middle school pastor at Calvary Corvallis, jokes with brothers Uriel and Josué Chávez (center and right).
High school student Marlee Heiken (right) from Calvary Corvallis enjoys special time with a girl at an orphanage in Baja California.
That week, when not interacting with local children, the mission team had spent many hours serving another community by hauling rock, clearing brush, and doing construction. High school student Micah Poole was halfway through building a retaining wall with a local church member when he noticed a change in his own attitude toward generosity. Although the man he was working with spoke a different language, his actions as a fellow Christian profoundly affected Micah. “He insisted on giving us gifts for helping him with the project,” Micah recalled. “… His willingness to give freely to others inspired me to be generous with what God’s blessed me with.”
Bill Vreeland digs up weeds outside of a chapel that is under construction. The chapel belongs to one of several orphanages the mission team members served during their time in the area.
This man modeled biblical generosity to Micah by freely giving to others. Micah later reflected that this displayed to him how to be generous like Jesus: “I grew a desire to not just do stuff for personal gain, but to do things to bless others because that’s what God calls us to do.”
This experience also gave Micah the desire to begin giving the firstfruits of his earnings back to God: “Since the trip, I started tithing and trying to be more generous with what God has given me.”
Rebecca Thompson teams up with a young girl as they play a group game.
A brief interaction with a girl at an orphanage left high school student Erin Jimerson with a deeper understanding of what it means to be generous with her time. While the rest of the team was playing games with kids or working on projects, one of the girls walked up to Erin and wanted to show her around the property. The child held Erin’s hand as she proudly pointed out her favorite places. “The girl was leading me around, showing me the livestock and the playground,” Erin related. “She was just so excited to show me this glimpse into her world.”
This interaction seemed simple at the time, but Erin soon recognized that it was a glimpse of something bigger: “That entire experience really opened up my eyes to the ways that I should be more generous by pouring into people.”
High school student Elise Cornwell runs with kids during a time of games.
The joy that Erin witnessed in the girl gave her a desire to invest in people as Jesus did. “God’s been leading me to look for opportunities to pour into the people around me,” Erin reflected, “whether that be in my classes or even just as I’m walking past people on the street.”
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you.” John 15:12
Unity and Genuine Love
Also participating in the fellowship throughout the week was a team of 10 young adults from Calvary Chapel Salem, OR. They were directed by a few men in doing maintenance on the building of the local church, Mixteco Christian Fellowship. This Calvary Chapel-affiliated church is pastored by Andy Alvarez. He and his wife Monica have been serving as missionaries in the area for over 20 years.
Rich Larson (right) instructs young men in the construction of a new home for missionaries Andy and Monica Alvarez. Andy is the pastor of Mixteco Christian Fellowship. From left to right: David Alvarez (youngest son of Andy and Monica) and brothers Bryan and Kris Fregoso.
High school boys load fresh dirt to go under a playground at Mixteco Christian Fellowship.
Teams that the Steffensens host from the States often serve in tandem with the Alvarezes. It was no different as the two groups from Oregon worked to continue construction projects on the spartan church building and the Alvarez’s half-finished house.
Every generation is represented during the mid-week Bible study at Mixteco Christian Fellowship.
Becky Natimama (right) from CC Salem and Valeria Elizalde enjoy fellowship with everyone after a church service. Monica Alvarez shared that even nonbelievers in the community were drawn to the unity and genuine love between Mixteco Christian Fellowship and the mission teams. “It’s something that’s very appealing and attractive to the people around us … and to me it is just like a little taste of heaven.”
Although great progress was made, Andy was thrilled about much more. “We’re just excited. Yes, we’re excited to see work projects get done and outreach being conducted and everything,” Andy declared while the two teams were working. “But I think more than anything that gets done, or how much gets done … is [that we all] enjoy the Lord, enjoy serving Him, enjoy serving others, and enjoy being blessed with great meals and fellowship.”
Monica Alvarez (left) laughs as she is being introduced to the mission team. Despite hard work, there was much joy and fellowship during the week.
Monica Alvarez pointed out that local Christians were not the only group encouraged by the mission teams’ presence. “For the community around us—that is, those who are not believers—we are an example,” she said. “They are drawn to that togetherness and that closeness, that unity and that genuine love. And it’s something that’s very appealing and attractive to the people around us … and to me it is just like a little taste of heaven.”
Andy Alvarez (left) leads a work crew in prayer. Andy exclaimed, “I think more than anything that gets done, or how much gets done … is [that we all] enjoy the Lord, enjoy serving Him, enjoy serving others, and enjoy being blessed with great meals and fellowship.”
As the trip neared its end, Daniel Chen emphasized the importance of serving others like Jesus did. “Our pride tells us, ‘I don’t need to serve,’” Daniel exhorted the team. “Pride says, ‘I want to be in control, I want to do things my way.’ But it is in our humility that we get a taste of heaven, when we’re all willing to serve and follow Jesus.”
Enjoy the following video, which shares highlights from this trip.
This story first ran in Issue 90 of Calvary Chapel Magazine (Winter 2022)
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.