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The “Accidental” Church

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by Paige K Slighter

For twenty years, A Work of Love (AWOL) has been serving the Nahuatl Indian community in Veracruz, Mexico through construction projects. They go as servants working alongside local people and full-time missionaries, Ed & Denise Aulie.

Ed and Denise have been married for 38 years and have five children who were born and raised in Mexico.

This spring (May 3-13), Joe Kelly (Woodland Hills covenant partner) will lead an AWOL trip to begin construction on a small church for a growing group of families that have come to know Jesus over the last few years. Thinking back on how it began, Joe calls it “the accidental church,” prefacing “but this is how it happens over and over again…with God there are no accidents!”

Joe (bottom right in the cowboy hat) with the 2018 AWOL team

Six years ago, Ed & Denise happened to get connected with a family in the village of Tlazcantitla. Ed was driving up a nearby mountain when a teenage boy flagged him down and expressed how much he would like to learn to drive. Ed spent the next several hours as a driving instructor with his old manual transmission Toyota. In that time, he was also able to share the Gospel. Afterwards, they agreed to meet up again for more driving lessons. From that point on, it did not take long for the boy’s whole family to hear the Gospel.

This in turn opened the door to share Christ with more people in the village. Over the next few months several families came to Christ as well as some of the children’s friends and neighbors. They even requested to have regular community Bible studies.

The AWOL team was able to meet the family that started it all for the first time four years ago. Joe remarked what an amazing time of community it was: “We were received with such joy. We joined them in prayer and song [as best we could] and shared our testimonies. We laughed and cried together.”

AWOL praying with the church

Year after year, when the AWOL team visited them, the family would express how much they truly loved and appreciated their time together. For so long they had felt isolated and alone. Joe said, “Almost all of them…about 13 or 14 total…were brought to tears when we told them of the people praying for them.”

Amidst the joy of this new church, there is also difficulty. As Joe put it, “It did not take long for them to feel the sting of their new faith.” There are non-believers in the village who are unhappy about what’s happening. Neighbors are shunning them and children are singled out at school. Despite the pressure, even from within some of their own families, they have continued to respond in love and reflect Christ.

Though they are in a place of extreme poverty, the group faithfully gives of what they have every week. Last year, they saved enough money to purchase a tiny piece of land to build their church.

As Joe shared this story, he said, “This little church, this little group of Jesus followers faithfully pray for AWOL and Woodland every week. In their own words…because of our visiting and care for them, they no longer feel isolated or alone. They literally view Woodland Hills as their family.” What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ from Veracruz, Mexico to St.Paul, Minnesota.

Joe and the AWOL mission team would love your prayers for their upcoming trip and the local people as they continue to deepen their relationships. They are also raising funds for building supplies and wages for those who will finish the project after the AWOL team returns home. If you are interested in giving or would like to know more, contact Joe at joekelly@usfamily.net. You can also read more about past AWOL trips here www.awolmen.blogspot.com.

 

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