Mary’s Yucatan CrossWay Story

I know everyone is excited to hear details about the trip to Yucatán. For sure each of us fell in love with Izamal, and I sincerely hope each of you gets to go at some point over the coming years as we partner with Missionaries Charles and Mary Lee. But I see how God was preparing me beforehand in some of our recent Quiet Time (QT) reading, so I am going to start with that.

In the recent Quiet Time passages (Ephesians, Ruth, Philemon) I saw and cherished God’s plan of salvation is for all people groups.

·      In Ephesians – there’s apparent surprise (“previously unrevealed”) that gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation, but throughout Old Testament prophecies God’s plan of salvation covers all the world and in the New Testament, there’s language which signifies unity and equality among Christian brothers and sisters–such as “reconciling us to God together as one”, “fellow citizens with the saints”, “members of the household of God”, “built on the same foundation”.  Not only is there this embrace of brother/sisterhood among people groups, but in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a slave becomes a brother, so this is a concept which spans all walks of life and all regions of the earth.

·      One Old Testament specific example is also from our recent QT passage. Ruth was a non-Israelite being accepted, well-treated and included in Israel, and scripture makes a point to let us know that she accepted her Mother in Law’s God (Israel’s God); and Boaz, who accepted her even though she was a Moabite woman, is called “a man of noble character”… And God uses Ruth for his Glory, too… she bears Obed, the grandfather of King David, from whom Christ comes. 

·      This whole concept is foretold as something we will sing praise to God over in the future (Rev 5:9) And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,  for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God  from every tribe and language and people and nation,”

What I saw in Yucatán is a specific example of God’s love for a people group… not only a country or a tribe but even a small town… and this is the main point I wanted to share with you all … You will likely hear at least one of us talk about Missionary Mary Lee’s  story of coming to Yucatán to be with Missionary Charles Lee and the condition of his home, and the struggles they went through, and how far they have come, and the impact they have since had on the children and community…. but I would like to share the story Missionary Charles Lee told me on the car ride back from a town not even on google maps… he told me that years ago he met a proud Mayan man who was very resistant to even speak Spanish with him.  So he tried to learn Mayan but was rejected from the school because he was not Mayan.  Still he persisted in friendship and slowly the man started to accept Don Carlos [Missionary Lee] as a friend, and opened up to speaking Spanish with him, and eventually hearing, and finally accepting the Gospel.  This man is the father of the now-pastor who we went to visit and the majority of their family have come to know Christ.  Seeing them embrace, their philia love is so apparent.  This shows me God’s great love for this Mayan family by sending Missionary Lee to reach them…. Over much time and through much persistence in love.   God’s love for Izamal and the surrounding areas was something I sensed strongly by sending not only Missionaries Charles and Mary Lee, but all of the staff at Bethel International Christian Academy (BICA)… and it touched me deeply.

Another way that God prepared me in ways that paralleled my experience in Yucatán is when we shared our stories with the students (as Paul mentioned one of them asked how we have changed, knowing God) I felt lead instead of sharing what we had practiced in our team meeting before leaving, about how reading God’s word daily has been something which has changed for me in the past few years, and how I could always (even as a child) feel or sense God’s love, but reading his word daily is how I know Him, and learn something new about Him… no matter how many times I read it, the Holy Spirit reveals something new.  One of the things which inspired me right out the gate on the Yucatán trip is hearing Raul’s (the chemistry teacher who drove us from the Airport to BICA) response to Irene’s question “what do you love most about teaching at BICA” and he said “getting to talk about God and his word every day, all day.” He shared that in addition to Chemistry, he teaches an ethics class, but even in the Chemistry class, he can talk about God!  The next day after sharing with the students, it was my turn to lead/share in our morning QT sharing…. Which was Luke 4:1-15, where Jesus is tempted and responds with Scripture each time.  When the enemy’s final attempt uses that strategy against him, Jesus knows other scripture which untwists what the enemy had done to the scripture he quoted to Jesus (this is what I shared with the group).  So the importance of scripture, and the love of God’s word is something which was at the forefront of my mind during the trip, and something which I was able to share (by the Spirit’s prompting) with the students, and affirmed in our QT reading the following day.

– Mary Johnston

* Read the Yucatan Mission Online Report here.



William’s Yucatan CrossWay Story

When Pastor Paul announced to the congregation his plans to go to Yucatán for a vision trip, Mary and I both expressed the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to go. 

We always desired to go on an international missions trip, but is this the one God is leading us to go on? 

As the dust settled, I wanted confirmation from God that this is his calling for me.  I typically wait for God to guide and direct my steps. Praying for discernment, I waited patiently for that telltale conviction in my gut or more than a coincidence set of events that prompts movement on my part. What do I do though when there is radio silence, when I hear no voice, no feeling or sense of guidance?

This time there didn’t seem enough time to patiently wait for answers on going to The Yucatán peninsula. We only had 2 weeks to confirm our commitment.  How would God want me to move? My only certainty in this was that sometime God wants us to pick up our feet so he can put the path down underneath. 

Pictured above is The Convent in Izamal, also known La Ciudad Amarilla, The Yellow City.  Once visited by the Pope in 1993, it was thrust into the limelight.  The entire city, once only dusty roads and cobbled buildings in disrepair, was completely paved and painted yellow to match The Convent at the city center. 

You would think that this must spell out the importance of Catholicism in the population that surrounds the city.  The grim reality is that most of the population is unbelievers and non-practicing Catholics.  Mixed in is a hybridization of local Mayan God worship and Mexican Catholicism. 

I was shocked that almost completely absent is any Catholic iconography.  Candles and Lady of Guadalupe shrines were exceedingly rare.  Realizing this I started to feel an immediate sense of dread mixed with intense urgency.  I always thought worst case scenario is that Gospel of Jesus was being told with the filter of Catholicism.  The reality is that Gospel is being strangled there, distorted or completely nonexistent. Apostle Paul wrote: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  God was showing me intense urgency, that those from Yucatán should not perish, but should experience salvation through Jesus Christ.   

I was deeply saddened that many would not be prepared for the master’s return.  I did see glimmers of hope and opportunity, that God was working there.  Missionary Charles Lee and those at Gospel Garden ministries have vigilantly been preparing VBS materials and performing Youth Ministries yearly in the surrounding villages throughout the Yucatán peninsula.  This continues as well through Bethel International Christian Academy (BICA).  Upon returning home the students at BICA are able share the Gospel with their siblings, parents, cousins, and neighbors.  This gave me hope for the people there. 

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  I was fortunate enough to see this lived out. 

From the beginning of the trip I saw the team help with each other’s baggage, and throughout watched authentic heartfelt testimonies of brothers and sisters.  Daily I witnessed Irene and Missionary Mary Lee, lovingly prepare breakfast together.  The love and care they showed for each other was truly amazing.  I saw genuine love and fellowship between Missionary Charles Lee and a local Pastor Joel after not seeing each other for nearly a year.  I felt it was a beautiful expression of love for one another.  It was Joel’s birthday, he opened up his party and gave us, his unknown siblings in Christ, food freely from what they had.  The entire family warmly welcomed us and called us “hermano” (brother). 

Their kindness made me feel so loved, and part of a much larger kingdom.   God showed me compassion and empathy for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus.  God opened up my heart to look beyond myself, and showing me an example of how to live upon my return to Orange County and CrossWay. 

It‘s been such a busy season, in which I can easily get frustrated and overwhelmed, but I was led to show love, through patience and kindness for my brothers and sisters, and my neighbors. 

William Johnston

* Read the Yucatan Mission Online Report here.


Stan’s Yucatan CrossWay Story

Given the time constraints, the thought of reaching our support-raising goal for this trip in such a short amount of time gave me serious doubts that it would actually happen. What’s more, for me personally, the lack of the number of people I’ve kept in contact with over the years made the task even more daunting. The thought of having to reach out to ask for support brought dread.  What my own limited networking skills and ability to convince could not accomplish God provided for in an exceeding abundance. God directed me to humbly and faithfully receive from him rather than figure it out on my own–it was nothing short of incredible.

Setting foot on the Bethel International Christian Academy (BICA) campus was such a pleasant surprise. I felt like I was stepping onto some movie set the first night that we got there. I did not expect things to be so well put together and the accommodations to be so comfortable.  However, what belies the comforts of the building of BICA are the stories behind the people who came together that God is using. Hearing Doña Mari’s story along side of Don Carlos’ was moving, if not heart-wrenching. Even before the school was an idea, God had been transforming her through incredible hardship and suffering, along with unmistakable timing and miracles.

Hearing their stories gave me a much deeper appreciation of how things came to be and how things continue to function. Because of their persevering obedience God is glorified through adults and students who are being transformed by the gospel. The building has such niceties, comfortable accommodations, the food is amazing, but not knowing these stories would immensely underappreciate the lives it was built upon and God’s amazing graces. In learning their stories, God is teaching me how to advocate for the people of BICA. As Romans 5:3,4a states: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering  by produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”

Long before departing on this trip, I had my own reluctance, wonderings, doubts, and skepticism.  My parents had done some work  in the nearby town about  10 years ago. The closer the date came to departure, the more looming the thoughts started to creep in–how much more difficult it seemed to leave my kids who became increasingly unsettled at the idea of me being away so long, time taken out of Winter Break; Catholic and Mayan religious strongholds, syncretism; walking into an historically spiritually bleak and physically impoverished place where many missionaries much money have failed before language barriers (Is it even possible to be effective yet non-Spanish speaking? Missionaries Jesse and Doña Mari prove otherwise).

My conclusion? God is growing his kingdom, using unconventional means and resources, moving in middle schoolers and people in Mayan villages like Pastor Joel. God clearly showed me that he is not limited by my own limited expectations or thinking or ways. Rather than dwell on doubts and question what I am responsible for is to hear his call and obey.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:7-9)

Stan Park

* Read the Yucatan Mission Online Report here.


Irene’s Yucatan CrossWay Story

In the past few years, by God’s grace and mercy, my faith in God was deepening — as my understanding and love for God has grown, I found myself on a plane headed for the Yucatan with this team that could only have been assembled by God.  I was always a sender, never a go’er because of my very real, not exaggerated, palpable fear of going to the bathroom in gross places. 

Although I found my faith growing, while in the Yucatan, I was faced with the reality that my faith in fact, was not charmingly childlike, it was bluntly childish.  I had grown accustomed to a continuous diet of milk — and I do understand why I needed it at least initially.  In the last few years, just as God promised in Psalm 147:3 to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds;  He has been healing my broken heart and binding up my wounds.  Over and over again in the Yucatan, Charles, Mary, and others would declare the greatest challenge to their ministry was how the people they serve would say, “yes, yes, yes” to them and then mix ancient Mayan superstitions with the Catholic faith, and Christianity.  Their tolerance and acceptance of everything meant that they worshipped Mayan goddesses, Concepcion, Guadalupe and alongside all those statues, they placed Jesus Christ as yet another plastic statue. 

I wondered if, in the name of tolerance and acceptance, I was doing the same. 

When I didn’t really know the truth of things, I was untethered to the word of God, and I easily give in to my feelings and my Irene-centric experiences of things.   The limitations of my superficial understanding of the bible came into real focus on one of our last days when we were faced with some disconcerting, charismatic stuff and I didn’t know why it all felt so uncomfortable.  On the flight from Houston to LAX, Paul went through all the verses and explained the whole thing to me. I was so hungry for the solid food and that conversation was deeply satisfying – also assisted by this app on Paul’s phone that amplifies my whispered, quiet stream of questions directly into Paul’s hearing aide.  I really recommend that for you all.  We chatted the entire way home.  He told me without my faith being anchored to the bible, sola scriptura, it was susceptible to feelings, experiences, and straight up wayward deception. 

The trip made me hungry to go deeper into God’s word and learn more of the essential truths of the Gospel. I remembered Cindy’s prayer for the imprisoned Christians in East Asia.  She didn’t pray for them to be spared from torture, beatings, for them not to be killed, she prayed for them to have a bible.  It made me pray that same prayer again but with added desperation.  What do people do without being able to read the bible?  So, in the Yucatan,  God gave me a hunger for His Word and a desire to deepen my faith and a heart not just for the folks in the Yucatan, but all of the people he loves in China, in Thailand, elsewhere. 

The second lesson God taught me in the Yucatan was about lawsuits and rights-based vindication.  When CrossWay first met Missionary Lee (just a little more than a year ago), he was tall, elegant, and articulate;  his fluency with Spanish, English, and Korean was a marvel.  In May of last year, he was lying in a hospital bed with a brain infection from a dental procedure.  When Missionary Lee greeted us at the airport, he seemed to have shrunken in size, hunched over, he shuffled with a limp, and he struggled with word-finding. When they reminisced about this on our trip, Missionary Lee kind of chuckled and said, “I couldn’t speak a word.  I couldn’t walk.” It all felt very unfair.  Missionary Lee told our team “people told me, ‘why don’t you sue the dentist?’”  

He said, “Why would I sue him?” I never thought he caused my pain. I never thought about him causing this problem against me. I can’t thank him.  But I don’t fault him.  It’s not my job.  What God has done is for His purpose;  it is still showing God’s will through this unfortunate situation.”  For a long time in my first 50 years, I lived life focused on hurts I had been nursing and in many ways, they became sort of the axis around which I lived;  I reacted or made strategic decisions on ways to avoid hurts and danger. Through this trip, God is teaching me to surrender to God and say, “what God has done is for His purpose;  it is still showing God’s will through this unfortunate situation.” That Sunday in their worship service, Paul preached of the exceeding joy we have in God – in times of abundant fruitfulness and God’s provision as we see in Charles and Mary’s lives and in times of tremendous, bewildering suffering, as we see in Charles and Mary’s lives. 

Psalm 16:1-4 Preserve me, O God [in the NIV, it’s “keep me safe, Oh God”] for in you I take refuge  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;  I have no good apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

This is the Kinich Kakmo Pyramid upon which ancient Mayans offered sacrifices to their gods.  During my time in the Yucatan, I saw our team, this rag tag group of CrossWay folks, all of us so broken, all in need of corrective eyeglasses, some with bad hearing, some floridly ailing (in Marcus’ case), the five of us beloved sons and daughters of our God, redeemed by Him, it seemed like our whole lives led to this moment in the Yucatan — where God would show us what great things He has done in our lives which we were eager to tell each other and the students —  and how much more He will do as we continue to surrender our fears, our comfort, our lives, and our children to Him.  

So I am moving from being a goer to a sender again – sending Noah and Olive into the work God calls for all of us.  

Irene Hong

* Read the Yucatan Mission Online Report here.