Mark & Donna
June 2017 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
Recently our car spent a couple of weeks at the mechanic's shop. You never appreciate a working vehicle until it breaks down! There are certain parts of a vehicle that are essential for the car to function properly, and when any one of those parts stops doing its job, the whole car stops working. In a church, there are also certain parts, people, who are essential for the church to fulfill its function; when they don't do their part, it affects the congregation.
As I think about the church the Lord has helped us begin here in our corner of Mexico City, I consider just how important many of our people have become to the ministry here. Tito is a wonderful man that has become not only one of our most faithful members, but a true leader in the church. When Donna is not available for counseling, Rebecca is the lady that other women can go to for solid Biblical advice! Esther and her daughter Cici have recently taken over the children's' ministry for us. This mother/daughter duo have added so much to our ability to reach the neighborhood children. Yareli is 22 years old, and she is adamant about serving and helps us reach out to more children and teens. She and we believe that God is going to send her out as a missionary someday.
These are just a few of the "parts" God is using to keep His church running smoothly. Without their participation and desire to serve, this church could never truly meet its full potential. Satan hates when believers serve and will do all he can to discourage them. Pray that God will protect and bless them.
As always, we thank every one of you for your faithful prayers and support for us, and the work that God is doing in this great city.
July/August/September 2017 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
We have much to say regarding things God has and is continuing to do in our church, but in the wake of the recent earthquakes, we would like to take time to let you see the need in this already needy city.
Thirty-two years ago on September 19, 1985, a major quake hit the city, killing nearly 10,000 people. Buildings fell like dominoes. Many of the apartment buildings that are outside the city now were built to house the people who lost everything during that quake. Each year on the anniversary of the quake, memorial services are held around the city and earthquake drills done in most businesses and in all schools. Our school held our normal drill at 11am this past Tuesday, September 19. Just over two hours later, we experienced the real thing.
We were at a shopping center when it happened, standing on a pedestrian bridge on the top floor. The bridge began to move, as if someone were running across it. Then it began to move more until it was bouncing up and down and we were having to hold on tight to the railing. At first we contributed it to people walking heavily across the bridge until we looked and realized we were the only ones on the bridge and we were standing perfectly still. Suddenly we heard screams and looked up to see glass panels crashing to the floor all around us. I moved Donna out of the way into the middle of the bridge out from under the glass. There was no quick way to get out without being under the glass, so we decided to wait it out on the bridge. When it was over, I can only think of the word "apocalyptic" to describe the scene. Although no one was injured as we were about 15 minutes north of the center of town, confusion and chaos ensued. People immediately began to exit the shopping center, restaurants abandoned with food on trays and tables, elevators and escalators not functional and with no cellphone or internet service, and since communication was completely down, no one knew the extent of the damage elsewhere in the city. We were unable to contact Jessi, who was still at school. Thankfully, Joshua is studying in the States.
The news in the States has not begun to cover the devastation here in the city. People on all socio-economic levels were affected. Over 20,000 homes are uninhabitable as of the latest count. Over fifty buildings tumbled to the ground. The second quake of 6.1 this morning killed more people and caused structures that were weak to fall. However, time and space do not permit me to share every story with you. We know personally four people who lost their homes. One of our friends' cousins was trapped all week under rubble along with four other people. None survived. In our visits to shelters, we have met people who have lost everything and don't know where to begin. Hospitals are full and non-emergency cases have been sent home or rescheduled.
People came out in droves to help dig through rubble and provide food and water for the workers. Countries have sent brigades of help. Japan's team found six survivors and were able to rescue them. We began to collect food and water and other items that the Red Cross and other organizations were asking for. We also looked for opportunities to help and to minister in the long run, because we realize recovery from this is a long process. The top picture is of a neighborhood in one of the hardest hit areas of the city. Jessi was working with some friends in that part of the city when a lady came running up to her asking her group to follow them. Jessi followed the lady who led them to a set of islands in the canals that had been without power and water for two weeks since the quake of Sept. 7. When the Sept. 19 quake hit, they were in even worse shape. Jessi's group was able to get them water and supplies and put them in touch with people who could help. They were able to share the Gospel with people who otherwise may have never heard.
In answer to our prayers, God has given us a unique opportunity. One of our neighbors is a fire chief. He asked us to help him as he goes to different shelters throughout the city. Last night, we made our first trip to two shelters. In one of them, we met the lady pictured on the top row. Her name is Patricia. She was at the hospital picking up her daughter who was being released after a two-month stay. The quake hit while they were checking out of the hospital. When they arrived home they found they had no home to go back to. They are living in the shelter for now but Patricia told us she doesn't know where to begin. The shelters and the city are full of stories like Patricia's.
We have been invited to work in various shelters throughout the city, working with the fire chief and a group of paramedics and police officers. Our focus will be with children, as we've been invited to play with them, read to them and provide counseling. We have begun collecting toys and clothes to distribute to the shelters. Some of the shelters do not allow "anything religious" as they put it, but even last night they allowed us to pray with the victims. In other shelters and on the streets, we will have opportunity to speak freely and share the Gospel. Many people who have lost their homes are living on the streets in front of what is left of their home, as they are afraid of losing what little they have left.
Pray with us as we walk through this open door of opportunity to reach more of Mexico City with the Gospel. Luis, the leader of the second shelter we were at last night, also works with migrants from Africa and South America. He has also invited us to come to the migrant shelters on a long-term basis.
Our hearts are very heavy and we are tired, but also hopeful that God is going to continue to open doors and lead us to the people to whom He would have us minister. Thank you once again for your years of faithful prayers and support, and please continue to pray for the precious people of this great city.
October/November 2017 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
We want to thank each of you for praying and giving in order to help with the earthquake relief. We just hit the two-month mark and the need is still great. We were able to help hundreds of people with clothing, food, and medical supplies. We sent three loads of supplies to the state hardest hit just south of the city. Also, we were able to help a church begin to rebuild. A church in the southern part of the city was hit very hard. Many people were at the church when the earthquake hit. Some were injured but not seriously. They are still meeting in the building-in the part not damaged as severely, but the entire building will have to be torn down and rebuilt. We were so excited to be able to help our brothers and sisters in Christ with a substantial amount-and will continue to send aid. The shelters in the city are still inhabited, but most of the families whose apartment buildings or homes were damaged are living on the sidewalk in front of their buildings, mainly to protect their property. Many are afraid the government will come and take the property, tear it down, or simply not repair it. In the wake of the earthquake, we met a man who is in charge of helping immigrants who are coming through Mexico to try to get to the United States. Most of them don't make it past Mexico City. When we told him the area of the city we live in, he was very excited because he had been looking for people to help provide clothing and food for these immigrants. He said that our area is heavily populated because we live near the train tracks-and empty train cars are inhabited by entire families. We have helped and invited several people we have seen working at the intersections, but they refuse to come with us when we invite them to our home. We found out later that they are brought there each day to beg, then picked up and taken back to the empty train cars (and some of their money is taken). Pray for us as we endeavor to reach these people with the Gospel. Some of them are also from West Africa and speak French and English, so our English skills will again come in handy!
We have a new address for our church! We can hardly believe it, but after months (well, years) of our praying and searching, God has provided a new place for us to meet! Several months ago, we noticed a meeting hall that had opened up for rent in our area. The building is on a corner lot on the main avenue of our colonia! We passed it several times thinking (in the back of our minds) that it would be a good place to meet. Finally, one day we stopped in to inquire. The owner wasn't there but the person who answered the door asked us to try again later. We were leaving to take Josh to college, so we waited until the following week when we got back. We made an appointment to go see the building and to talk to the owner. Although the building isn't perfect, it was adequate for our present needs. We explained to the owner who we were and what we needed the building for. She said she would let us know a few days later. When we called her back, the price she quoted was too much for our budget, so we thanked her and decided to continue looking. Immediately she asked, "How much can you pay?" We told her thinking she would laugh at us, but she came back with a counter offer that was only 40 dollars more per month than the price we were anticipating. We talked to our congregation and they said to go for it! So, we did and have been meeting in our new space for six weeks! At first it was very strange, but we are now very much at home and just so thankful to have this space! We can seat 100 people and are praying God will fill the building! There are still some kinks to work out in terms of logistics, but that is easily fixed. We are on a main road-the busiest road in the neighborhood. The owner, who was a little suspicious at first (concerned we would use too much electricity or that the kids would tear the place up) has now given us an extra room to use for Sunday school, Wi-Fi, electricity, water, two bathrooms, chairs, and tables! We invited her to join us and found out that her family is Christian (although she is not) and that they are looking for a church, so we're praying they come visit! We know that for the time being, God has us here and we are very grateful. We only use it on Sundays for now and still have all of our weekday and Saturday activities at our home. Please rejoice with us in this answer to prayer and pray that God would continue to provide and that this building would be used for His glory!
As many of you know, our son, Joshua began college this fall. We were so thankful to have him home for Thanksgiving! He had to come back because his visa had to be renewed. We weren't able to get it done but are praying that it will work out at Christmas break. Please pray with us that God will continue to provide during this time-that Josh's work will increase and become steady (he does translation work for lawyers), but most of all, that Josh will continue to grow in his faith during these very crucial college years!
Another benefit of having a building is the added space for Sunday school and children's activities. Please pray with us that we will be able to use this space God has so graciously provided in order to reach more children and families in our area with the Gospel message they so desperately need!
We are truly grateful to each of you for praying, giving, encouraging, and just coming alongside us in countless ways in order to reach Mexico City for Christ. In the fall of 1997, we began the long journey of deputation, little knowing what God had in store, but fully trusting in Him. Twenty years later, we still live by faith and know that although we don't know what our future holds, we know Who holds our future!
January/February/March 2018 update from the Whiffen family, our missionaries to Mexico:
Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Eighteen years ago on Valentine's Day in 2000, we crossed the border into Mexico for what would prove to be the most exciting and challenging chapter of our lives. With a trailer that was way too big for our mini van in tow, a very hyper two-year old Joshua, and Donna only four weeks away from having our little girl, no place to live and very little grasp of the language, to say there was a bit of uncertainty in the air is an understatement. We praise God for his faithfulness and thank you for your constant prayers and support through the years!
People often ask us, "How did you know what God wanted you to do? Is it possible to really know God's plan for your life?" The answer to that question is "Yes, there is a way." The key to finding God's will for your life is found in Genesis 24:27. Abraham's servant was asked to find a wife for Isaac. He had no idea how to accomplish such an unusual request. How was he supposed to know who was the ideal wife for Isaac? Yet, as we know, he does find the perfect girl-Rebekah. When asked how he found her, he gives the answer-the key-to knowing God's will. He says, "I being in the way, the Lord led me." There you have it - the key to knowing God's will. You see, knowing God's will comes down to one simple thing-being in God's way! Occupy yourself with doing what you already know God wants you to do. Be faithful in your quiet time with the Lord. Be active in your local church. Maintain a good testimony. Instead of waiting for that "special revelation" from God, simply stay busy faithfully doing those things that you already know God wants you to do. Keep yourself planted directly in God's way. In so doing, He will lead you to the place He wants you to be.
Recently, God opened another door of opportunity for us in just such a way. For some time now, we've been trying to get our foot in the door of a university across the street from our home. Since it's a private college, it's not easy to get on campus. Even though we've explored many different options to gain access to the campus, we didn't see the results we were hoping for. About three weeks ago, however, things changed.
Donna was walking back from a small store located two blocks from our house when she came upon a large group of college students walking by. Not willing to let such a good opportunity go, she asked them who they were. They said they were exchange students studying at the university! Several of the Mexican students were with them, so plans were made to meet with the leaders of the group in our home later that week. We met with the leaders, who were very excited about this "chance encounter" and we found out they had been looking for people who could help them with this new group they were trying to organize.
We now have the opening we had been trying so hard to find for so long. It's amazing because Donna simply had been "in the way" and followed God's leading.
Lesson? Be faithful. Be consistent. Keep doing what you already know God wants you to do. Put yourself in God's way and He will continue to direct your steps!
Please pray for us in this new opportunity. Pray for the leaders of this group - Jose and Roberto. Jose is a believer who has been looking for a church while Roberto is a pastor's son from another part of Mexico. Two weeks after we met them, they were both in church on Sunday morning! Pray that God will open up many more opportunities to minister to both the Mexican and international students!
We continue to meet in the building God provided for us last October! God has sent us some amazing new families. One Sunday, we were so happy to see the husband of one of our members, Noemi, come to church FINALLY! We had invited him for over a year. He has been three times in a row! He professes to know Christ but has been away from the Lord for some time. Pray for Israel that he will continue to grow! What a blessing it's been to work with families who want to worship and grow together! Pray for us as we seek to reach these families and college students with the Gospel!
We are about to reach the five month anniversary of the September earthquake. Things are slowly getting back to normal in some areas, but many people have a long way to go. Please continue to remember the earthquake victims in your prayers. We are helping a pastor reconstruct his church (a slow process here) and we continue to help the migrants who are coming from Belize and Guatemala, mainly. Pray for these families and for a special little girl named Nicole! We took clothing to her family as they were standing in freezing temperatures (well in the low 30's). Nicole (age 9) was so happy that someone was willing to hug her. She hugged Donna very tightly and didn't want to let go. The migrants here live in shelters, empty train cars, or the street. They aren't just young men but whole families - women, children, babies - and more are arriving each day to our area. Pray we can reach them, also and that they can return to their home countries with God's truth!