I’m having a difficult time downloading in my mind what I saw in Guacaivo, the tiny village deep in the Copper Canyon. There was a lot to take in, and it was hard to fathom a place of such beauty and such harshness all in one spot. The Taramaharan people that we came to see and help have been living in this canyon, in poverty and fear, for hundreds of years.
The Tarahamarans are the indigenous people of Mexico. And they are slowly going extinct. There’s not enough food around most of the time and people literally starve to death in the craggy rocks.
Pastor Tomas is trying to change that. He was called to reach out to the people in the most inaccessible places of this mighty canyon, seven times larger than the Colorado’s Grand Canyon. He brings physical support like food and clothing to reach them spiritually with the Gospel of Christ.
We came to help at the orphanage and school that Pastor Tomas, Brenda and the missions team started.
While there, we were fortunate enough to witness a food and clothing distribution day. The plan was to start the distribution part way through the day, so we spent the morning working on a fish pond above the orphanage Pastor Tomas had started.
As we dug and cleared and forced rocks out of their earthy graves, groups of brightly dressed Tarahumaran women and cowboy-styled men would all of a sudden appear out of rocks across the small deep valley, on the steep mountainside.
They would make quick work of the steep switchbacks, traversing back and forth until they reached the roadside then downhill to the orphanage. It was a beautiful sight to see – these lost people coming to a Christian organization to have their basic needs met.
They were there to gather food supplies that would apparently last them a month. The Coquitlam Alliance team had bought and put together food bags that included flour, sugar, cornmeal, tins of meat and jalapenos and lard, matches and cookies, salt and coffee. They brought cloth shopping bags from grocery stores back home and by the time the supplies were put in the bags were almost to the top.
It was hard to imagine these families depended so much on these supplies. The night before the food distribution, Pastor Tomas told us that many of the people would be very scared to come as they are not accustomed to outsiders and have a fear of strangers brought about from the time of the Spanish conquistadors. But because they need the food so badly, they come.
Pastor Tomas’ team and the CAC group also gave away cowboy hats, toys, cloth, shoes, and clothing to the men, women and kids who came.
It’s been a few days now since we did the distribution and hiked out of the canyon. It’s hard to match in my mind that the Tarahamaran world and my world are one and the same.
Some Tarahamarans still live in caves. I could live in an expansive house. Tarahamarans live off of roots and some fruit when they’re lucky. I live off of much to much food in variety and abundance fit for a king. They wear the same clothes for days and days on end, and are fortunate if they have shoes and a winter coat for the freezing winters. I can’t even fit all my clothes in my dresser anymore. They have a roaming pastor come in once a month or so to preach God’s Word. I have church, Bible Studies, a Bible and the ability to read it, hundreds of study books, internet sites, podcasts, radio stations and more to seek and know my Saviour more.
How do you move on in life when so much seems so out of balance? It makes me sad, and frustrated, and longing to do more than write a few stories and hand out a couple bags of food. Yet there is hope there. I have seen the hope in Sandra’s eyes, in Alfredo’s words, in the stories told by Pastor Tomas and Brenda, and I will share those with you soon. But for now, think of the Tarahamarans next time you turn on a light, flush a toilet, read your Bible, go to church and sleep in your soft bed. Think of them, and pray that Pastor Tomas will continue to have the strength and support needed to reach these lost peoples of the canyon.