News Articles

What obedience looks like

EDITOR’S NOTE: An audio version of this column is available here.

MEXICO CITY (BP)–Warren Hunter used to drink — “real bad,” as he describes it.

Who better to pray over a concerned father and his young adult son struggling with alcohol addiction in the heart of Mexico City?

“I can relate to this man and his son because I used to be alcoholic,” said Hunter, a volunteer from First Baptist Church of Gray Gables in Callahan, Fla. “I know how bad it can be.”

He also knows how good it can be when you take the Gospel into the streets of a city of 28 million people, fewer than 2 percent of whom know Christ as Savior. Hunter and 12 other Gray Gables volunteers went to Mexico City in February to help Southern Baptist missionaries and Pastor Arturo, a Mexican Baptist house church leader, evangelize part of the sprawling metropolis.

In less than a week, they distributed 6,070 copies of John’s Gospel. They visited door to door, fed the homeless and shared Christ with adults, youth, kids, drug addicts — even members of the bizarre “Holy Death” cult in the city.

“I’ve been in cubbyhole apartments. I’ve knelt down with people in the street and prayed for them,” said Hunter, eyes glistening, the night before heading home to Florida. “The Holy Spirit has been so strong I had chill bumps. It’s the greatest time I’ve ever had serving my Christ.”

A muscular guy with a ramrod-straight walk, Hunter sports a white beard -– the only hint he’s pushing 60. He has worked with his brother for the past 40 years rebuilding car and truck parts in Callahan, his hometown.

Hunter gave his heart to Jesus when he was 12, but “I didn’t understand until about nine years ago what it means to be a Christian,” he admitted. “Jesus says, ‘Take up your cross and follow Me.’

“It’s about obedience.”

Two months after walking the aisle at church to rededicate his life to Christ, Hunter said the Lord “checked me out” on the issue of obedience. How? He was asked to start teaching a Sunday School class. Intimidated by that spiritual challenge, he turned down the offer on the spot and headed home from church in his pickup truck. A few miles down the road, he pulled over and began sobbing.

“What’s wrong?” his wife asked.

“The Lord wants me to teach that Sunday School class,” he replied through his tears.

Hunter obeyed — and it transformed his life. He has since served in a variety of ministries, including several U.S. mission projects. The Mexico City visit was his first international mission trip. But the journey began with that first simple step of obedience.

“If I hadn’t told Him ‘yes’ then, I probably wouldn’t be [in Mexico] this week,” he said.

Little acts of faith can lead to large ones. That’s true for Hunter — and for his church. The Mexico City project was only the second international trip for Gray Gables members. But Mark Tuso, the church’s pastor and a participant in the mission effort, has high hopes for the future. Last year they started with a service project in Juarez, Mexico. This year they focused on sowing Gospel seeds in the hard urban ground of Mexico City. Next year — perhaps something even more challenging.

“We’re just a small country church. We’ve only got about 400 members,” said Tuso, 33, a former Marine in his first full-time pastorate. “But this is how we’re going to do it.”

That’s the kind of spirit David and Pam Wong, International Mission Board missionaries in Mexico City, are looking for as they recruit churches to participate in “Operation Gospel Outreach” — “Operation GO” for short. This effort is designed to mobilize hundreds of volunteers and short-term missionaries each year to distribute Christ’s message door to door in Middle America and the Caribbean.

Many Southern Baptist volunteers come to Mexico, but the Wongs report it’s hard to get church mission teams to come to the nation’s enormous capital. Some fear crime and violence in the city. No recent volunteer groups have been threatened, even in rough neighborhoods, Pam said, but she spends a lot of time on the Internet assuring nervous churches that it’s OK to come.

“It’s overwhelming,” David acknowledged. “It’s overwhelming when you see so many in poverty, when you see young people taking drugs in broad daylight. But we just want to give people love, give them a hug and show them there is hope.”

Mexico City desperately needs hope. Every month, 10,000 people die there — most without knowing Christ. Ultimately the city must be won to Christ by Mexican believers, but they could use some help. For more information on “Operation GO” needs and opportunities, visit www.macregion.org and click on “Volunteers.”

What does obedience look like? For a week in Mexico City, it looked like Warren Hunter and his fellow volunteers, giving hope to the hopeless.

Next time, it might look like you.
Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges