The trip was so full and we had so many great opportunities and experiences that it’s difficult to summarize the events, or even just the highlights, of our trip to Chiapas without writing a novel. The trip was a wonderful experience with blessings from God all over it. I’ll try to briefly describe the trip, and then circle back to recount some special moments.
Our destination was the city of Teopisca, with a population of about 43,000 people. It is situated in beautiful mountains almost 6,000 feet above sea level. The trip was from October 31 – November 14. With me on the team were SFC Isaac Nelson, Spc. Nathaniel Batten (both in Battalion leadership), and the 5 Missions students. Our goal for the trip was to support and work alongside a local pastor who planted a church in Teopisca a few years ago, and is now working to plant a second church in a small village about 30 minutes down the road.
Our travel down there was long, but pretty uneventful. The first ministry opportunity of the trip was in the Mexico City airport. We had a layover of several hours and we ended up next to a boys’ soccer team that the guys began to make friends with. With their moderate ability to communicate in English and the help of Google translate and the Bible app, the conversation ended up covering topics like purgatory, salvation by faith, baptism, families, and food. (We’re young guys, what did you expect). Pray especially for Emiliano who we had some really deep conversation with about his Catholic beliefs.
After we arrived in Chiapas, we spent the first 2.5 days of our trip doing training and team-building activities, and getting the food and supplies we’d need for our time in Teopisca. On day 3, we traveled to the home of the pastor we would be working with and got our things situated. The next ministry opportunity was getting to join a Bible Study he holds at his home with a small group of youth on Friday afternoons. They’re working through the book of Genesis to lay a foundation of the metanarrative of the Bible. The next 9 days were very full with afternoons at the park to play games and then share the gospel, a program with 30 kids at a daycare, visiting a 17-year-old paraplegic young man and other sick church members, several prayer meetings throughout the week, and tons of delicious food.
One of the things that impacted the whole team was the generosity of the people we met. They had very little, but always made sure each of us had a chair to sit in and something to drink. We were also challenged and encouraged by the genuineness of the brothers and sisters we met there. We got to make the trip to the church plant on Sunday. It was neat to be worshipping God with this little band of believers in such a remote place. After service, we got to play basketball with a bunch of the children from town, and bought some Coke to share (it’s kind of a staple there). One other highlight was near the end of our stay when we visited a little church in Chamula. The people there spoke very little Spanish so we could only communicate with two translators. As we were concluding our short time together, we sang “How Great Thou Art” in 3 languages; us in English, our translator and the pastor in Spanish, and the locals in Tzotzil.
There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll leave off there for now. Thank you so much for praying for us and those of you who made the trip possible financially. We are grateful for you!
Captain Phillip Vanderford | Unit 41
ALERT Battalion Commanding Officer
P.S. Did you know that the number one reason men either do not come to ALERT or do not stay for additional training at ALERT is due to the cost of training? On average, it costs each man $15,000 to graduate from all three phases of training. Our goal is to ensure that no one is prevented from training because of the cost. Through the ALERT Student Scholarship Fund, we awarded over $20,000 of scholarships this year alone. We would love to be able to increase the number of scholarships we give out, and also increase the award amount of each scholarship in 2023.
Would you prayerfully consider helping a young man train at ALERT by donating to our Student Scholarship Fund? By contributing towards ALERT scholarships you can make an impact in a young man’s life next year, and for the rest of his life. If you would like to contribute towards scholarships, you can send money via a check to the address below, or on our website. Please make sure to designate your gift to the ALERT Student Scholarship Fund. Thank you for your prayers and support as we work to forge extraordinary men who influence their world for Christ!
International ALERT Academy
1 Academy Blvd
Big Sandy, TX 75755