What is life as a missionary really like?
That was one of my big questions as I set out on a short-term mission trip to Mexico ten years ago.
I had many preconceived ideas: hunger, sleepless nights, reused teabags, danger at every turn, shirts and ties — the list goes on. But as I stepped out in faith on that first trip, God surprised me. It wasn’t what I sacrificed that was the big thing in missions, but the delight and joy of serving Jesus Christ with all that I am. The main thing that keeps us as a family in ministry today is the joy of knowing and serving Christ as a response to His amazing love and grace towards us.
So, what is a day in the life of the Jones family like in Mexico?
Each day is varied and brings with it different pressures and tensions. However, there are some key rhythms that are vital to our day: time for God, time for work, time for people, time for family.
Normally, Phil takes Romi to school and arrives at the café at 6:30 am, and Sandy organises Joshua and takes him to school at 8 am. Phil enjoys praying while he cleans before opening the café at 7 am. Sandy loves getting back to an empty house in the morning and spending time studying before getting into the responsibilities of the day.
At 9 am, Phil is in the café with the other team members and handing over to them while he checks out the purchases needed for that day. What follows is a bit over an hour visiting the market, wholesalers and shops to restock what is needed in the coffee shop.
After that, Phil normally has some prep time in the Word and, depending on the day, disciple-making time with one or more of the guys he invests in. Sandy is also actively involved in making disciples, and she invests time several times a week in meeting with young women to help them grow more like Christ. Our key passion and calling is to form disciples just as Jesus did. We do this by spending intentional time with the young people to whom God has called us — studying the life of Christ, studying and applying the Word of God, sharing our challenges and struggles, praying together, walking together in daily life, and, with many of them, working together in the café. We didn’t make up this model, we are just following the example of Jesus. Our aim is not just to invest and see personal spiritual growth, but to challenge these disciples-in-the-making to reach out and invite others to follow Christ with them, and intentionally multiply what they have received from Christ into the lives of others. That is our key challenge at present — to start seeing real multiplication happen.
Once a week we have a leadership meeting with the other missionaries on the team, when we first spend time studying the life of Christ and then talk about issues and track progress as a team. These are rich times of sharing together and they allow us to take the pulse of the disciple-making movement in Mexico. We are constantly reminded that making disciples always starts with us being disciples. Our first calling as leaders is to simply be sons and daughters of God and to follow Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Out of this relationship, given to us by His grace, we can then enter into our calling to guide and lead others towards Jesus.
We have varied responsibilities in terms of leadership of the team, including managing the café (vision, planning, administration, team building, resolving issues and coordinating operations), and spending intentional time teaching and modelling Christ to the team. We are also involved in working through issues and challenges as they arise, building relationships with the customers in the café, modelling relational evangelism to the rest of the team, and empowering and challenging our upcoming leaders to reach out to and invest in others. We aim to spend a good amount of time doing these activities in the café, as one of our key values is to share life together (1 Th 2:8) and to demonstrate the process, and not just the outcome, to the local team. This usually takes up the rest of the morning and early afternoon until it’s time for… LA COMIDA!
In Mexico, the main meal of the day is normally eaten between 2 and 4 pm in the afternoon and is referred to as ‘la comida’ (the Spanish word for ‘food’). Some shops and services even close during this time to allow people to return to their families and eat together. Some days, Phil and Sandy spend this time investing in others as this is a time that the disciples-in-training are free from work-study commitments. On other days, we spend this important time together eating as a family with
At this point in our lives, with two children (Romi is 14 and Joshua is 4) at different stages of schooling, we have school runs and pickups to fit into our day. More importantly, we have our first and most important ministry at home — to disciple and pastor
ur own kids in Christ. This is both a challenge and a joy for us as we seek to model and teach our kids how to walk by faith in Jesus Christ. They are both in very different stages of life: Romi is in the thick of adolescent pressures and the transition into pre-adulthood, and Joshua is an active, exploring, high-energy four-year-old. We have found the need to be very deliberate in spending time with both of them, teaching them and pastoring their hearts. We are working at having a ‘date’ as a couple with Romi at least once a month, when we spend time exclusively with her, as well as taking her out individually during the month to spend some time listening to her and investing in her in the Word of God.
Joshua is high-maintenance. Joshua demands time and attention on a regular basis. However, our strategy to invest in him is to try to do interactive projects where we can help others or learn principles, and to be intentional in our bed-times where we talk and reflect on the day and read Bible stories.
After ‘la comida’, the day is varied. Some time for homework and chores is on the cards, but this is mostly the time where we seek out those with whom we are building gospel relationships to share Christ with non-believers. At the time of writing, God has given us the opportunity to build a friendship with a young couple: Sergio and Erika. Sandy met Erika through second-hand clothing. Sandy was buying clothes for our family from her and they started to become friends. Later, I met Sergio her husband, and we started spending time with them as a family. As we have grown in our friendship, we have had the opportunity to listen to their problems and struggles and share our own faith in Jesus Christ. They are a young couple with a young daughter, trying to make ends meet and without a clear purpose in life apart from sharing ‘good vibes’. As women tend to do, Sandy and Erika have gotten down to heart issues more quickly. Erika shared with Sandy that both she and Sergio aren’t ‘religious’, but think that they should have something spiritual to teach their daughter. By God’s grace, we have been able to speak into their lives with the gospel, and they are in the process of listening, reflecting, understanding and asking questions. Each time they come over to our house, we try to give them just a little bit more of the story. The great news is that we invited them to come to church with us and they accepted! They were amazed that the Sunday sermon reached into just the circumstances in which they were living, and gave hope and guidance. God’s Word is alive and active (Heb 4:12)! As we love our friends with Jesus’ love, we are seeing them start to open their hearts to listen to God and look to Him for answers. We pray that as we continue to focus on loving people as Jesus did, we will see Him transform their hearts and lives, to see God “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [Jesus]” (Acts 26:18).
After investing time in people around us, it’s normally late, so family time ensues. One of our favourite Mexican pastimes is eating tacos — real Mexican tacos. Although we can’t do this every day (even though Phil would love to!), we regularly eat tacos for dinner. Our favourite tacos are called ‘Los Gusanos de Chucho’, and we have been eating at Chucho’s for over seven years. Apart from the delicious tacos, quesadillas and volcanes, God has enabled us to form a close relationship with Chucho the taquero (taquero: one who prepares tacos). We have seen the ups and downs of life with Chucho and his family, and prayed for them on more than one occasion. Chucho’s younger brother has put his faith in Christ, but we are still praying that God would open Chucho’s heart to the message of the gospel.
Whoa, it’s late, we better be off to bed! As you can see, life is all about Jesus: following Him and letting His love flow through us to others. Some of our ministry is planned and rigid, but much of what God has called us to do is to be flexible and look for where He is at work, and to be used by Him to demonstrate Jesus’ love with people and invite them to know His saving power in their lives.
Good night! That’s a day in the life of the Joneses!