by rachel rebekah witt
missionary to mexico
After one month in Mexico, talk of marriage had begun. Still, I had yet another decision to make. If I were to actually marry this guy, I would have to be willing to take trips into remote villages in the mountains, to minister to the Indian tribes. This meant that I would have to be okay with no electricity, no showers, and no bathrooms. I would have to eat strange food, and fly in a small plane. I figured the toilets and food in China had prepared me a bit for this- but he wouldn’t marry if he wasn’t sure I could hack it! I am thankful that God and my now-husband gave me the opportunity to say yes or no to how I would be serving the indigenous of Mexico. It allowed me to fully embrace it. It allowed me to fully be a part of what I was saying yes to. I took that first flight in that small plane and simply fell in love. I fell in love with everything God was laying out before me: Mexico, the mountains, the indigenous people, and the man who I would soon marry.
In the months before the wedding, God began challenging me to really give up everything for Him. Back home I had my very first car, a Camaro. It was an old one, but still… I had a car! Very unexpectedly, I felt that God told me to give my car to a girl a few years younger than I. I asked my dad about it, and he said that would be okay. I talked it over with my fiancé, and he never questioned it either. Before I knew it, it was a done deal, and I was handing my car over to someone else.
Soon after I found myself getting married in Mexico, followed by a big wedding in Houston, and that very same week, moving to Mexico for good. I had given away my Camaro, and although my fiancé had a Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico, he could not get it to run. So there we were, just married and starting this great journey, and we didn’t even have a vehicle! We assumed we would have to ride a bus from Houston all the way to Durango, Mexico after the wedding, but that didn’t bother us. We were young, in love, and just excited to serve God!
The week of our wedding in Houston, my fiancé asked my brother if he could borrow his truck to do some wedding-related errands. My brother loaned him the truck, and my fiancé left on his errands, but on his way back to the house, the tailgate of the truck fell off and got really scratched up (talk about not impressing your soon to be brother in law!) My brother looked really serious and asked, “What are you going to do about your truck?” That caught my fiancé off guard. He replied that he would see what he could do about it, but my brother responded, “No. I mean, what are you going to do about YOUR truck?” We were both so confused, then he said, “It’s yours! I’m giving y’all my truck.” And so it was. Our wedding photos have that truck in them, complete with the beat up tailgate, tied on by ropes and all! After the wedding, we filled that truck up with every single gift people had given us, and it was incredible! How had we ever thought the we would be able to take all this stuff with us on the bus? It would’ve never worked!
We drove that loaded up truck to the border and just as we were about to cross, the clutch went out. Thank goodness my father-in-law had taught my husband how to drive without a clutch. He nursed that thing for 8 more hours, all the way to Durango. There we were, two young kids, no money to our name, but God was just beginning to teach us about giving in so many ways. When we arrived home, my new husband felt God tell him to give his Volkswagen to a specific person, along with the money that would be needed to get it fixed. He called the guy that he wanted to give the car to, and when that guy showed up at our house for the car, which before that moment wouldn’t even start, he was able to drive the car away that same day! We had the truck that was given to us the week of our wedding, and at the time, it was enough. After a few years and several transmission changes, we felt led to give it to a Tepehuan pastor in the mountains. That same truck is still serving him all these many years later! We have given away more vehicles since then, ready to just ride buses if necessary, and somehow God has always surprised us with another, better vehicle when we weren’t expecting it.
Although I loved my new life, the truth is that my first few years were very hard. And again, I cried a lot. Here I was in a new country, a new culture, and a new language. We lived out in the country, about 30 minutes from the city. In the early years, I had no phone, no internet, no way to communicate unless I went into town. And at that time I wasn’t driving myself around either, so I didn’t feel as independent, and it was very different for me after living in the city in Houston. I felt alone, and that feeling was so much deeper because I wasn’t yet able to communicate in Spanish. That really hard time for me lasted about four years. In those four years, I also gave birth to my first three children. All four of my kids were born by c-section in a private hospital that had about four rooms in it. I actually liked how homey it felt, and I loved my doctor, but those first few times I had to have my mother-in-law there, translating everything for me. Everything at the hospital was very simple. There weren’t any machines hooked up to me, or anything like that. And when it was time for my oldest daughter to be born, I had no idea that I was supposed to arrive at the hospital with EVERYTHING that we would need. I showed up with my little hospital bag with stuff for the baby and me to go home in, but as the doctors were about to take me into surgery, they were asking for diapers, blankets, clothes, the works. We were 45 minutes from home, with no way to rush back before the baby’s birth, so my mother-in-law saved the day by running to the store for all the necessary items, while my husband and I were in the delivery room.
There are so many things that contribute to culture shock and frustrations those first years in a new country. The hardest for me was definitely wanting to get to the point of feeling I could communicate well in Spanish. I wanted so badly to be able to explain my feelings to friends and have deep conversation. But the beauty of hardships is that most times, they bring the greatest reward. When I started making relationships with the Tepehuan Indian ladies in the mountains, they began to accept me like they never had accepted others before. God gave me an idea to teach them to bake in Dutch ovens, and this gave us a way to connect together. As that ministry grew for me, I asked one of my Tepehuan friends what the ladies thought about what I was doing with them. She told me that the other ladies were talking about me, and I wondered if that was a bad thing. So, I asked her what they were saying, and she replied, “They are saying that you aren’t like an American, and you aren’t like a Mexican!” Oh my goodness, that was the biggest compliment I had ever heard! You see, as a missionary, when you move to a country that is not your own, you never fit in fully anywhere again. Yet it was because of that, that these ladies accepted me. Because I was different, like they are different. Because my level of Spanish was poor, like their level of Spanish was poor. My weaknesses turned out to be my greatest strengths, which in turn allowed these indigenous women, who in their own culture have very little worth, to be able to open up to me. And through my relationship with them, they were able to finally see that they have value and worth in Christ, just like I do.
It definitely has not been an easy journey. Homesickness, culture shock, and learning a new language have all played a part in the difficulty. Giving birth to four kids in Mexico had both its highlights and difficulties. Even to this day, after 15 years of being in Mexico, there are so many things that are humbling, because it is a given that embarrassing things happen when you live in a culture which is not your own. However, knowing that God gives me choices every single day of my life brings me comfort and courage to continue on. Saying yes to God is really deciding to continue to say yes over and over. It is the continual “yeses” in the midst of the difficulties and challenges of life that end up making it worth it all.
Rachel Rebekah Witt is a missionary in Durango, Mexico alongside her husband Jerry, and their four children. Raised in the city of Houston, she never knew her future would be living in a ranch town in Mexico. Her favorite food is breakfast and a cup of coffee makes everything more enjoyable. She loves traveling with her family, but is equally fulfilled in the daily life of being a homemaker, cooking for her husband, doing homeschool with her kids, and serving in many ways in the church they pastor. Their ministry in Durango and in the mountains with the indigenous tribes is fueled by two things: their heart to serve those who have been forgotten by society or the church, and their love for teaching young ministers who are serving in the kingdom.
You can find more information about Rachel’s ministry on Facebook and Instagram at: Witt Missions