Love for Mixtec people leads to surprise encounter
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) -- Lisa Rose said she wishes she had snapped a photo of Terry Long's face when he realized what had happened that day.
"The look on his face was just incredible," she said.
The day had seemed pretty typical, she remembered. She and John Halbrook -- both of whom serve in ministry to the Mixtec people of Montgomery, Ala. -- had traveled more than two hours west to Butler to lead a workshop for Choctaw Baptist Association to educate them about the Mixtec people group.
Long, associational missions director for Choctaw Baptist Association, has a "real love for the Mixtec," Rose said.
The Mixtec -- one of Mexico's indigenous people groups -- has its own language, Mixteco. Roughly 726,000 Mixtec people live in Mexico, with another 100,000 or so living in the United States, most of them in California.
They were among the most unengaged unreached people group in the Americas a decade ago, but thanks to the work of Montgomery Baptists and others, there's active evangelism happening among them now. They're seeing churches planted here and there in the United States.
But if there were any Mixtec people in west Alabama, Long hadn't found them yet.
That day after the workshop as they all went to Long's favorite Mexican restaurant, he had someone he wanted them to meet -- the owner, who went by Shorty.
Long had recently led him to Christ. He had spent months praying for Shorty before he ever invited him to sit down with him as he drew out the "three circles" gospel presentation on three tortillas -- a circle representing God's love, a circle representing our sin and brokenness and a circle representing salvation in Jesus.
"He had a wonderful salvation experience, and he's excited about it and going to church," Long said.
And in the months since Shorty decided to follow Christ, Long has been continuing to eat Mexican food there and talk to him about his faith.
"So I wanted to introduce him to Lisa and John, and when they told him they were involved in Mixtec ministry over in Montgomery, he got excited and said, 'I'm Mixtec!' Here we had just had a two-hour meeting about Mixtec ministry, and I had no idea that the one man from Mexico that I had led to the Lord was Mixtec," Long said.
That revelation opened up a flood of conversation, and Rose came up with some ideas for how they could connect Shorty to the Mixtec ministry in Montgomery.
'God's up to something'
"It was just one of those God things," Rose said. "Terry's face was incredible when he realized that he had led a Mixtec man to the Lord without knowing it."
Both of them agree -- God's up to something there.
"That's too unusual to be a coincidence," Long said.