Craig missionaries affect Mexican inmates

Border guards asked to search the long, rectangular case several times as the 14-member team attempted to cross into Mexico.

Betty Ann Duzik laughed as she recalled the box her husband, Pat, built that seemed to bear an unfortunate resemblance to a container for missile launchers.

The suspicious box the Assembly of God team transported carried nothing but PVC pipe, and a lot of it. The pipes were an integral part of props they used in their annual nine-day mission trip to Mexico.

In March, while most Craig students were enjoying their spring break, the "Yo Creo" (I Believe) team, as they are known, fulfilled the goal they'd been working toward for several months.

They shared the story of Jesus Christ with inmates, children in orphanages and communities in Chihuahua City, Delicia, and two other outlying towns.

They didn't just go talk to people either. Rather, they painted faces, gave out balloon animals, orchestrated puppet shows, mimed skits and performed human videos (dramatic interpretations of songs that play in the background). They called these extravaganzas "crusades" and performed them 13 times for audiences.

A new addition to this year's mission trip was a workshop where they taught people from surrounding churches how to produce their own crusades. Lessons included everything from how to build a puppet stage to how to dramatize the human videos. Angela Vesely, who has been on the Mexico mission trips for the past six years, said she was skeptical of the workshop idea at first.

"I dreaded it," Vesely said. The team had worked for months to prepare for the performances, and she wondered how they possibly could teach it all in one evening, especially when they had to work around a language barrier.

Despite her fears, the workshop was a success. With the help of translators and a healthy dose of intuition, the team was able to teach the basic skills needed to put on a crusade, Vesely said.

"It really showed me how big God was. People were so eager to learn," she said.

Pat Duzik helped teach people how to build puppet stages. During the workshop, participants built three of them. He said that even though the Americans could have built seven stages in the same amount of time, the students left with the skills to do it themselves and could continue the work after the Americans left.

Pat Duzik said the workshop was good, but for him, the most significant part of the trip was the crusade they performed for inmates in a small prison.

The team arrived to find 97 inmates eagerly awaiting the show. The last song the group performed was one in which Paul and Silas find themselves in prison. Ben Longwell, who played the role of Silas, said that when he came out in handcuffs, the reaction from the audience was palpable. Those men could relate to being incarcerated, said Earlita Ross, Pastor Dave Ross' wife.

In the performance, Paul and Silas were singing when an earthquake rumbled. The prison walls fell down and all the prisoners' chains fall off. The guard saw the broken walls and the chains on the floor and assumed the prisoners had fled. They hadn't. He found all of the prisoners sitting in the prison and eventually accepted Christ into his life.

After the last performance, Jorge Martinez, the team's translator, invited the inmates to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Ninety men came forward, and Pat Duzik said he had to go out to the van to bring in more of the Spanish-language Bibles.

"That was pretty awesome," he said.

Next year, Martinez hopes to bring the group to a prison in Chihuahua City, the capital of Chihuahua state, Pastor Ross said.

Residents funded the trip and supplies by purchasing oranges, baked goods and corn from the group during the year.

Earlita Ross said that meeting people whose tiny homes are made of cinder blocks and have dirt floors, yet who still find happiness made a big impression on her.

Pastor Ross agreed. He added: "There's a dynamic about missions that is unbelievable. It just does something for the heart."

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