Michelle Cartwright maneuvered a rental van along a narrow side street lined with brightly colored adobe houses. None of them had numbers on them. No one was in sight. Nothing remotely resembled the place Michelle and her passengers hoped to find in Old Town, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Finally, they spotted a man on the street and stopped to ask for directions.
“We’re looking for Carmen Soto” (name changed),” said Michelle, a Stonecroft volunteer from Colorado. “Can you help us?”
The man didn’t answer but instead entered a nearby house. Soon, another man emerged.
“What do you want?” he asked.
Breathing a prayer, Michelle explained that she and her companions had seen a Facebook ad for Carmen’s business that sold unfinished wooden furniture. They wanted to buy some for a project she and her fellow Stonecroft volunteers were planning with local residents.
“Come with me,” the man said.
A gathering place
Michelle’s brother, Carlos, and Stonecroft volunteers Teasia Levin (Wyoming) and Teasia’s young-adult daughter, Jena Carpin (Nevada), followed him upstairs. Michelle waited outside to keep an eye on the van. Later, they returned with Carmen, a few of her helpers, and exactly what the team was searching for – two unpainted wooden tables and eight matching chairs.
Michelle shared with Carmen the team’s plans for the furniture. They would paint it turquoise for a project called “The Turquoise Table,” modeled after a popular movement started by Kristin Schell, a Christian Texan on a mission to better love her neighbors. The idea is simple: Put a turquoise table in your front yard to offer a place for people to gather, connect, and build friendships.
“We explained that turquoise stands for friendship and that we wanted to promote friendship and share the love of Jesus with the people of Mexico,” Michelle said.
The team gave Carmen a bracelet decorated with colorful beads – including a few turquoise ones – and charms that symbolize part of the story of Jesus. They tried to share the Gospel with her, but she seemed distracted. But an elderly neighbor-woman on a nearby porch eagerly accepted a bracelet and ¿Adonde Vamos? (Where are We Going?), a Stonecroft Life Publication. Michelle led her in a prayer to receive Christ.
Mentoring local leaders
At least 68 other local residents also received Christ during the team’s visit to Mexico earlier this year. It was Stonecroft’s 9th annual mission trip to the Puerto Vallarta area along Mexico’s Pacific coast, where U.S. teams led by Michelle – a former Stonecroft staff member – have shared the Gospel with Mexicans and trained local believers in evangelism and leadership.
This year’s project focused on mentoring several national partners trained by U.S. Stonecroft teams during the past few years. These Mexican believers include two pastors and their wives who live in small communities on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, a world away from the glitzy resort hotels popular among tourists.
Michelle and her team worked with these pastors and some church members to use the turquoise table as an outreach in their communities. Together they went door-to-door inviting locals to join them for a gathering at the table, set up outdoors near each pastor’s church. The event included time to chat, refreshments, gift bags, door prizes, and a Gospel presentation. Each family also received a bag of pinto beans, a staple in the local diet, and a copy of ¿Adonde Vamos?
Many locals accepted Christ around the turquoise tables, Michelle said. Some women who attended also returned to the church for a later Pretty Hurts event, a Stonecroft outreach that introduces women to the healing Jesus can provide for their emotional brokenness. Local believers led that outreach, coached by Michelle and Teasia.
‘They get it!’
In one community, Michelle and her team watched with pride as Mexican Christian women – trained by Stonecroft over the past three years – hosted a women’s outreach dinner. The event featured a Stonecroft-trained local speaker who shared the Gospel. In response, 17 women received Christ and 12 signed up to attend Stonecroft Bible Studies.
“It was amazing!” Michelle said. “These volunteers get it! Praise God!”
Michelle experienced similar joy when she and her team visited Compostela, a town about a two-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. They were invited there by Lillian Martinez, a Mexican woman who rededicated her life to Christ during an outreach Michelle led with a U.S. Stonecroft team six years ago. Since then, Michelle, Teasia, and others from Stonecroft have continued to mentor her.
Lillian recently moved to Compostela and wanted Michelle and the team’s help sharing with local church leaders Stonecroft’s approach to evangelism. During their visit, Michelle and Teasia were interviewed about Stonecroft on a local Christian television program and led outreach training for Lillian’s pastor and his wife. They also guided Lillian and a team from her church in leading their first outside-the-church-walls outreach at a local event center. More than 70 women showed up to hear the Gospel message shared by Michelle. Twenty-three of them accepted Christ and 12 wanted to attend a follow-up Bible study. Lillian’s mother and sister also received Christ during the team’s visit.
“It’s exciting to see the work of the Holy Spirit in Lillian’s life as she boldly shares the Gospel! She really gets it!” said Michelle.
Throughout the trip, Michelle and her team saw God’s Spirit at work in their own lives, too. “Often, we prayed, ‘God, how do You want this to look? We aren’t sure what to do.’ In every circumstance, He went ahead of us and paved the way.”