The three day mission trip "for the glory of God" led Sweetwater resident and Word of God pastor Dale Stowe — along with missionary Larry Goff — through a "glorious trip" that began on April 1, 2011.
Stowe and Goff went into three areas, including the Mexican cities of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, where a majority of the work was done.
The first day was spent preparing camp in Donna, Texas but as they crossed the border into Reynosa, Stowe said that he saw people in need. He recalled seeing people in oppression and burdened down due to the presence of the cartels. Most of all, he saw people in uncertainty.
During the trek into Reynosa, Stowe was surprised to see the town still busy with their typical on-goings, but some stores, however, were shut down from the cartels. He remembered seeing the strong presence of military with their gear and equipment, calling it a symbol of spiritual darkness.
On the outskirts of the city, more people were afflicted and Stowe noted that amid all the turmoil, the people were almost desensitized to what was going around them. Yet, any time some sort of action occurred, the people would be brought back to their harsh reality.
In each city, Stowe and Goff had to find a taxi driver willing to transport them. In Reynosa, the men were fortunate enough to find one willing to work alongside them. With each journey, over 100 pounds of beans and rice were purchased to distribute to the people.
"It wasn't easy to blend in. We stood out very much," recalled Stowe, being two white American men in a city full of Mexican residents. Regardless, they were able to share their vision of sharing God to the people in the cities and the stores and were able to get the help they needed to minister. Eventually, the people opened up to Stowe and Goff and began asking questions.
Stowe is always apt to mention that the entire trip was Spirit-led. His proof of that was when the men ended up in an area outside of Reynosa with about 500 people, many who lived in shelters made up of any and all kinds of materials. Much to the surprise of Stowe, the houses were very clean and the people were doing their best to make a home in spite of the oppression and poor economy and work situations.
Surrounded by a river, the men crossed into an area that went from bad to worse. Goff had been in the area only six weeks before but as he and Stowe went back, they found that a flood had come and wiped everything away, and the people were gone.
In some time, however, a few survivors were found. Stowe and Goff distributed Spanish bibles to the people and small pamphlets to the children. Stowe was reassured in meeting with them that through their trials, the people still trusted in God.
And even though Pastor Stowe experienced some difficulty in communicating with the people, he knew that God led him to speak to the Mexican people and connect with them.
One of the most vibrant memories of his time in Reynosa was when the men were approached by who they believed to be the cartel. Stowe knew going in that the cartel could prove to be dangerous, but he felt God's grace in the situation. Through their taxi driver, they told the cartels that the men were giving rice and beans to the people in need. The cartel praised their efforts, and simply drove away.
Stowe believes that God gave them favor with the cartels, in light of the spiritual warfare that was and is present in the area.
The second area the men entered into was slightly different, as Stowe recollected their 19 year old taxi driver who took them to an area called "White Christmas", a very poor populated area.
Some people were reached but due to the livelihood of poverty, most of the people had left and moved on. The men ministered and fed the people and were even surprised to learned that the people still prayed though the place had no pastors or churches. By the end of their time with him, the nineteen year old driver showed interest in the men's efforts and was excited to take part in the mission.
The final stop was in the town of Nuevo Laredo, in which Pastor Stowe said was "totally different" and didn't have as much activity as the other towns. The town was very desolate and was heavily barricaded by the strong sense of military presence.
They even had trouble finding a taxi driver and finally found the only one in the area. Though somewhat hesitant, the taxi driver told the men that the poor were taken care of yet reluctantly took part. Stowe remembered this leg of the trip being led completely by faith because with stores closed down, Stowe and Goff didn't know where to go.
Finally, the men found people to feed and were eventually led to other groups of people who lived in a building, who were too scared to initially come out to the men because of fear, some which stemmed from the cartel.
"We're trying to fight a spiritual battle," said Stowe, "but not against the cartel. We're in a spiritual battle against Satan."
One special impression from the time in Nueva Laredo was when the people directed Stowe and Goff to a lady named Rosita, a woman who fell and hurt her back. And because of the lack of medical care, she became paralyzed in her legs and could not walk.
Rosita was surprised by the visit, but the men told her their reason for coming and gave her money and food. She was moved by their mission work and told them that she had been praying to God for someone to visit her to ward off her loneliness. Through Pastor Stowe and missionary Goff, her prayer had been answered and the men prayed with her for God's comfort and healing.
Stowe found the people of Reynosa to be very accepting, while the other two areas shied away from the men at first. But as he recalled, by the time they left the cities, they left seeing people with smiles on their faces.
He strongly believes his trip brought the light of Christ to a very dark place and is inspired to go back to Reynosa and shepherd the people. The next trip is scheduled for April 28-30, with trips to follow about once a month and take part in the same efforts.
His eventual goal is even to hopefully connect with the cartel, but as for now he is waiting for God to open that door. Also, as God leads, Stowe plans to make trips to other areas as well.
Once he shared his journey with his congregation, the people were touched by the trip. One member is possibly joining Stowe on the next trip to minister as a mother figure and to pray with the women and children and reach the people as God directs.
Pastor Stowe extends his appreciation to those who prayed for him on the trip, citing that he could feel the prayers and knew God's presence was with him. As the trips to Mexico continue, Stowe also asks for the prayers to keep coming.
And whether he goes with a large group or goes on his own, Pastor Stowe will go back to Mexico, because as he plainly put it, "There's still a need."