Zongozotla Municipality is a city in Puebla, located in southeastern Mexico, and is home to nearly 5,000 people.

But for the last 15 summers, members of First Baptist Church in Arkansas City have spent time ministering to the indigenous people.

Pam Crain, director of the Arkansas City Convention and Visitors Bureau, is one of the individuals who has traveled to Mexico to help to build a church there.

She has seen the church building take shape in the side of one of the mountains.

Her children participated as soon as they were old enough to do so. “It’s been a really cool thing,” Crain said.

Photographs in Zongozotla

Crain and the other women who travel to Mexico spend their days teaching the locals about God.

The local women spend their whole lives in the village. Most do not read. They likely never will leave the village, even for one day.

“Every afternoon, the women will come to the church and we’ll have (fellowship),” Crain said.

Some never even have seen their own faces — there are few mirrors in the area — and almost no one has seen a camera.

Crain said that while teaching the women of the area about mankind being made in God’s image, the volunteers took pictures of the women.

Her eyes welled with tears as she spoke about how the women reacted to seeing their own faces for the first time.

“It’s just unbelievable when they see themselves in a picture,” she said.

God’s work in motion

This year, the church was completed and dedicated — marking a far cry from where the local culture was when the mission started 15 years ago.

There was a lot of alcohol and physical abuse, Crain said. Living conditions were primitive, with no running water. “High-end homes” were built of cinder blocks and thin metal sheeting.

But in recent years, this has begun to change. The church has two showers and running water for the toilets.

At night, the Zongozotla residents have church.

“It’s not unusual for a service to last three hours,” Crain said.

The services are very “free” in the way worship is experienced — a lot of clapping is not uncommon.

“There’s no inhibition in church … they’re in the aisle and dancing. It’s really cool. There’s no limit, no judgment,” Crain said.

God’s blessing

At some point this year, the property in front of the church came up for sale and the person who purchased the property put pig pens near the church.

While the mission was in Zongozotla, the property behind the church came up for sale.

The 10 people who went on the trip tried to figure out how to come up with the money needed to buy the property — about $3,000 in American dollars.

They realized that it was a Wednesday — the day that First Baptist has its budget meetings — so they decided to try to contact the church for help.

Crain said her cell phone never has had service in the village — except on that night.

Crain’s husband, Kent, sent a message to the church pastor and asked him to see if it would be possible to raise the money needed.

During the church service in Zongozolta, the mission was informed that the church could provide the funds for the property.

“They were ecstatic,” she said.