This is the week of the Day of the Dead here in our town of Mitla, the “Place of the Dead.” If you are the typical Mitleno, you are and have been very busy all week preparing an enormous altar in your home on which to offer sacrifices to all your dead family members.
From the market stalls lining the streets, you will buy flowers, incense, candles, mescal whisky, cigarettes, toilet paper, and anything else you think your relatives’ spirits might need in the coming year. You will buy and give away many huge loaves of “Dead Bread” with frosting skulls painted on them.
You will prepare special hot dishes of the best food to offer to your family members’ departed spirits as they drop in to eat on certain days. The spirits of babies who died before being baptized will show up on one day, dead baptized children on the next, and dead adults on the following day. The church bells will ring and fireworks will explode all over town at twelve noon, signaling the arrival of the spirits for their meals.
You will probably also spend one all-night vigil in the cemetery this week, watching over the candle-lit, flower-festooned graves of your dear, departed loved ones. All of this ritual will cost you big bucks—maybe even hundreds of dollars—for which you may have to plunge deeply into debt. It is costly, but you fear that failing to sacrifice will cost you even more in reprisals from the spirit world—your life or that of a family member within the next year. How can you take the chance?
This is the cultural climate of our town and the state of Oaxaca around All-Saints’ Day. The supposed veneration of the saints is really an attempt to appease the spirits, and behind all the festivities, it is actually dark and fearful. Amidst all of this preoccupation with death, we are so privileged to be focused on running a birth center.
Last night I went to do a postpartum check on a three-day-old baby and her mama. The altar to the dead was featured in a prominent location in the family home where the young couple have a room, and though she cannot change her extended family, this baby’s mama has been introduced to Jesus. All of her prior exposure to the gospel has been reinforced through the wonderful prenatal care and birth that she experienced at Casa Compasiva Birth Center. As I prayed with her last night, we rejoiced in the blessing of a new little life. I am praying for that beautiful young woman to find the strength to reject the traditions of death and strongly embrace new life in Jesus.
So although we may be surrounded by spiritual darkness and death, Casa Compasiva Birth Center is all about life! It is from here that the light of God’s love is penetrating the spiritual darkness for many women and their families, dispelling the darkness of sin and death.
If you are not yet involved, but would like to share in the thrill of birthing new believers for God’s kingdom, please let us know. Confronting the stranglehold of death on an entire culture is not an easy thing to do or to finance. To effectively challenge the ignorance of healthy maternal and infant care, as well as the spiritual ignorance, Casa Compasiva needs your help!
Please consider becoming a monthly financial sponsor or sending a one-time gift. If you are already supporting this ministry, know that your faithfulness and generosity are helping to transform a place of death into a bustling spiritual maternity ward!
On behalf of all the newborns and those who have been re-born, we thank you!
For online giving from the U.S.A. click here and go to Donation Areas, scroll down to Special Projects, and specify Birth Center - Oaxaca
Photo from Wikipedia.com