Mayan story about hopelessness of the people instead of 12-21-12, Baptist workers say comment (0)
April 19, 2012
Because the ancient 5,125-year Mayan calendar will end on Dec. 21, 2012, global interest in Mayans has skyrocketed in recent years.
Some New Age philosophers predict the beginning of a new era of enlightenment for mankind. Others say it’s a countdown to the end of the world. Although many scholars dismiss these claims, tourists from around the globe are flocking to Mayan ruins in Latin America. The calendar itself has been the subject of many books, movies, news specials and college lectures.
But most Mayans aren’t concerned about the calendar, according to Southern Baptists who work among Mayan people groups. The real Mayan story isn’t about the calendar at all, they say. It’s about the people.
Jeronimo, for example, is one of nearly 5 million Mayan descendants living throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. He was an alcoholic before Southern Baptist workers with Guatemala’s Tajumulco Mam people group came with a message that changed his life.
Jeronimo accepted Christ as his Savior, and soon his wife and children did the same. Later he started the first evangelical church in his community. Then he began sharing Christ and planting churches in other villages. He also translated parts of the Bible and other Bible storying materials into the local language so others could hear the gospel.
Despite success stories like Jeronimo’s, many Mayans remain trapped in a spiritual darkness drawn from old traditions, said Gary Stone, Southern Baptist worker among the Tajumulco Mam.
“The Tajumulco Mam have always been known as a fierce and warlike people,” Stone said. “Villages feud between each other and land wars are never ending. The culture is broken, and there is much darkness in daily life. Incest, stealing, lying, alcoholism, multiple partners, greed and other sins keep the Mam people in darkness.”
Like many Mayan groups, the Mam cling to their heritage and live in small rural villages of between 50 to 100 families. They depend on crops like potatoes, beans, corn and peppers to survive. Most still wear traditional handmade Mayan clothing.
Poverty and lack of jobs sometimes force them to find work elsewhere.
“Many [Mam] travel to the U.S. to make their fortunes,” Stone said. “Instead of finding the riches they desire there, many of them come back to Guatemala with addictions, venereal disease and broken relationships.”
The traditions that give Mayan groups their unique identity often are a barrier to the gospel, Southern Baptist workers said.
“The primary religion is animism with a veneer of Catholicism overlaying it,” said Alan Lyons, a strategy leader for Southern Baptist work among Mayans. “There are obvious examples of animistic, indigenous practices, like sacrificing chickens on the steps of the church. Many church members have difficulty explaining what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and in times of crisis, they often revert back to animistic practices instead of trusting Jesus.”
Many Mayans do not read and only speak one of the 69 Mayan languages. Stone and others are working with national believers to present the gospel in the groups’ heart languages through oral Bible storying, gospel recordings and drama. Stone hopes the current upward trend in education will also help, as young people stay in school longer and learn to read.
Despite these difficulties, God has been moving among Mayan people groups.
“When we arrived to work with the Tajumulco Mam, they were considered an unreached people group,” Stone said. “Today, by God’s great grace and mercy, they are no longer unreached.”