Phillip and Beauty Ndoro were launched as missionaries to Mexico from their home country in Zimbabwe in early 2009 at the height of an economic meltdown. For the previous 10 years the government had been reassigning farming operations from white landowners to black farmers in an attempt to correct land injustices committed during the colonial period. It did not go well. The new farmers did not have the experience necessary to run the farms as efficiently and agricultural production plummeted. This fed into an economy which had already been teetering on the brink of disaster as a result of poorly executed economic reforms. Three months before the Ndoro’s obtained their Mexican visa, inflation in Zimbabwe exceeded 6 sextillion percent (that’s six followed by 21 zeros). Prices were doubling every other day, unemployment reached 80%, and people were literally dying on the streets.
Still, Phillip and Beauty were certain of their calling to Latin America regardless of their Zimbabwean friend’s ability to finance them. Procuring a visa from within a country which did not have a Mexican embassy proved another issue. It required more than two years of triangulating between a friend in New York who bounced between the Mexican consulate and Zimbabwean Embassy and the Ndoros making two trips to South Africa, the nearest Mexican Consulate. Eventually the Ndoros and their two kids arrived in Mexico and planted themselves among the desperately poor residents of Chimalhuacan, a slum community on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Their $800 per month financial support, mostly from friends outside Zimbabwe, meant that they needed to accustom themselves to a lower standard of living than their relatively middle class upbringing back home. The international team of which they are part have all embraced a form of voluntary poverty in order to pursue kingdom transformation as members of the poor community in which they live. What impacts the community impacts them. Their vision is to see flourishing among themselves and their neighbors who live in some of the most grinding circumstances of violence, crime, drug addiction and poverty. Their vision is to “establish the city of God within the city of humans, bringing [the] future into the present.”
Jean-luc and Shabrae Krieg, team leaders with Servant Partners, a relatively young American mission organization, helped to catalyze their neighbors and churches along with foreign workers like Phillip and Beauty, to create Comunidad Mosaico. This fellowship of voluntary and involuntary poor folk has spawned everything from neighborhood health initiatives, to emotional recovery programs, to founding a textile business, to multiplying house churches. They are even working through the complex legal and political systems to obtain land rights for themselves and their neighbors who are subject to spurious evictions. It is a holistic vision of Christian mission accomplished by men and women that hail from both within and outside the community and it is rooted in an understanding of the multi-dimensional kingdom which Jesus invites his people to strive for (Matt. 6:30).
I am inspired by people like Phillip and Beauty and Jean-Luc and Shabrae - men and women willing to take vows of voluntary poverty in order to insert themselves into the deep wound of urban poverty as a kind of balm. I am also challenged by them as ones who have grown up within (or near) the middle class but have taken the difficult downward journey to place themselves residentially alongside people on the margins despite numerous complicated obstacles.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. II Cor. 8:9