True meaning of Christmas found in Mexico
JEFFERSON CITY—It started off as a simple place that Sherry Mastin, member of Concord Baptist Church here, along with her family began taking trips to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In 2001 she, her daughter Angela and her grandchildren left for what they thought would just be a nice getaway for them, but the Lord had a plan for that trip.
While they were there for two weeks, they attended Primera Iglesia Bautista, a small Baptist church in the midst of the city. Even then, Mastin felt a “tug” on her heart for the people of Puerto Vallarta, so she and her family began going back annually. Then, in 2005, Mastin said, “The Lord started laying it on my heart to go down to work with the Salvation Army,” an organization that Primera Iglesia Bautista was actively involved in.
After staying in Puerto Vallarta for so long, Mastin said, “Every time I’d fly back to the States it became harder. I’d leave Mexico to go back ‘home’ and would begin to feel guilty about all the so called ‘necessities’ we have to have here in America when in Puerto Vallarta there are families and children that go without meals, or clothes.”
That’s when Mastin felt the call to become a full-time worker for the Salvation Army in Puerto Vallarta. “I spoke with my pastor, Monte Shinkle, to get his blessing before leaving,” she said. “I call myself a self-supported missionary here in Mexico.”
Since Puerto Vallarta is primarily Catholic, and the Salvation Army is a more evangelically run organization, many of the natives try to stay away from the organization. “One thing they will do, though, is send their children by the Salvation Army just so that they can receive a meal,” she said.
Mastin has been an active worker and missionary in Puerto Vallarta for a little over two years. Working with the manager of the Salvation Army there, Captain Mario Labaan, and with Christmas being so close, Labaan asked Mastin if she would teach the children a Christmas song in English. Mastin asked the captain which one, and he told her the beloved Christmas carol “Silent Night.”
“I had a Christmas CD by Charlotte Church, and as the kids were listening, as they tried to hit the high note, I had to laugh, because they were all trying so hard to hit that note just like Charlotte did with her extremely high soprano voice,” Mastin said. “It was so cute!”
One thing often seen around Christmas time is the Salvation Army worker standing in front of the store, ringing a bell and wishing passersby a Merry Christmas. In Puerto Vallarta the Salvation Army collects money in a similar, but very different way.
“Right before I left Puerto Vallarta to come back to Jefferson City so I could be with my family this Christmas, Captain Mario and I took the children out to do their annual Christmas collection in the front of various department stores,” Mastin said.
“Instead of just standing around ringing a bell in front of a collection pot, these children put on their red and green hats and scarves, preparing themselves to put on a show where they sing and dance for those who pass by their collection pot.”
Mastin’s short homecoming this Christmas is quite a reminder for her that many of the so called “necessities” we hold here in the United States aren’t as necessary as she once thought. “We’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas here … Christmas shouldn’t be about what we want, how much money we spend, the things we have,” she said. “It should be all about Jesus.
“For the Salvation Army kids Christmas isn’t about gifts. Some even know they won’t even get any gifts except for maybe a homemade toy or two. It truly is about the real gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ.”
Mastin will return to Puerto Vallarta shortly after spending Christmas here with her relatives, whom she considers to be her prayer link with other Christians from Missouri.