Thoughts and perspective on the legal case
El Monte--Taking Root and Bearing Fruit
In 2004, 70 acres of land in southern Mexico was purchased through generous donations from a church in California. El Monte is being developed as a multi-ministry center combining four distinct ministries; evangelistic camps, a missionary training school, pastoral renewal ministries, and short-term missions. The property is located about 90 miles south of Mexico City.
In January of 2012, the fledgling ministry center property was invaded by local Mexican comuneros (commoners) who brought police force and a court ordered eviction notice for those living here. After six months of being off the property, a judge ordered the comuneros to return the property to us while the case would be sorted out in court. Four years later, the case is still ongoing. The illegal leadership of the comuneros is attempting to steal the property despite overwhelming legal evidence that El Monte is privately owned and not included within communal lands. Interestingly, we’re told that these kinds of cases can drag on for many years and that it is highly unusual for us to be allowed back on the property while it is technically in dispute.
But God has put us back on the property and the ministry has hardly missed a beat. In the past five years we’ve seen five times the growth in the ministry and four times the growth of the annual budget. Construction and development have continued and ministry programs have been added. Our most recent additions have been a year of “Bible for Missions” and a year of “English for Missions” to the missionary training school program. On the camp side we’ve added a winter camp for teens, a marriage retreat, and a mother/daughter retreat as annual events in addition to our summer programs.
The question has been asked how we keep on building and developing when the property dispute has not yet been resolved. Our answer is simple. God has called us to develop a ministry center and we believe we should be faithful to that call. Hostility to God’s work is nothing new. The prophet Nehemiah faced opposition when God had burdened him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. As he managed that project, he wrote in Nehemiah 4:17, “…Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other….” In our case, we continue building and developing the ministry while handling the “battle” in the courts as a side issue. All we’re doing is defending legal truth.
Others have expressed some concern over the cost of legal defense wishing that the money could be used for other things. We’re reminded of the story in Matthew 26:6-13 when the woman poured an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment on Jesus. Some who saw this were indignant questioning, “Why this waste?” it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ response was that she had done a beautiful thing. He was glorified! We believe our Lord is being glorified as He leads us through these costly trials.
A little over a year ago, I was talking with a local Mexican pastor sharing with him that it felt like the ministries of El Monte were finally “taking root.” He quickly responded to me, “No, Pablo, es más, está dando fruto;” No, Paul, it’s more, it’s giving fruit! In the years since we have been back on the property it has been documented that through the El Monte camps and church rental retreats there have been more than 1000 salvation decisions. In addition, numbers of Latino missionaries have been trained and prepared and numerous short-term missionaries have served at El Monte as teams or individuals.
As this Mexican pastor confirmed the ministry of El Monte is giving “fruto”. We would quote with the prophet Isaiah, “Lord you grant peace for us, all that we have accomplished, you have done for us” Isaiah 26:12.
Thank you for standing with us.
To God be the glory!