The Sierra Madre Mountains of Northern Mexico are vast, rugged and beautiful. Ironically, that same beauty belies the underlying suffering of the region’s inhabitants.
90,000 Tarahumara, 20,000 Tepejuan, 5,000 Pima and 5,000 Guarajillo Indians occupy the valleys and plateaus of an area comprising the largest canyon system in the Western Hemisphere. The people of this region are subsistence farmers plagued with drought, poor soils and inadequate agricultural techniques. Their economic opportunities are few. Their greatest natural resource, the vast forests of the Sierra Madre, is being systematically overtimbered with little of the profits returning to the traditional inhabitants of the region.The Sierra Madre is the largest drug growing region in North America. Marijuana and opium are grown in the hidden reaches of the formidable canyon system. Lack of other economic opportunities drives many of the Indians into the illegal drug trade.
Health problems are rampant. The region’s maternal and infant mortality rates are the highest in Mexico and the fifth highest in the world. An Indian mother can expect to lose as many as half of her children to infectious diseases and malnutrition. Congenital deformities such as cleft palate and clubfoot routinely go untreated. Adults are plagued by tuberculosis, alcoholism, and trauma.
There is a special place in God’s heart for “people groups”; that is, individual ethnic groups defined by their language and culture. There are over 7,000 people groups in the world each precious in God’s sight – many of which have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.
Mexico Medical Missions focuses primarily on the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico. While the Tarahumara do believe in a creator god, their god depends on human efforts and ceremonies to sustain him. They believe that this god chose them as his special people but that this “honor” also means that they are relegated to a life of poverty and suffering. They fear lesser spirits that can attack their health and welfare. The Tarahumara even fear the rainbow, which they believe steals their children.
Not surprisingly, the Tarahumaras have adopted a fatalistic mindset. Accordingly, in order to improve their health and economic circumstances, Mexico Medical Missions must deal with the spiritual condition which keeps them in bondage. We tell them of a Creator God who is not distant and cruel, but rather who loves them and cares for the smallest details of their lives. We teach them that this God is more powerful than the spirits that afflict them and that they truly can become the chosen people of a loving God-if only they will believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Copper Canyon Region of the Sierra Madre
Hospital Misión Tarahumara is located in Samachique, Chihuahua in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains. It serves as Mexico Medical Missions’ primary medical center and includes outpatient facilities, a dental suite, adult and pediatric medical wards, a lab, X-ray services and a modern surgical suite. The hospital is staffed by 40 physicians, nurses and support personnel. It provides a high level of sophisticated healthcare to an area that previously struggled without it.
Santa Rita is a remote valley in the depths of the Copper Canyon populated by several hundred Tarahumaras. Missionaries Tom and Cathy Shank live in Santa Rita and operate a Community Health Evangelism program.
The Pamachi Clinic is located in an isolated community perched high on the edge of the Urique Canyon, right in the rugged heart of the Copper Canyon area. It is staffed by the Community health Evangelism team.
The Coyachique valley is an area so remote that it is entirely inaccessible to motor vehicles. Missionary Jonathan Pinkham and his Tarahumara wife, Marta, live and work among the 1000 inhabitants of the area, traversing dauntingly rugged terrain on foot to reach the scattered communities of the region.
The Tarahumara are one of the few tribal groups in the world that have no system of native midwives to help women in childbirth. This contributes to very high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The Birthing Center was built for the purpose of providing a safe and compassionate place for Tarahumara women to deliver their babies.
Contaminated water is the major cause of infant mortality worldwide. Mexico Medical Missions operates a well drilling program providing clean water to the communities of the Sierra Madre. Using a “DeepRock” portable drilling rig, we are able to drill deep wells in the predominately granite rock formations of the Sierra Madre. In a region where potable water is amazingly scarce, this much-needed program has brought safe drinking water to the people of the Sierra Madre. Among our partners is Hope Springs Water which helps fund our well drilling efforts. Visit them at www.hopespringswater.org for more information.