June NewsletterGetting to the Mission Field in Mexico/Belize Was NO EASY TASKIt’s been over 20 years since we have ventured out into a new mission field. It took a whileto adapt to the Indian way, but eventually we immersed ourselves into the culture. I was in mytwenties; now, I’m 53, and getting ready to experience two different cultures at the same time –Mexico and Belize. We had two options to get to the field: 1) Fly, sell everything and purchase incountry, 2) Drive over 3,000 miles through mountains and jungles and bring with us ourpersonal belongings. We researched both options and decided on driving. Audrey and I, alongwith our daughter, Jordan, son-in-law, Joey, and four-year old grand-daughter, Kylee had twovehicles between us, a 2001 Ford Expedition and a 2000 Dodge Caravan. Vehicles are expensivein Mexico, and extremely expensive in Belize. Our first task was to purchase a trailer. Theywere also costly. So, being an adventurer, I got the bright idea to purchase a used pontoon boatthat I found on Craig’s List. It was 20 feet long, high up off the ground, and would conceal allour boxes from would-be thieves – plus, all of my life I’ve wanted to have a boat. I want to saybefore I began sharing with you about our trip that I am so proud of my family. Joey and Jordanfound themselves in many dangerous situations throughout our travels but never one timecomplained. They always prayed and kept me encouraged when I was feeling down. Audrey hasnever told me in our 33 years of marriage, “I don’t want to go there.” She has always beenfaithful and allowed God to lead us where ever he needed us to go. Kylee was the greatest! Shenever complained and sat in that car seat the whole 3,000 miles. She made us all realize what itmeant to have a child-like faith. She would tell me often, “Poppy, don’t worry God will take careof us.” OK, back to the trip. We set out on May 5thafter worship from my hometown, Athens,Tennessee. Needless to say, we were loaded down! About two hours into the trip, near Ft.Payne, AL, we had a blowout. It was pouring the rain. I called Roadside Assistance to helpchange the tire because we discovered the jack we had was not sufficient for the loaded trailer.Three hours later, I kid you not, the first person they sent was a guy with his Mama in a smallcar, wearing overalls, no shirt and chewing a wad of tobacco. He opened his trunk and pulledout a small jack, not much bigger than the one we had. I could not believe it! He tried to lift upthe trailer, but could not complete the job. Then he proceeded to ask me for $50 for his trouble.I told him that I paid my insurance company for his service. They were having high call volumesthat day and it took over 45 minutes after this guy left to get in touch with Roadside Assistance.Six hours later, sitting off the side of a very busy interstate during heavy thunderstorms, the towtruck arrived. This guy shows up with his girlfriend! As he was loading the trailer onto the towtruck, he damaged the axle. Being Sunday afternoon, we were towed to a hotel in Ft. Payne, AL.The next morning, we began to work on getting the tire and axle repaired. The tire was replacedon Monday; however, the axle could not be fixed till Tuesday.This would be the beginning of how we were going to watch God work through this wholejourney to Mexico. The man who repaired our axle was a Christian, and after seeing the heavyload we had on our trailer, recommended we purchase a small trailer to pull behind the van tolighten our load. He sold us a new 6x10 utility trailer for $700 (below his cost), threw in a newMISSION EXPLOSIONI N T E R N A T I O N A L“Fixing our eyes on Jesus”(Fijemos la mirada en Jesús)March 2013
spare tire, and repaired our axle at no charge. We continued our journey through Mississippi, Louisiana andTexas. We arrived in Laredo, TX, on Friday night, May 10th, ready to cross the border into Mexico the nextmorning. I knew crossing the border would be a new experience, but we underestimated what we wouldencounter. First, we found ourselves in the wrong lane with two vehicles pulling trailers. We were in the“Nothing To Declare” lane. Haha. What a joke! We had plenty to declare. We were directed by MexicanCustoms to go back to Texas and re-enter into the correct lane. Yes, we were in Mexico for five minutes andback into the United States again. After proceeding to the correct lane this time, we were stopped by theCustoms Officials to search all of our belongings. We had over 50 boxes of personal items on the trailers. Inmy research for the trip, I was told to make a manifest of all of our boxes, number them, and list the contentsin Spanish. I am so very thankful we did this! Guys with machine guns were walking all around the vehiclesand trailers. My son-in-law, Joey, was asked to get up into the boat and take off the tarps for inspection. Asthe soldiers were walking by the van, they saw Kylee in her car seat smiling at them and coloring. She offeredthe soldier a picture she had colored. He began smiling and literally, at that time, the whole scene changedfrom very intense to friendly and helpful. While others around us had to unload everything from their cars andtrucks, we were allowed to cover our belongings and leave. We were expecting to pay at least $1,000 in dutyfees because of the items we were bringing into the country. To our surprise, we were only charged $200!Again, God working through our journey.After leaving Customs, and finally in Mexico, we were told that the Immigration Office was about 20 milesdown the road. A Mexican family was heading there and told us we could follow them. What a blessing,because it would have been a very difficult place to find. We waited in four different lines for over two hours toget our Visas and Vehicle Permits. The only problem we had was on my passport it has my full name, WilliamRussell Swafford. On the title to our car it had, Rusty Swafford. The lady in the Vehicle Permit line refused toissue my permit because the names were different. I told her to look at my passport photo – I’m the sameperson. She was not buying that. I had to go to another line where a notary was waiting for me to sell my carto myself. Sound confusing? It was! Rusty Swafford had to sell his car to William Russell Swafford! HaHa!Finally, we were on our way. A few miles down the road, I looked and saw flashing lights behind me. It wasthe Federal Police of Mexico. I was scared to death. Part of me did not want to pull over. The other part knewI had better pull over, so I did. The officer came to my window and simply said, “You have a big boat. Becareful as you travel on our highways. Have a nice day.” (All in Spanish, of course.) We spent our first nightin Mexico in the town of Saltillo. We did not get much sleep that night because of worrying about ourbelongings being stolen. We simply had to trust the Lord.The next morning, not one thing had been touched during the night. Praise God! We started on ourjourney, day 2 in Mexico. I did not realize Mexico had so many mountains. It was cold and rainy through mostof our journey. After about three hours on the road, we had to stop at a police check point. Again, more guyswith big guns. They looked over our cars, asked us a few questions about our purpose in Mexico, checked ourdocuments and sent us on our way. After driving over mountains, mountains, and more mountains in the fogso thick you couldn’t see the car in front of you, we made it to San Luis Potosi. After arriving at the hotel, wehad our devotion and Lord’s Supper together as a family.The next day we needed to drive a longer distance to reach our planned destination. I need to explain aboutMexico. You can drive for hours and not find a hotel, gas station or restaurant. Many places are pretty muchdesolate. So, on our journey, we had to plan on trying to reach certain towns which had the accommodationswe needed. Our destination on day 3 was to make it to Puebla, which is about an hour beyond Mexico City. Wehad been warned not to stop in or near Mexico City because of the danger and heavy traffic during the day.Our travels over the past two days were uneventful. We stopped to get gas and check the oil and tire pressureon the cars and trailers. In Mexico, they pump your gas, check your oil and wash your windshield. Theattendant said we needed air in the tires. He aired up our tires, and we were on our way. (Side note: We paida little over $600 in tolls for both vehicles through Mexico.) About two hours down the road, we had anotherblowout. We discovered the gas station attendant had overinflated the trailer tires. We were in the mountainson a very busy interstate with no shoulder to pull over out of the traffic. Large trucks were flying by us, half ofour trailer sitting out on the highway in another downpour. We were now down to our last spare tire. Afterchanging the tire in an extremely dangerous situation, we were back on the road heading to Puebla. Aboutthirty minutes later, there was a major accident which blocked both lanes of traffic for over two hours. We hada lot of time to reflect on our experiences and thank God for His protection. Again, God working through ourjourney!
After finally arriving into the town of Puebla, we noticed the air was smoky and hazy. We discovered we hadarrived in a town that was making headlines on the local and international news. There was an active volcanospilling out lava and an evacuation had been issued for a 15 mile radius. The town of Puebla was on High Alert.Finding a hotel much later than we had planned, we were tired and exhausted. The next day we had a familymeeting and decided that we were not going to be able to continue our journey without at least two spare tires.We still had 17 hours of driving over the worst mountain range in our travels and through a jungle region nearthe border of Guatemala. The trailer tire size was not available in Mexico. I did not know what to do. I calledmy dear brother in Christ, Linwood Smith in Winder, GA, and told him we were stuck. Linwood immediatelywent to work on finding two tires and rims for the trailer. They were going to have to be shipped from the USto Mexico by UPS, and it would take at least two days for them to arrive. I would like to personally thankLinwood and the brothers and sisters at the Whistleville Christian Church in Winder for their prayers andgenerosity in getting the tires and shipping them to us so we could continue our journey to the mission field.After spending three days in Puebla and being anxious that we might be evacuated because of the volcanoeruption, we were glad to be on our way toward Chetumal.We had been told under no circumstances were we to drive at night in Mexico. We left the hotel around 1p.m. We had a long way to go before we reached the next stop on our itinerary. It was getting dark, and wedecided to try to find a Mexican hotel along the way. The only place we could find was near a trucker townwhere our belongings would surely have been stolen during the night. When we pulled up to the hotel, whichwas on the side of the main road, dollar signs were in the eyes of the owner. He tripled the price he originallyquoted us. After realizing we were getting ready to be “taken for a ride” so to speak, we decided to risk drivingin the night to the town of Minatitlan. Two boxes were stolen off our trailer before we got back on the road.Realizing we were in dangerous driving conditions, Audrey watched every “mile marker” for 130 kilometers sothat she would know our exact location at any given minute, should we break down. With God’s help, wearrived safely in Minatitlan. After a good night’s rest, we began feeling that we were going to make it. We had2 new spare tires, and we were ready to go. You’re not going to believe what happened next.Ten minutes down the road, we blew a tire. This day was going to turn out to be the worst day of ourtravels. We got out and started jacking up the trailer, and the jack broke. It was over 100 degrees and veryhigh humidity. We decided to send Joey, Jordan and Kylee back to the town of Minatitlan to try to buy a carjack. As Audrey was walking back from Joey and Jordan’s van, we heard gunfire – a lot of gunfire. Audrey ranas fast as she could to get into our car. Here we sat on a highway next to a small community where the gunfirecontinued. At this point, we were terrified. I called our son, Justin, in the USA, gave him the GPS coordinates,and told him that Joey, Jordan and Kylee had gone back to town and that we were stranded where we werecontinually hearing gunfire. I told him that if anything happened to us, at least he would know our location. AsI was talking to Justin, a man started walking up beside our vehicle on the passenger side. He was pushing abicycle. He tapped on the glass and reluctantly I rolled down the window because he was smiling and didn’tappear to be a threat. He began speaking Spanish. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he had awhite hand towel that he was waving at our window. He then walked to the back of the trailer and we couldn’ttell what he was doing. I decided to get out of the vehicle and go back to see what was going on. To mysurprise, this man was waving the white towel to keep the heavy traffic from getting near our broken downvehicle. I called him our “angel on a bicycle.” Joey, Jordan and Kylee arrived, after finding a jack, and webegan to change the tire. About that time, two Federal Police Officers with machine guns drove up behind us. Ididn’t know what to expect. I approached the officer and in broken English he said, “I have come to protectyou. This is a very dangerous area. We will stay with you until you are ready to go.” The two men walked upand down the road around our vehicles with their finger beside the trigger, watching the neighborhood acrossthe street and making sure we were safe. My “angel on the bicycle” continued to keep the cars away from ourvehicles until we changed the tire. Again, God working through our journey!We discovered the reason we had the blowout was because of the extreme heat, and we needed to reducethe tire pressure, as the heat was causing the tires to expand. We had to stop about every hour or so to checkthe tire pressure and to pour water on the tires to cool them down. We arrived in Villahermosa late thatevening. The next morning we had a nine hour drive to reach Chetumal. We were almost there!Loaded and ready to go, there had been no issues thus far with our vehicles – only the trailer. Joey tried tostart their van, but to no avail. We found a mechanic who would come to the hotel parking lot and check outthe car. The mechanic was from a Dodge dealer just two blocks away. After checking out the vehicle, he toldus that the engine was in very bad shape – a blown head gasket and timing issues, and that it would take
several days to repair the car and it would cost over $6,000 US dollars for parts and labor. Joey and Jordanonly gave $1,200 for the old van. She had come a long way, but the vehicle could not be repaired. We did notknow what we were going to do, stranded again, only nine hours away from our destination. Again, Godworking through our journey! A guard at the hotel knew someone who might be interested in buying thevan. It was a young boy, maybe 18 years old. We called him, the “little rich kid.” He came and offered to buythe van for $1,500. This was $300 more than they paid for the vehicle. However, we still had the problem ofhow we were going to get the 6x10 utility trailer and the boxes loaded on it to Chetumal. I went back up to thehotel room and found a phone book. I was looking to try to rent a truck like a U-Haul or something so we couldget to our final destination. We found a company that would allow us to put all of our boxes from both trailersand the 6x10 utility trailer inside and deliver our things to Chetumal. It was going to cost around $1,000 USdollars. We decided that this was the best option. The men came and loaded up all of the boxes and were alsogoing to unload them at our new home. Joey had to leave Mexico the next morning for a previous security jobcommitment in the USA. In order for him to make his flight, he had to split off from us and take a 10-hour (allnight) bus ride to the airport. Now Audrey, Jordan, Kylee and I were going to drive the last nine hours throughthe Guatemala border region of Mexico. We drove all day and arrived safely in Chetumal around 10:30 p.m.(Again, another night time drive.) The moving company’s truck was supposed to arrive at our house aroundnoon the next day. We spent the night at a hotel in Chetumal, rejoicing and praising God for giving us safetyand protection along our way, and that Joey had it made it safely to the airport to catch his flight. The nextmorning we went to see (for the first time) our new home in Bacalar, a community just outside the town ofChetumal. We had only seen pictures from the internet. We were very disappointed in the house. It was notat all as described to us by the house owner. The house had been vacant for some time. We found spiders thesize of tarantulas and there were no fans or air conditioning as we were told. Again, we did not know what todo because the movers pulled in as we did. We told the house owner who lives in Canada that the house wasjust not going to work for us. We were going to try to find another home and be out of there as soon as wecould. He was very gracious, and understood our situation completely. He told us to take our time until wefound the home we were looking for. The next day, again, God working through our journey, led us to areal estate agent who spoke English and had the perfect house for our needs – only $120 more rent per month.It is in the town of Chetumal. It has three bedrooms, a very large living room area, kitchen, and dining room.We were able to move in the next day. The realtor provided two wonderful guys and a large truck to move ourstuff from the house in Bacalar to Chetumal. We are settling in to our new home and ministry now. God isdoing amazing things already in just a few days time!We have enough space in our home to accommodate 20 or so people for worship services and God hasprovided a young man named Julio who loves the Lord and speaks very good English. I am meeting with himevery day in the mornings for Bible study, and in the afternoons we are going out meeting and evangelizing thearea. We had five people in our first church service in our home on June 2nd. We are excited about what God isdoing in this place, and we want to thank all of you who have been praying for us and financially supporting thisnew ministry. We need your prayers and financial help now, more than ever, as we begin to plant the Lord’schurch here on the border of Mexico and Belize. We will update you next month on our progress and, if youwould like to keep up with us on a weekly basis, go to our web page or find us on Facebook or Twitter to seewhat is going on with the Swafford and Schools family each week. Your cards, letters and emails ofencouragement mean so much to us. May God bless each of you!Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus!RustyMission Explosion InternationalPO Box 1331Athens, TN 37371-1331Phone: 620-255-5634 (620) CALL MEIInfo@MissionExplosion.comwww.MissionExplosion.com*Please note we have a new phone number. It’s a Magic Jack number, so please leave a message ifwe don’t answer. With no cell phone, it’s currently the only way we can receive your calls in Mexico!*Also, if you would like to receive our newsletter by email, please send us your email address.