A Message from our Director Ben Butler regarding the Safety of Short Term Missions Trips at our Aldama Base Camp in Mexico
About 250 miles South of the Texas border and some 20 miles North of the city of Aldama, Tamaulipas, Mexico. (Or an hour North of Tampico.) Our base camp sits under the shadow of a slumbering volcano. Behind the volcano are mountains that rise a good 7000 feet that provide a great picturesque view, guaranteed to set your soul at rest.
The Lord has given us an opportunity preach the Gospel of Jesus for the first time in the area of Aldama, Mexico. In 1996 an ambulance was donated by Feed the Children to be used in the Aldama area. This ambulance will serves 69 villages, 2 cities and 34 subdivisions. After hearing the news, the President of Aldama invited us to share the Gospel in this unreached area. After doing our homework, we have found that 27 villages have never been reached by Jesus. What a great opportunity to not only preach the Gospel but also to train up others to do the same.
Looking back some 9 years later at how the camp all started I think we must have been crazy to have even started this project. We found this property outside the town of Aldama. Oh no it wasn’t on the highway in fact I think it was really a donkey trail. The only reason I think it might have been used by the donkey’s is because in the early mornings just about the time the roosters are starting to crow you can hear the donkey’s braying in the distance. I can’t tell you how many times we blew out tires and got stuck just trying to get to the camp. When it didn’t rain there were deep ruts that resembled cemetery plots and when it did rain it became so slick you went sideways half way there.
I can remember a special group that came down from Indiana in those early years. Of course famous “get you stuck” Ben was driving the bus. It had been raining for a few days and so all the little creeks and low areas were running high with water. Ben turned the bus off the highway on to what had by that time become a road to the camp. Coming up to a low water bridge Ben wasn’t sure the bus would make it across the running water. Ben stopped the bus and unloaded everyone off the bus. He then drove the bus across the running water, got out and tied a rope to the bumper, and had the group cross the high water one at a time. Now every time we are around anyone from that group all we hear about is how great the trip was and especially getting to the camp with Ben at the wheel.
How the Base Camp Started
We bought this piece of land out in the middle of what looked like the desert. At that time it hadn’t rained for months so everything looked dead. However, Ben and Rob Robinson had a vision for a camp where short term missionary groups could come and have a place to find the Lord in the quiet time of the morning or at sunset time with the sun setting over the mountains and you just knew there was no one else there but the Lord and you.
The vision started to slowly take shape as volunteers began to come and dig footings while living in army tents and without running water or showers, no kitchen and out in the middle of the boonies. There were no concrete trucks and since there was no electricity to run a mixer they did it all by hand. One wheel barrel full at a time, they poured the footings and then the slabs. Then came the block walls. One of the big struggles at the time was what kind of roofs were going to go on the buildings. It was finally settled that we were going to have palm thatched roofs. You won’t believe how much palm it took for the first five buildings. Our Mexican brothers were cutting palm where ever they could find it, in fact I don’t think there was a palm tree with any branches left on it for a 50 mile radius of the camp.
I remember the story a group of young people from Iowa shared with us. They were at the camp working on finishing the 3 story water tower. Their job was to mix concrete and carry it up the ladder in 5 gallon buckets to the top of the water tower. By this time we had a couple of generators that worked on and off and we also had a cement mixer that hadn’t worked for quite sometime. The group gathered around that old mixer and laid hands on it and to their surprise it worked. They used that old mixer to mix enough cement to finish up the water tower and after they finished the mixer never worked again. Everyone of those young people’s lives were changed forever because I have never met a group that believed in the power of prayer like those kids.
Recalling all that we struggled through during those first few years I know we were crazy for ever starting the project. It seemed like there was always a struggle for finances, it certainly was a struggle just to get a load of sand and a few bags of concrete. It was an all day job just to go down the donkey track to Aldama and back. Even though we were crazy every struggle was worth it. We could write a book about those that have given their life to Christ. We have built so many churches that we have quit counting. God has allowed us to train many pastors who have spread out all over Mexico to preach the Gospel.
There have been literally thousands of individuals making up hundreds of groups that have came to the Aldama Camp over the years. They have invested their time, money and sweat into the camp. Every single person has gained many precious memories of the time we have spent there, all because of a vision to reach a new area of Mexico with the Gospel.
Things sure are different today. There is now a road. Oh, there maybe a few chug holes here and there but don’t worry, there will be a grader by in time to take care of them. There are even electric poles running down the side of the road. I remember the day when Rob called and said they had thrown the breaker and the power was on in all the buildings. Electricity meant ceiling fans for the buildings and plenty of running water for showers. The kitchen now has refrigerators and stoves. Yes things have really changed at the camp except it is still the best place in the world to spend time with the Lord. There is still the quiet time in the early morning and those beautiful sunsets to view with that same feeling its just the Lord and you enjoying it together.
Today things are really different than they were back in 1996. They have built a new highway that makes getting there a nice, pleasant drive. What was once a donkey trail is now a nicely maintained gravel road that drains well when it rains. When you arrive at the camp you won’t see any dry desert but you will see a beautifully, lush. and well maintained camp grounds, beautiful trees and flowers.
There are now 14 finished buildings including the original dorms and multi-purpose buildings along with 2 more dorms and another multi-purpose building that houses the pastors school. It is truly an oasis in the middle of the wilderness. All along the road villages have sprung up and what used to be tiny pockets of shacks are now small towns. You can drive in any direction and find foot steps of the past mission groups that have ministered in the area. You will see churches that groups have built that are thriving under the leadership of pastors that have graduated from the pastors school.
Take a Video Tour of the Aldama Base Camp in Mexico
This video tour contains 4 parts shown below