Sharing God's word and apples: Worthington church completes mission to Culiacan, Mexico

“I said you need to taste this kind of apple — it’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted in your life,” Berumen said with a smile.

Apple distribution
Chuck Nystrom (in green plaid), owner of Ocheda Orchard in rural Worthington, hands a bag of SugarBee apples to a woman in Culiacan, Mexico earlier this month.
Photo contributed by Chuck Nystrom

WORTHINGTON — The current and former pastors of Indian Lake Baptist Church joined three members of the local congregation in its 19th mission trip to Culiacan, Mexico, earlier this month.

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This time, they offered a special treat to residents of the impoverished city — SugarBee apples grown in Washington state and developed by Chuck Nystrom, owner of Ocheda Orchard south of Worthington. Nystrom has participated in all 19 mission trips.

During a conversation with the CEO of Chelan Fresh Marketing, which markets the SugarBee apple, Nystrom mentioned his mission trip to Culiacan, and the CEO immediately suggested dropping off a pallet of apples during a delivery to other cities in Mexico.

Apples with a message
A Bible verse was included with each bag of apples that was distributed.
Photo contributed by Chuck Nystrom

A pallet is 49 bushel-boxes of apples — way more than Nystrom thought they could distribute in the neighborhood of Roca de la Eternidad “Eternity Rock”, Indian Lake Baptist’s sister church in Culiacan since 2009. They also didn’t have refrigeration for such a large donation.

So, instead, Chelan shipped 55 two-thirds bushel boxes, each containing about 45 apples.


“We went around the neighborhood and passed out information about the church, and that we were going to distribute apples,” Nystrom shared.

On Saturday, March 4, they handed out 70 bags of apples to anyone who showed up, and distributed the last 20 bags after church on Sunday.

Nystrom was joined in the effort by Rev. Lucio Berumen, a native of Culiacan who now serves as pastor of Indian Lake Baptist Church, as well as former ILB pastor Terry Johnston, and two members of the congregation, Gary Haspels of Sanborn, Iowa, and Spencer Klassen of rural Worthington.

Chatting with locals
Rev. Lucio Berumen (left) chats with individuals during the mission trip to Culiacan, Mexico.
Photo contributed by Chuck Nystrom

“The relationship we have with the sister church is helping them with whatever they need,” Berumen said. In the past, the local group has provided everything from construction labor for the church to leading VBS classes. “This time, knowing we were going to have the apples, we thought, ‘Let’s use the apples as a hook, where people from the community could come and hear about Jesus.’”

And so, the group went through the neighborhoods, talking with people and inviting them to come for the apples.

“I said you need to taste this kind of apple — it’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted in your life,” Berumen said with a smile. The people of Culiacan, however, were suspicious. Surrounded by fresh mangoes and bananas, the only apples they have access to are what’s available in stores. And those apples aren’t as good as the SugarBee, Nystrom noted.

Boxes of apples
These boxes of SugarBee apples were dropped off in Culiacan for distribution by Nystrom, Berumen and others from Indian Lake Baptist Church.
Photo contributed by Chuck Nystrom

The 70 bags of apples they had to share meant the potential to reach 70 families with God’s word in the neighborhood, but they had far more apples to share with people at a migrant work plant and five drug rehabilitation centers in Culiacan.

By the end of their week-long stay, they’d spread a Christian message to about 465 people. One rehab facility was home to 150 people, another had 80. One facility was just for girls, with about 45 to 50 young women learning about Jesus, and two other facilities had about 20 residents each. At the migrant work plant, another 75 families — most from indigenous tribes in southern Mexico who speak a variety of Spanish dialects — received apples and a message.


Bringing Christ’s word to Culiacan

The city of Culiacan isn’t one that people would choose for a vacation destination; it has a reputation among the drug cartels, and is frequently in the media for drug-related activity — the most recent major story being the capture of one of El Chapo’s sons earlier this year.

For Berumen, the translation of Culiacan is “where the roads are twisted.”

Enjoying the SugarBee
Residents of Culiacan enjoy a SugarBee apple while visiting with the mission group.
Photo contributed by Rev. Lucio Berumen

“Our prayers are to untwist those roads and the roads go to God,” he said. “That’s why we invest (in the church and relationship), so more people know.

“We want to be known for the Christian change, not the drug dealers.”

Visiting Culiacan once a year for 19 years — last year Nystrom took a second, solo trip there to go fishing with some of the locals — the orchard owner once asked Berumen if it makes a difference that the rural Worthington church sends people on missions to Culiacan.

“He said if he went around and invited them, they wouldn’t come, but if there’s an American, they will stop and listen,” Nystrom said.

“Sometimes (they come) to just see people from different countries,” Berumen added. “They wonder why we are there instead of in the tourist areas — it’s to share the gospel with them.”

And to build relationships.


032223 N DG SUGARBEE 53.jpg
Chuck Nystrom (left) stands ready to distribute bags of apples to residents of Culiacan, Mexico earlier this month.
Photo contributed by Chuck Nystrom

Berumen said the local church could take up a collection and send money to the church in Culiacan, but that does nothing to bond the two churches.

“If you go, then your heart is attached and more and more relationships happen,” he said. “If we want to be in heaven together, why don’t we start right now.”

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Not only are relationships built, but blessings happen — and not just to the people of Culiacan.

“I remind them often that it’s a two-way street; I’m as blessed,” Nystrom said. “As you start to get to know the people, you just start to love them. I have some very, very dear friends there. You just want to help them, however. I don’t know what they need, but they do. So you just say, “Let me help you.’”

“We receive more, sometimes, than the things that we give,” Berumen added.

Ready with apples
Rev. Lucio Berumen holds a bag of SugarBee apples he plans to give to a resident of Culiacan.
Photo contributed by Lucio Berumen

Approximately 25 individuals from Indian Lake Baptist Church have taken part in mission trips to Culiacan, and Lucio hopes more individuals will take part in future missions. He also encourages other churches to do mission trips as well.

Berumen completed his first mission trip in 2002, and has thus far taken more than 80 short-term missions to 42 different places around the world. His next mission trip will take him to Egypt this spring.

“This church supported me as a missionary, and now I’m their pastor,” Berumen said of Indian Lake Baptist Church. “I told them I wanted to do at least four mission trips a year.”


Their next trip to Culiacan will be next February or March.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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