(Interview by Nora Martinez)
‘These are crepes, have you ever tried them?’ ‘Well, no, but we’re excited to try them now.’ That’s how our lovely chat started. And those crepes with chocolate milk tasted great to Carmela, now in her 3rd month of pregnancy.
What you are about to read is a story that amazes me to tell. From where I sit I can’t stop thinking about how faithful our God is. Let yourself be amazed, be filled with hope, and don’t doubt that our God is just that big and wonderful.
Javier: ‘We arrived in Ensenada with 100 pesos. Even so, we never doubted that it was God who had brought us all the way from Comitán Chiapas. Everything starts with my father’s story. I was born in a community called Margaritas, where my family and I were definitely the poorest in town. We didn’t have anything steady, in reality we didn’t have anything since my father was an alcoholic. He himself along with other men made the same alcohol they drank. It’s called ‘charritos,’ a very common and cheap type of pulque that sells like hotcakes in the town. Every day my father would drink, would hit us, and would also hit my mom. One day when I was about 2 years old, so my father tells me, he had a special dream. In his dream he saw a man dressed in white who told him that he had to leave the place we were living, that he wasn’t going to prosper there. Even though my father had never studied he was a smart man, and in his dream he asked the man in white, ‘I don’t have anything, so where would I go?’ ‘Don’t worry,’ the man responded, ‘where you go you will find your treasure, and I will make you prosper.’ It’s worth mentioning that my father was not a Christian at the time, but without a doubt that dream changed not only his course, but also the course for our family. When 1994 came, my father was now a little bit stronger in the faith, and my family suffered persecution because of the changes that we showed. My uncles were stronger in the gospel and one day my father and my uncles were expelled from Margaritas, being forced to leave all their possessions and, on top of everything, lashed 49 times each for preaching the gospel in the community. I remember I was 5 or 6 years old when we had to leave, and that’s how we arrived at Comitán Chiapas, where for two years we struggled renting a house. Even so, my father continued to trust in the man in white that he dreamed was in control of all of this situation. One day they called us to say that they were giving plots of land to people that had been expelled from their towns, and that’s how we were placed in the town that we have lived in to this day. We were in a lot of need at first, but little by little we built a house and a large church in that place.’
At this point I ask Javier, ‘What are the people in your community like? The ethnic group Tojolobal?’ ‘Well,’ he responds, ‘we’re not a very big ethnic group, we are only in Chiapas, but we have very marked traditions and customs. The people tend to be violent; aggression is a style of life, and envy and murmuring are part of the families. There is a festival every year to celebrate Santo Domingo in which people walk for hours on their knees to the point of bleeding and thereby ‘honor’ the saint of the village. Another custom is that the girls are sold in matrimony. Fifteen thousand pesos is the cheapest that one can buy a wife, and prices go up from there. Many times the more a man pays for a woman the more right he has to hit her or mistreat her or send her to work long hours in the fields.’
‘Javier, you’re telling me that this actually exists these days?’ ‘Yes, in our ethnic group they do that. But now that we are believers and go to church we don’t do things that way, we do everything under God’s order, my wife deserves respect and care. Everything changes when you come to God.’
‘Speaking of believers, Javier, what do you think is the greatest need among the new believers, the churches, the pastors, and the Christian community in general where you live?’ ‘Well, there are various needs, but I think one of them, the most urgent, is to have discipleship. Studies in which a believer grows in the faith so they can face every challenge that comes. It’s not easy for a lot of them to leave customs that have been rooted for generations, and we need people ready to disciple, and discipleship materials for children. If they can know the truth from a young age, that would be a big step forward. We need material for pastors, because a lot of them don’t have access to a Bible institute, the church is growing, but the needs are also growing.’
‘Javier, lastly, what are your expectations for this time in MTI?’ ‘Well, they’re not many. We want to learn about the Bible, we want to have knowledge but also have our personal relationship with God grow. I believe that God has a calling for us, and we want to fulfill that calling. For us MTI is a dream come true, since I was a child I wanted to study for ministry, we are not going to waste the opportunity.’
‘I promise this is the last question, Carmela, as a woman, how did you feel when you found out en-route to Ensenada that you were pregnant?’ —Carmela breathes deep—‘I never thought about going back, actually Ezequiel [their 4-year-old son] had been telling me that I had a baby in my belly. Several times he told me the same thing and I always told him no, there’s no baby. But I started to think that he might actually be right. When the day came to come to Ensenada while we were traveling through Oaxaca, after nausea, vomiting, and a pregnancy test, we confirmed it. Ezequiel was right! There was a baby after all. We didn’t think about going back because of the baby though, on the contrary, we felt privileged that our baby as a tiny little one would be in a place of ministry. And even though I’ve had lots of aches and pains, we still feel that God is in control of everything, including this pregnancy and the future of our children.’
After a silence I exclaim, ‘What a story! I’m so grateful to you for your time and your willingness to open your hearts.’ We prayed together and there was nothing left to do except offer our house, our friendship and our resources when they might be needed. Javier and Carmela are part of MTI, but more than that they are part of a beautiful ethnic group that wants to see Jesus shine. Here or there, close or far, like they said, but what they are doing today without a doubt is already impacting hearts and forming new generations of believers with their children.
God bless this beautiful family that crossed the entire country to move forward in God’s purpose for their lives.