General Cepeda, located in the Mexican state of Coahuila, is a municipality consisting of one pueblo (small town) and 46 outlying ranchos (desert communities). With a population of about 11,000 people, the municipality is one of the poorest areas of the country. It is a place where many go without electricity, heat, food or running water. Apart from their hunger arising from a lacking of food, there is another hunger present in the area, a hunger which cannot be satisfied by anything of this world. The people are hungry for truth, hungry for faith, hungry for God. This hunger is what brought me and my fellow missionaries down to General Cepeda for our first mission for the month of November 2009. Our mission in General lasted for about a month. Our time was spent doing a number of different ministries. Each morning we would participate in as many work projects as possible (building houses, repairing roofs, etc), we would make home visits to the shut-ins, we would travel to the desert communities to give out clothes, we would have our door ministry, where dozens of people would daily come to our front door asking for their needs, whether it be food, medicine, baby products, etc. or prayer. Our evenings consisted of driving to the desert communities and sharing our faith. We would lead the people in praise and worship, give our testimonies, and then give a teaching on the faith, on the scriptures
I could easily write a book about our trip, about the amazing things that I was blessed to see, about the numerous miracles that God worked. However as Christmas approaches, there is one particular story that I would like to share, an experience that has helped me put my life and this holiday season into perspective.
It was early one morning, when the missionaries had decided upon which rancho we were going to so that we could give out some clothes to the people. Upon arriving at the desert community, we were shocked at the turnout; a great number of children came to greet us, however only two women showed up which was reversal of most visits, when the number of adults greatly outnumbered that of the children. Before giving out the clothes, we led the group in prayer and worship. Another oddity, the children did not seem to understand what we were doing, they did not understand the songs, or anything that we were saying to them. One of the missionaries thought it would be a good idea to give a little catechesis to the children and chose to talk about the Our Father. To our surprise the children did not know this simple prayer. Not only did they not know this prayer, we soon came to find out that they did not know who Jesus was. It’s not that they didn’t know ‘a lot’ about him; it’s that they had never heard of him, ever. They had never heard the name of Jesus Christ.
When we found this out we couldn’t help but tell them, tell them all that we knew, to tell them about our best friend, about our love, about our savior! We told them the story, the story of our salvation, the reason for our hope, our joy, and our love. By the end of the day, these children who had woken up in the dark were now in the light. They had woken up not knowing the God of the universe and were going to bed knowing how much God loved them and the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them. They were walking around saying “Jesus loves me”, “Jesus died for me”, “I love Jesus”. God had blessed us with the opportunity to change their lives in one day. God not only used us to change them, but he used them to change us. He showed us that we must always be bold in proclaiming the truth, that we must always be ready to give a reason for our hope, to tell the story. We cannot assume that people know the truth, we cannot be afraid to ask them if they have heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. We must always be ready to give what we have, the gift of faith. It can change their life, it will change yours.
As the holidays approach, as we welcome the coming of Jesus Christ, as we anticipate the birth of our Savior, it would be a tragedy if we took for granted, even for one minute, the gift that we have in our faith. We cannot let our faith become anything other than a living and loving relationship with Jesus Christ. There are still people in the world today who have never heard of him. This God that we love and live for, they have never met. Let us always be ready to share the Good News, to bring Christ to others, to ask the question ‘Have you heard?”