As I am formulating some thoughts on our recent visit to Mexico, I felt compelled to write about an event that took place while we were down there. We were in Mexico for one week and part of that time would fall on Sunday, which was Father’s Day. I knew going on this trip that I would miss being with my dad, which weighed heavy on my heart.
June 18th is not a normal day for our family. It is the day that tragedy struck in a mighty way, with a word that I have come to hate. That word is suicide. This year June 18th would fall on Father’s Day, making the treasured time of remembering our dads, turning it into a time of reflection for one particular Father and wondering where did he go wrong? My brother was only 17 years old when he died. I will never forget that day. I was 14 years old at the time and had my own struggles of being a teenager. Pretty soon, my struggles seemed so small compared to what my parents would spend the next days, months, and years going through.
Fast forward 31 years. Although its been quite a long time since that horrific day, we never forget. Now, I was sitting in the living room of Casa De Mana’ feeling sick to my stomach. Not sure if it was pasta I had eaten the night before, or if I was dehydrated. But, something was not right in my body. I decided to stay home and not go with the rest of the mission group to the church on the street in Tijuana. My husband decided to stay home with me and make sure I was alright. The rest of the team left in the 15 passenger van and the house suddenly became quiet.
As we sat on the couch, I opened up to my husband about it being Father’s Day and the fact that it was the anniversary of my brother’s suicide. I said, “I want to pray for the group going to Tijuana. I want to pray that at least one person comes to know Christ in a personal way today – that one soul would be saved for the one life taken.” We then bowed our heads and began to pray.
A few hours passed and we heard the van drive up the driveway. We anxiously awaited to hear all that happened with the street ministry. As soon as our friends came walking into the house, we could see something spectacular had taken place. They each shared about their own experience and what personally touched them. For one person, it was trading his nice pair of shoes for a ratty old pair, for another it was boldly holding a sign inviting people to church, for someone else it was getting to share their testimony.
Then it came to our friend, Alex. She began to tell of her amazing story. She had been asked to share her testimony to the people that came to church that day. As she was speaking, a man was being touched by her personal story of Jesus Christ. When she was finished, she went to the back of the tent and this man began to talk to her and ask questions. She listened intently and asked him what his story was. He began to tell her about his life – how he was supposed to go dumpster diving with a friend that Sunday morning and that he was addicted to drugs. As she spoke, he began to undersand why he came to church. He realized he needed Christ in his life. He asked her to pray with him. She gathered the rest of the group around him and they began to pray and he accepted Christ that day. Juan became a Christ follower!
As Alex and the rest of the group shared, my husband looked at me and said, “Christine, do you know what the name Juan is in English?” I shook my head, “no.” He said, “It’s the name John!” I suddenly had goosebumps run up my arms. That was the name of my brother. In that moment I began to cry. God had answered our prayer; a life for a life. They didn’t have 1,000 people come to Christ that day. Just one. A man named Juan, whose life would be forever changed because some people from Washington obeyed, and spent a few hours in a trash infested area of Tijuana to share the gospel.
“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3