January 28, 2015
“Therefore thus says the Lord: “If you return, I will restore you and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.” -Jeremiah 15:19
The passionate death bed plea of a beloved uncle healed Manuel’s heart and now he can’t stop smiling.
We heard his story when he first went to prison. In a tragic hunting accident, Manuel shot and killed his nephew. He turned himself in and was quickly sentenced to seven years in prison for homicide. The families were devastated and his wife Carmen and their four young sons were left to fend for themselves. They were believers and attended the local Baptist church on a regular basis. Carmen and her boys struggled to survive and the church didn’t do enough to support them. Little by little they stopped attending worship services.
In prison Manuel came close to God and found strength to survive each long and difficult day. While his personal faith grew he was bitter that no one from the church visited him. Life is hard in the mountain community of El Jardin and time and money for travel to the prison are scarce…and yes there are always excuses.
After serving four of the seven years, Manuel was released this past June and made the long walk home. The reunion with his family was a mixture of joy and anguish; a new routine did not include going to church. Pastor Antonio’s visits were not welcomed and Manuel made it clear that he was through with the church. Talk of vengeance by some members of the dead boy’s family began to circulate in the community. Members of an area drug gang offered Manuel protection if he would join them. And then came news that his uncle was dying in a nearby village.
Several family members were gathered in the home when Manuel arrived. The old man found strength to sit up and talk to the relatives gathered around him. He pleaded with them to let go of bitterness, to forgive and be reconciled; to choose to love. Tears welled in Manuel’s eyes and he knew the words were meant for him and that God was speaking through his uncle, telling him to return to church. His uncle died a short time later but his words were heeded and Manuel gathered his family the following Sunday for the thirty minute walk to “Christ is the Truth” Baptist Church. They haven’t missed a service since. As you give thanks this week, include Manuel and his family in your list and pray for them: Manuel, Carmen, Pascual, Humberto, Manuel Jr. and Pedro.
Ramona and I give thanks for you, your generosity, your prayers, and your friendship. The seminary is moving forward and we will send a detailed update very soon. Your gifts have inspired our team and we can never thank you enough. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the privilege of serving the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, for our colleagues and family, for the joy of seeing God at work in people. For grace when churches fail for hope that we can and will do better. We love you and pray for God’s blessing in your lives and ministries.
Prayer: Father God, may we gain wisdom from the life of Manuel by not living in bitterness, but in freedom. Help us to grow in grace and Godly stature when we would rather choose vengeance and retaliation. Amen.
Chuck & Ramona Sawver
Missionaries to Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
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