“God was removing my pain while I was in prison”
These are words from Alonso, a pastor who was jailed for preaching the gospel in a small community in Oaxaca, Mexico:
Back in 2002, Alonso´s life changed completely when he met a group of Christians who were singing and praising the Lord in a village nearby the community he lived in. They told him to read the Bible to learn about God´s love. “Up to that moment, I was very involved with religious traditions and cults practiced in the community, but I hadn’t spent any time reading the Word of God. Once I did, I realized I wasn´t living my life according to Scripture, so I decided to change and give my life to Christ.”
Spreading Seeds of God´s Love
Confident and excited about his new faith, Alonso couldn’t keep it to himself. He shared the gospel with his wife and children, and soon enough he found himself preaching to friends, neighbors and pretty much everyone in the San Juan Ozolotepec community. For the next 10 years, Alonso witnessed the number of Evangelical Christians grow, their land prosper and their barns overflow. In 2011, they started to build a temple with their own hands and resources.
However, as the church was becoming stronger so was the opposition from the local authorities Alonso also saw his fellow brothers and sisters suffer discrimination and persecution for their decision to follow Christ. Believers would not get involved in the local celebrations and indigenous traditions and this was seen as a sign of disrespect and betrayal. For this reason, they faced many challenges: they were not allowed to buy food, their children were bullied at school, and they were regularly insulted. Being a Christian in these circumstances was not easy. “Whenever my brothers and sisters in Christ become discouraged, I remind them about what Jesus said to us: ‘In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ If we believe in Christ, we can overcome everything.”
Living the Gospel
As the leader of the Christian congregation, Pastor Alonso suffered in his own flesh the anger of those who did not share the same faith. He was threatened, persecuted and mistreated. In 2013, he was taken from his house, beaten and imprisoned for three days. A group of people from the community, consisting of over 400 men and women, forced him to leave his home and beat him nearly to death. That same day, they also destroyed the temple and took all his material goods, including his land and cattle.
“The moment they started to hit me, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the Word of God. I thought about Stephen and how he saw the glory of God when he was being accused and insulted. I also thought about Jesus. Up to that moment, I never thought I could live what I had preached. But God showed me that it is not about preaching and talking about the gospel but about living it and putting it into practice,” he explained.
With a joyful heart he continued: “I praise the Lord because I know He was with me the whole time. I never felt abandoned. I clearly felt the hand of God touching my wounds and removing all pain. When I was in jail, His presence was so real and strong. I felt the prayers from the church in that very same place.”
God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
After three days, a representative from Religious Affairs visited Alonso to negotiate his freedom. He was given a paper to sign, accepting to ‘voluntarily’ leave the community. Due to his wounds and bruises, he couldn’t sign the paper and was forced to put his fingerprints on it. Ever since, he and his family have been forbidden from returning home and now live in a town just outside the state capital, 4 ½ hours from San Juan.
“I praise the Lord for his deliverance. I know He saved my life because he has a purpose for me. I am certain He will not let me die before I have fulfilled his plans. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. Just as He delivered the people of Israel in the Bible, he will deliver us as well. He has never left us nor forsaken us.”
Although Pastor Alonso was forced to leave the community, there is a remaining group of Christians in San Juan who are currently facing difficulties. They have sought help from local authorities and organizations, but they have not succeeded.
Open Doors is raising awareness about their situation to international forums and organizations, but there is still much more to do. Our brothers and sisters in Oaxaca, Mexico count on our prayers and support to stand firm and remain faithful.