A group of Christians recently went to Chiapas, Mexico to encourage and pray with Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. During the trip the group met with Pascuala whose ministry in the area has led many to Christ.
Pascuala gently took the hand of Carol, a member of our group, and placed it on one side of her face.
She guided the hand over her skin until Carol felt the hard pellets still lodged not only in her face, but also down her neck. Twenty-one pellets in all — grim reminders of blasts from a shotgun which struck Pascuala 50 years ago when she was a new Christian at 13-years-old.
But they are also reminders of a miracle from God. How He turned those scars, physical and emotional, into a life of service in His kingdom in the southeastern state of Chiapas, Mexico.
For years Pascuala has been re-telling her riveting story to thousands who have stopped by her home or business in Betania (Bethany), just a few miles outside the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas. She has become an example to others of standing strong in the faith, perseverance, and fearlessness in a region where evil and persecution of Christians continues even today.
In 1965 she was shot and left for dead when she refused to deny her faith and follow the pagan traditions of the region. The home where she lived was burned down by caciques (local indigenous extremists). Two of her sisters were burned to death inside the house.
Pascuala, weak and bleeding from her gunshot wounds, ran naked down a road trying to escape the shooters. She finally found shelter. A day later she was taken to the hospital. It took her months to recover.
“How did I live through that terrible night? It was only through the grace of God,” she says today. “God had his hand on me.”
Pascuala, who was also abused as a girl, didn’t become bitter.
In the late 1970’s, after several thousand Chiapas believers were expelled from their homes and land in Chamula because of their faith in Christ, they founded the community of Betania. Pascuala was one of these believers. Through the years Pascuala, short in stature but big in compassion, has made an impact throughout the area and beyond.
She has a heart for women who have been widowed or made homeless due to persecution. One of her ministries has been to teach them crafting skills so they might support themselves. During our group’s time with Pascuala, she displayed beautifully woven wristbands, bookmarks, and other hand-made items for purchase to aid the women’s outreach.
She still holds Bible studies and has founded 16 churches along with her husband Manuel over the last 50 years. Pascuala and her husband have delivered Bibles into some of the most dangerous areas in Chiapas for years.
“We have been stopped by Zapatistas (a Mexican indigenous armed revolutionary group based in Chiapas) a few times while delivering Bibles,” she says. “They ask us if we have weapons in the boxes, hoping to seize them. We tell them we do. So they open up the boxes and see Bibles. And then they let us go.” The Bible-delivery ministry has slowed recently due to the ill health of Manuel.
Pascuala lives in Betania with most of her extended family. She now has great-grandchildren. She also keeps busy by operating a small family ranch which produces fruits and vegetables.
Her children have encouraged her to have the bullets taken out of her face and neck, but she says no way!
“A few years ago I went to the hospital to have an X-ray of my face and neck where the pellets are lodged,” she recalls. “But the X-ray machine didn’t work at first. When they (radiologists) finally got it working, they had a clear view of the pellets. They asked me if I had been in a war.
“I told my family I am not going to have those bullets taken out. They have never given me any pain over the years. That is a gift from God.”
While our group was getting ready to leave, she asked us to give a greeting to the churches in our respective cities.
“Continue to pray for Christians here; there are still many who suffer for their faith,” she states. “I am thankful for the missionaries and Christian workers who come here and help us in our ministry.”
After returning home, Carol reflected on her life-changing visit with Pascuala:
“His light was shining ever so brightly as I touched the face of a woman who had 21 pellets still lodged in her body. She was only 13 and I was only 6 when she was attacked. She told me if she didn’t see me again on this earth, certainly she would see me in heaven. She then tied a hand-made bracelet to my wrist. My visit with Pascuala is an experience I will never forget.”