Just as in New Testament times, Jesus has good friends in Bethany. But this is a new Bethany located just outside the town of San Cristal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. This very special community was founded in the late 1970’s after several thousand Mexican believers were expelled from their homes in Chamula, another community located near San Cristal de las Casas, because of their faith in Christ.
In Chiapas over the past 30+ years, the native Indigenous believers who decided to follow Jesus Christ have had to face great opposition and violence. The majority of these crimes have gone unpunished. In San Juan Chamula, religious intolerance has resulted in the forceful expulsion of some 35,000 evangelical Tzotzil Indians from their lands, as well as countless threats, imprisonments, the refusal of public education for their children and, worst of all, the brutal murder of many believers. Continuing today, this violence reflects the social condition of Chiapas as a whole.
But one of Jesus’ stalwart friends lives in Bethany village. Her name is Pascuala. Her testimony stretches back into her teenage years when at the age of 14 she saw the caciques [local mafia extremists] machete, shoot and burn to death four of her younger relatives. She herself was abused, shot and left for dead when she refused to deny her Christian faith. Weak and bleeding, she walked for hours to a hospital; in total, Pascuala had received 27 lead pellets lodged in her neck and body.
Despite being shot, abused and left for dead as a teenager, her home burned to the ground and her family murdered, she doesn’t waste any time feeling sorry for herself or becoming bitter. Instead she has spent her time comforting and helping others, especially women who have been widowed or made homeless. One of her ministries is to teach them craft skills so they can support themselves and make a living. In the 35 years since the attack, she has built up her work and now has hundreds of women who look to her for comfort, advice and help. Each week she gathers a group of women to study the Bible and pray in her home. Today Pascuala is a great-grandmother and is residing in Bethany with her husband Manuel and their extended family. Manuel and Pascuala also have a little ranch in “Tierra Caliente” where they produce fruits and vegetables.
An Open Doors team recently visited Pascuala and her family. Receiving a warm welcome they shared several hours together. “It was a special moment when she sang for us the song she learned many years ago,” a team member said. Singing in Tzotzil, English and Spanish, Pascuala declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus….no turning back, no turning back….”
Father, so often we hear only about the pain and hardship of Christians undergoing persecution. Thank You for the clear way You have taken the ashes of Pascuala’s life and turned it into beauty. Thank You for the blessing to us of the persecuted church, for her testimony of strength and faith in the midst of trial. Thank You for the evidence of Your presence and work in the lives of those who have suffered for their faith. You have heard Pascuala’s cry and answered. We praise You and implore Your continued blessing on her life and an increase in her ministry among the people of her village. In the name of Jesus who heals and lifts of the heads of those suffer for His name. Amen.