Try to imagine visiting the second largest city in the world with 28 million residents. Then think about that city in terms of a two-and-a-half hour flight from Dallas.
I am talking about Mexico City. There are 1.9 million street children in Mexico City, 240,000 of whom are completely abandoned. The number of children roaming the streets in abandonment is larger than the population of most U.S. cities.
Two weeks ago I left for a four-day trip to Mexico City with Dexton Shores, who was already there, and Victor Upton. Dexton is Buckner International’s director of ministry development in Mexico and the Borderlands, and Victor is vice president for missions resource.
Rev. Gilberto and Yanina Gutierrez, pastor at Iglesia Bautista Horeb, served as our hosts during this trip. Yanina is the chair of the board for our NGO “Familias Y NiÃ±os Buckner” for the country of Mexico.
On Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at the main campus with about 200 in worship and at the new site, El Gran Forum, with about 1,300 in attendance. This was a mountain-top experience with about 30 professions of faith and about 100 folks committing to support the our new collaboration with Horeb, Casa Familia, a group home for children of mothers in prison. Later that afternoon we enjoyed a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Casa Familia with about 100 in attendance. Casa Familia is a collaborative effort between Horeb and Buckner.
The next day we visited a drug rehab center for men, a feeding ministry in La Loba area, and the federal prison for women in Mexico City. These are all ministries that Horeb has led over the past seven to 10 years. We are just now finding ways we might augment what God has already placed in their hearts to do.
It is amazing what can happen when you decide to do something as simple as feeding children. That is what La Loba feeding ministry is all about. They impact over 120 children every day with a meal.
These children live in the most impoverished colonias in Mexico City. Through this ministry they receive a meal; the only one most will have that day. They learn how to pray, how to sing praise songs, memorize verses and they hear the gospel.
This is a ministry operated out of a home. I was astounded to hear the life-changing stories that have come as a result of this “good news the poor” ministry. We need Baptist churches from the United States to come alongside and help this ministry. They need a community center to really impact this area of the city. Land and facilities would cost about $60,000.
Words cannot express the heart impact we all felt when we visited the women’s federal penitentiary. Most of these women have been separated from their children and most committed a crime and suffer from abuse or mistreatment by the men in their lives.
We met 42 women who sing in a rondalla (musical group). The rondalla is another ministry of Horeb. The song they sang that impacted me the most was “Rebelde” or “Rebel.” The one line that hit me was “I am rebellious because nobody has ever treated me with love”
One of the women began to cry as she sang this song, because it was her story. Pastor Gilberto stood to deliver a seven-minute message of God’s love. They were spellbound.
I am pleased to say that Buckner is now part of “proclaiming freedom for the prisoners” through this collaboration with Horeb. I was blown away by the impact of this one church and the vision of Pastor Gilberto Gutierrez.
In the last two weeks we have experienced a paradigm shift in our work. I will never be the same after this trip.
Albert Reyes is president of Buckner Children and Family Services. This column is adapted from his blog.