Juanita grew up in the state of Morelos in a small town that is located about three hours south of Mexico City. Juanita followed all her family religious traditions and was very active in the religious festivities in her town. One day her daughter came to her and said that she was going to move her family to the United States to try to find a better way of life. It was a heartbreaking news to Juanita since this meant that her daughter, her daughter’s husband, and grandson was moving to a place that was very far away.
It took Juanita’s daughter and family to reach Decatur, Alabama three months later. Juanita’s daughter mentioned that she had found a job and her husband had one too and the grandson, Miguel, had enrolled in school and was learning English fast. Juanita reminded her daughter to pray to the “saints” and do all the rituals that has been passed from generation to generation. Juanita’s daughters assure her that she was following all the traditions and practices that she was taught.
The phone calls continue month after month as usual. Juanita’s daughter gave updates about her job and her husband’s job and their son Miguel. The day came that Juanita’s daughter gave some news that Juanita did not want to hear. Juanita’s daughter said that they have started visiting a church where they read the Bible. The name was Beltline Church of Christ (Beltline Iglesia de Cristo) Juanita did not like that at all. What if the whole town back in Mexico learned that Juanita’s daughter is no longer practicing the popular religion of the town? What are the people going to say?
The day came when Juanita’s daughter called saying that they were going to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Juanita’s daughter emphasized that this is what the Bible says! She explained her mother that all the practices that they were following as the grew up were not in the Bible. Juanita was in disbelief! Her worse nightmare was happening. Now the people in this small town where everybody knew everybody will learn about Juanita’s daughter. That she is no longer following all the religious practices of the town.
Pretty soon people started all kinds of rumors about Juanita and her family. The whole town were pointing the finger at her family. People in the town told her “Soon you will join the new religion of your daughter and join them, and you will abandon the religion of the town”. Juanita’s daughter did not stop calling home. She had long conversations with her mother about salvation. They talk about how much as a daughter she loves her mother and would like for her to be saved.
The day came when Miguel, the grandson decided to go back to Mexico. Juanita was very happy because her grandson who she has not seen for many years was coming back home. The reason why Miguel wanted to go back to Mexico was because he wanted to become an architect. Miguel arrived home and the rest of the family was very happy. Miguel continued what his mother was doing by phone. He started teaching his grandmother about the Bible, salvation, and eternal life with God in heaven. Miguel had the privilege of baptizing his grandmother. Then Miguel baptized other members of the family.
Miguel told his grandmother Juanita that they need to find a place to worship on Sundays. She was brave to say, let’s do it in my kitchen. Juanita’s kitchen is a room of about ten by fifteen feet. The walls are sticks (you can see through) The roof is palm trees and there is no concrete floor, it is a mud floor. In this kitchen Juanita has cooked for decades for her children and grandchildren. She still gathers wood to cook her meals. This is the place where the church started to worship.
I met Juanita about ten years ago. I had the privilege to go and preach for that little congregation that meets in Juanita’s kitchen. I am sorry I did not have another chance to worship in her beautiful kitchen or eat her delicious meals that she cooks. Juanita passed away a few weeks before the year 2021 ended. The church in Juanita’s kitchen is now of about twenty people. Miguel (Juanita’s grandson is an architect now and continues to preach there). People in the village harasses them, tell bad things about them, but they remain faithful to God. Juanita’s daughter and her husband continue to worship with us at Beltline and are an important part of our congregation.
You did not know Juanita in person. You never hugged her or talked to her. But she was always grateful for each one of you members at Beltline for teaching his family in the States about God. She was in awe on how God used a need (work). For her daughter to come to United States in a town called Decatur. How God found a way for Juanita’s daughter, son in law and grandson to learn about the truth of the gospel. She was always thankful that through her family in the United States the gospel arrived in her tiny village where she lived. I know one day…in heaven, she will tell you thank you for caring for people like her daughter and for teaching her the truth back on earth!