Fernando was desperate. Failing to complete high school, he became a drug addict and dealer, a gang member, and an alcoholic. Now his wife was threatening to leave him. How could he go on? But what chance did he have to change his life?
Fernando felt trapped. His speech, attire, and behavior identified him as a gangster. In Mexico, being part of a gang meant you were a gang member for life. Feeling hopeless, he stopped to watch some teens on the street of San Pedro. Little did he realize his life was about to change drastically for the better.
Teens Minister to Fernando
Attracted to the music, Fernando paused to check out what was happening. The song’s lyrics were encouraging, and he watched a skit that reminded him of his own disheartened condition. Afterward, a young man stepped up to share how God had changed his life, freeing him from drug addiction and helping him escape a life of hopelessness. Fernando shook his head in amazement. Could this be true? Was there hope for him, too? When the group asked if anyone wanted prayer, Fernando raised his hand. The teens quickly gathered around to pray for him. At that very moment, God transformed Fernando. He knew he was a changed man, but what was next? The group invited him to join them at the church in San Pedro on Sunday. That church was a part of Seedtime and Harvest ministry.
A Gift That Changed Fernando
Fernando walked into church the next day, not knowing what to expect. He was unprepared for the love, concern, and attention he received. Fernando was touched when Pastor Stephen Tolman handed him a Bible and encouraged him to read it daily. More than challenged, he was inspired. He began reading the Bible voraciously, which led to many questions that he took to a meeting at Stephen’s or Paco’s (Stephen’s son-in-law) house every Saturday and Sunday. He also began attending a Bible class Stephen taught, where his thirst for answers was satisfied.
New Life, New Job
Since he was no longer selling drugs, Fernando desperately needed a job. He found one at a bodega (a small grocery store) owned by Walmart. His work ethic and trustworthiness gained the admiration of the store manager. When she discovered he still needed to complete high school, she suggested Walmart’s program, which helps people finish their high school education. She recommended Fernando for the program, and Walmart Corp. helped him accomplish this goal. Now he is the manager of their only store in San Pedro.
Returning the Gift of Help
Fernando returned the favor to his manager by inviting her to church. She is now a Christian, serving the Lord and attending church regularly. She was not the only one Fernando impacted. Realizing he had a heart for evangelism, he invited more coworkers to church. Many have come to salvation, are attending church, and have been baptized by Fernando.
As he went to church, worked, and earned his diploma, Fernando transformed from the inside out. He started to dress up, and his speech changed. People began to notice the difference in him and question what was happening.
Growing in Faith and Leadership
As Fernando grew in his faith and joined the leadership group at church, he gradually developed a heart to share the Gospel in Catalina, a village outside of San Pedro, where several of his family members lived, including his mother-in-law and sister, who were involved in witchcraft. Because many people could not travel from the town to San Pedro, the church decided to help plant a church in Catalina.
Fernando began holding a small Bible study in a relative’s house there. What started with eight adults and several children gradually grew to 30 adults and 50 children who meet every Thursday. Advancing Native Missions sent finances to construct a church that Fernando now pastors. Miraculously, his mother-in-law and sister began attending with his wife and children, and both encountered Jesus and were saved and delivered from witchcraft.
Fernando has continued evangelizing and has started a group called The Champions Group. He invites members of different gangs to attend this gathering once a week with the agreement that they will have Bible Study and no one will fight – a huge concession for the gang members to make, as fighting among gangs is the norm.
Fernando persists in spreading the Gospel in Catalina and San Pedro. Despite opposition in Catalina, he faithfully leads people to the Lord, and the church is growing. One leader in the community has threatened to burn the church if they continue to minister there. She has also threatened to harm Fernando and his family. But he evangelizes nonetheless, and people are so amazed at the changes in him that they are attracted to the church. They love Fernando and are learning to love the Savior who transformed him.
Elise, a Seedtime and Harvest leader who helped mentor Fernando, shared this sentiment: “It’s just an unbelievable change, like when people say something is impossible. This is where God teaches me that nothing is impossible for Him.”
You Can Help, Too
You can help missionaries at Seedtime and Harvest continue to reach people like Fernando with the Gospel by giving missionary support or gifting a Bible to a new believer. Your gift will significantly impact lives for the kingdom of God.