From Desperation to Transformation

“THIS IS YOUR LIFE,” Nidia thought despondently. It was nothing like the life she had dreamed of when she fell in love and committed her life to Raul. Raul had drifted back to the habits of his alcoholic home. He sold chicharrónes (fried pork skins) from their rusted-zinc home and drank up the profits while she went to work for the government. She had to get past trash and empty bottles daily, picking her way around Raul and his drunken friends playing dominoes while their three children ran around unsupervised. Life was never meant to turn out this way.

Nidia could see the children suffering the consequences of their chaotic life. Esaul, their only boy, was especially affected. His father’s negative influence caused him to cling to his mother as his source of identity and support. Tormented as a sissy by friends and neighbors, he grew to hate himself. One day he heard of a neighborhood Bible class and began to attend. He was invited to the IBQ church, and he took his two sisters to escape the turmoil of their home for a few hours. “It seemed like heaven,” Esaul reported. Eagerly, he returned home to tell his mother what he had discovered. To his surprise, Nidia knew all about the IBQ church.

She remembered accepting Christ at the IBQ church in her youth. “I knew we needed God, but I was so ashamed by the mess I had made of my life when I walked away from God.” She recognized that she could not go on exposing her children to this lifestyle. In desperation, she asked a Christian neighbor to accompany her and the children to church. The following Sunday, they were dressed and ready to go.

That Sunday, Nidia re-dedicated her life to Christ, and the older children, Barlin and Esaul, followed her example. They began to attend church faithfully, everyone except for Raul. Their relationship and home life continued to deteriorate until Nidia started taking steps to separate from him.

One Sunday, Pastor Rudy urged all of the wives to turn in their unbelieving husbands’ names and contact information, and he would visit them personally. Nidia reported, “I was too angry and disgusted with Raul, so I refused. But someone else—I don’t know who—gave Raul’s information!” Shortly after, Pastor Rudy showed up at their home. “Good to see you, Sister Nidia, but I have come to visit with Raul.”

After Pastor Rudy left, Raul reflected, “I was already in the middle of another alcoholic binge, but I still heard his words as he shared the power of Christ to change my life. After that, I tried unsuccessfully to drink less. Thanks to God, Pastor Rudy returned to visit me again. This time I made the decision to commit my life to Christ. The change in me was so radical that I mark that day, now eight years ago, as the day a new Raul began!”

The drinking stopped, but friends and family scoffed, “This won’t last more than a few weeks!” In the weeks and months that followed, Raul’s heart transformation was unquestionable, as other aspects of his life gradually began to change. He became active with the men’s group in the church and became an effective witness to others of the changes God can make in a life. More recently, he has accepted a leadership role in the nearby community of La Ceiba, a new church plant from the IBQ church.

Nidia and Raul’s children were chosen for a Samuel’s Fund sponsorship, which they described as, “a blessing fallen straight from heaven.” As a sponsored family, they occasionally received groceries through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering. In the past, their eating had always been haphazard, anything to fill their stomachs, but little by little, they learned to enjoy healthier food. “Today, we eat completely different than we used to,” Nidia reported.

Through the tutoring and home visits that accompanied the sponsorship, the children began to thrive in their education and in other ways. Esaul continued to struggle with his self-image, feeling empty and criticized by others as “not manly enough.” Gradually, he made new friends with other sponsored children. The staff of STCH Ministries also provided new opportunities for growth, including relationships with mission team members and exposure to English and music lessons.

The children became involved in the music ministry of the church. They joined the children’s choir and began music lessons every Tuesday afternoon. Esaul was drawn to the challenge of playing the violin. He began to play on a borrowed violin named ‘Lulu.’ “I felt happier than ever to be good at something that not everyone can do,” Esaul reported. His proficiency on the violin improved and he began teaching other children to play. One day he was asked to play for a mission team banquet. “I felt totally nervous, but as I felt the sweet melody of the songs, my anxiety disappeared, and I praised God for blessing me.” After five years playing on ‘Lulu,’ Esaul received a new violin provided by his sponsor’s donations. He named his new violin ‘Evangelin.’ “She has a color that is totally beautiful, and I want to show others the work of God through my notes on ‘Evangelin.’”

For those living in the neighborhood that surrounded the Figueroa family, the most radical change that followed their spiritual rebirth occurred through the construction ministry of STCH Ministries International. One day Russell Jerez showed up at their home to deliver a bed for each of the children built by a mission team. He was shocked to see the dilapidated, unsafe condition of their house. He was concerned that it could not survive the next tropical storm. Russell considered how to reinforce the roof, but its deteriorated condition made that impossible.

The STCH Ministries staff and the Figueroa family began to pray. Soon, funds were donated and at least six successive mission teams contributed to rebuilding their home into a beautiful, concrete home. As God continued the greater transformation in their family and individual lives, the rebuilding of the dilapidated wooden hovel into a modern two-story home became the talk of the neighborhood, for which God received all the glory.

Today, Barlin, Esaul’s older sister, has graduated from high school, and through the Christian Leadership Educational Program (CLEP), she is studying photography. Esaul continues his work on the violin, and the youngest sister, Niandra, excels in her schoolwork.

Barlin shared her vision “that the Lord continues to keep us on His paths, that He will be our Day and our Light in the darkness, and that through our lives, others will be guided to our Savior’s feet.”

What happens when, lost in the chaos of life and the results of our willful choices, we desperately grab onto the only sliver of hope that we know? Perhaps only a fuzzy, inaccurate picture of Jesus learned as a child, over the years disobeyed, ignored and disrespected appears in our minds. Yet now, in desperation, we cry, “Help me, Jesus!”

God promises, “If anyone be in Christ, they are a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The new creation happens instantly when we accept Christ by faith into our lives. But the process of old things passing away, and all things becoming new, involves a sequence of events and the investment of many lives to accomplish.

How many teams and individuals invested in that family? How long did it take? Possibly as many as ten teams, including follow-up visits from the IBQ church and STCH Ministries staff, plus the donations from many more and the sponsors of the children. Is it worth it? Would time not be better spent sharing 500 tracts and testimonies door-to-door? Possibly. How much time and effort did Jesus invest during His short time on earth to disciple only twelve? Jesus healed, taught in the synagogue and fed 5,000 and crowds followed. However, the greater amount of time He invested in those disciples began a multiplication process that continues today.

“Go into all the world,” commanded Jesus just before He returned to His Father. Wait! That’s not the full commandment. What about the rest of His directions? “Make disciples… teaching them to observe all things I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Sharing the Gospel message takes minutes, and it is an essential beginning. Fulfilling all that Jesus commanded is much more complex and expensive in terms of resources and life investment. However, through many teams who return annually, building relationships, and partnering with Dominican ministries, Jesus’ Kingdom-building commandment can be fulfilled.