A pastor in Mazatlan is seeing God use Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey to open doors for Gospel ministry.
Jesús was in trouble and he was afraid. He tried to hide from the police, knowing prison—and separation from his wife and children—awaited him.
When the police caught Jesús, he was sentenced to seven years in jail in Mazatlan, Mexico. “My life was sad. I felt defeated,” he said.
In prison, Jesús met Pastor Carlos, Operation Christmas Child National Leadership Team coordinator in Mexico. In addition to serving with Operation Christmas Child and pastoring a congregation in downtown Mazatlan, Carlos also feels called by God to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with prisoners and to help connect them with Gospel ministry when they return home.
Jesús came to faith in Jesus Christ through Carlos’ witness and outreach. “Week by week, Carlos and his wife Marilu came and taught us the Scriptures,” he said. “They love God with all their hearts. We learned how to pray and how to have a personal relationship with God.”
By God’s mercy, Jesús’ prison sentence was reduced to two years, and when he walked out of jail, “my heart had been changed. God raised me up for life, not death,” he said.
Jesús is one of numerous former prisoners who have become Christians and are now serving in feeding centers started by Pastor Carlos and his church—and each feeding center was birthed with the help of Operation Christmas Child. Some of the 12 centers used an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift distribution to launch their ministries, while other centers hosted a distribution soon after opening.
Children who received shoebox gifts at these events were invited to participate in The Greatest Journey discipleship program. Jesús taught The Greatest Journey at the feeding center where he serves and about 100 children attended.
And the discipleship didn’t end there. Ministry partners at the feeding centers lead morning devotions and Bible studies and pray with the children when they come for breakfast.
“God raised me up for life, not death.”
Jesús’ own children have also participated in The Greatest Journey and activities at the feeding center, and all have now come to faith in Jesus.
“The next generation will be blessed,” he said. “It’s the best legacy, the best inheritance, I can leave to my children.”
Obedient to God’s Call
Pastor Carlos and Marilu wanted to start working among inmates and demonstrating God’s love by offering gifts to their children.
“When I was a child, I never received a gift,” Carlos explained. “My father made very little money. We never had a birthday celebration.”
Carlos and Marilu moved to the area years ago with a desire to tell people about Jesus. “We did not know anybody. We had no financial support. But we knew God sent us here,” Carlos said.
When Carlos learned about Operation Christmas Child, he received training on how to host a shoebox outreach event and follow up with The Greatest Journey. Many children who participated in those initiatives have become Christians and are still coming to the feeding centers every morning for breakfast and Bible study.
“It is a true privilege to serve God,” Pastor Carlos said. “All this is done out of love for God.”
Showing God’s Love
Shamir and his wife Anna serve at a feeding center in a community not too far from Jesús. Shamir said that when they moved to Mazatlán they were “a long, long way from God.” Their marriage was struggling and Shamir was into drugs and alcohol.
“One day, I cried out to God. I was tired of that life,” Shamir said.
Shamir and Anna felt God calling them to Mazatlan but had no idea why. When they arrived, they connected with Shamir’s aunt, who is a Christian and shared with them the Gospel. Both Shamir and Anna prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior and were baptized.
The couple began attending Pastor Carlos’ church and he discipled them and encouraged them to start serving God in the church’s newest feeding center. Shamir and Anna helped with the Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution at the center, which served as a kickoff event for the center’s ministry among children.
“Operation Christmas Child is a huge tool. We would not have had any clue how to get started,” Shamir said.
Shamir and Anna led The Greatest Journey classes and continue to teach children every morning when they come to the center for breakfast.
“They have a need just to be loved. Every day we try to show them the love of God.”
You can bless children around the world by prayerfully packing shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items.