“Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you?”
Ten-year-old Imelda had just come home from an evening church service. She’d been growing to love and follow Jesus, and now she was ready to be baptized.
But her mom, Vicenta, would have none of it.
Their family was supposed to be Catholic, and Imelda’s involvement with a Protestant group raised all kinds of red flags for Vicenta.
“She was a minor,” Vicenta says, suspicious that someone was manipulating her daughter.
So when Imelda told her mom she wanted to be baptized, that was the deal breaker. Vicenta not only forbade the baptism, she refused to let Imelda go back to the church at all.
“[She said] I was never going to that church again,” Imelda says, “because they were putting crazy ideas in my head.”
But if her mother was going to push back, so was she. Imelda went behind Vicenta’s back and got baptized anyway. She prayed for her mom, too, hoping that someday they could worship God together.
Seeing God answer that prayer would take far more perseverance than Imelda could have ever imagined.
‘I Touched Hell’
As the years passed, Imelda began to drift away from her faith. She’d lost the spiritual support and encouragement she had received at church — and there was none at home.
By the time she was 14, Imelda’s life had gone perilously downhill.
Imelda moved in with her boyfriend, a drug dealer. On top of that, she discovered she was pregnant. For Imelda, who had only one kidney, it was life-threatening.
“The pregnancy was very difficult,” she remembers. “I spent more time in the hospital than at home.”
“I felt like I touched hell.”
A Chance for Faith — Lost
Two years after Juan, her baby boy, was safely born, Imelda decided she’d had enough. Her family had already relocated to the city of La Paz, Mexico, so she and Juan moved in with them.
Her parents provided a roof over her head, but not much more than that. They were still angry about her poor life choices.
But Imelda also found her faith slowly growing again.
Her sister-in-law was attending a church, and Imelda joined her. The two women began praying for — and inviting — the rest of their family members.
Everyone agreed to go for a while, but that stopped when the family car broke down. The church was too far away to walk. Besides, Vicenta still had her suspicions and felt forced into going.
After a few years, Imelda met and married her husband. She knew that another pregnancy would endanger her life, but she started longing for another baby.
Then Imelda’s sister got pregnant. It was a joyful time for the whole family, but Imelda felt heartbroken too. It was another dream, crushed.
“I was happy for her,” Imelda says, “but I used to say, ‘Why her and not me?’”
As Imelda navigated her silent sorrow, Vicenta’s world came apart when her own mother died unexpectedly.
Deep grief and depression became Vicenta’s daily companions, and she started questioning her upbringing. She realized that she’d never truly been part of a church community. From childhood, she had assumed that her faith was part of her identity, only to wonder now if it was just a label.
A Second Chance for Faith
As Vicenta suffered through her upheaval, she discovered El Faro Church, a church planted by TEAM missionaries and now led by local believers. She hadn’t realized there was a church so close to their home, and it piqued her interest. She’d pass by regularly and think to herself, I want to come here.
One day, as Vicenta was walking home with groceries, TEAM missionary Lois Dresselhaus was outside the church. Vicenta decided to talk to her. Lois invited Vicenta to come in, but Vicenta needed to get her groceries home and into the fridge.
Vicenta showed up that next Sunday and kept returning, both to the weekly service and the women’s Bible study on Tuesdays. The weight of her sorrow began to lift as she experienced God’s love through His people.
Invited Back to Church
TEAM missionary Brenda Matthews, who teaches at the women’s Bible study, remembers Vicenta’s first visit — and the transformation that followed.
“She came [with a] very heavy spirit,” Brenda says. But “from that week on, her whole face changed.”
About a month after Vicenta started attending, she invited Imelda.
Imelda was not interested. Years had passed since her mother had quashed her dreams, but Imelda was still angry.
“It was like a punishment for my mom,” Imelda says, “because she took me away from the other churches.”
Like her daughter had done for her, so many years ago, Vicenta began asking God to work in Imelda’s heart. Slowly, Imelda’s heart changed.
Still reluctant and skeptical, Imelda accepted her mother’s invitation.
‘Why Am I Here?”
Imelda came to El Faro grieving, just as Vicenta had done a few months before. The death of her dream to bear more children weighed heavy on her heart.
Imelda remembers one day when she was ready to give up.
Brenda didn’t know what troubled Imelda, but her message that day was about growth and change — that like trees, sometimes strength takes time. It was just what Imelda needed to hear.
“I said, ‘It’s true, I need to take my time and have a little bit more of patience,’” she says.
Surrounded with Support
Shortly after she began attending El Faro, Imelda discovered to her great joy that she was pregnant again. She was immediately put on bed rest.
Imelda reached out to the women at the Bible study and asked them to pray for her and the baby. At a time when she was physically incapable of caring for herself or Juan, her new church family surrounded her with practical support and prayer.
“I am very grateful,” Imelda says. “I kind of see them as my blood sisters, my family.”
Each new day that she and the baby were both alive was a reason to thank God. And when Imelda safely delivered her little daughter, Abi, everyone rejoiced.
Mother and Daughter, United in Christ
Imelda remembers a time, years ago, when her mother dropped her off for a church service, and a church member invited Vicenta to join them. Imelda stood there, full of hope, but Vicenta refused, saying she had to run an errand.
The church member turned toward Imelda.
“One day,” he told her, “your mother will kneel at the feet of Christ.”
If Imelda could go back to that moment, she now knows what she’d tell her younger self.
“I would tell her to have faith, to never give up,” she says. “I would tell her to be strong, to be patient.”
Now Imelda can see how God answered her prayers so many years later, as she and her mother grow together in their love for Jesus.
“It is a big blessing. … Sitting at the feet of Christ is what comes and fills your life,” Imelda says. “All the emptiness is filled by Christ.”
Imelda and Vicenta found hope — but millions of people in Mexico are still searching. How will you use your life to bring them the Gospel? Discover opportunities to serve.