Mexico City is one of the most crowded cities in the world. Over 20 million people try to survive the traffic, the pollution and life every day. Many have struggled to carve out a small spot to live and work in the giant city and its surroundings.
Angelica and her husband Miguel came to the city nearly 20 years ago. Trying to find jobs, they left their hometown in Veracruz. In addition to leaving their families, they also left behind part of their culture in order to build a better life together.
They established themselves in Mexico City near some close relatives who provided temporary support and guidance for survival.
Angelica and Miguel had dreams to study and prosper, but the couple had to start working right away, because their firstborn son was on his way. As their needs increased, there were no more opportunities for personal development or studies. It was necessary to take whatever job was available.
Miguel held different labor jobs until he settled for a job with a car manufacturing company. They offered a low wage but provided the security Miguel needed for his wife and unborn son.
The area where this family lives is located on a hill, right outside of Mexico City. It is crowded with people sharing the same problems — low incomes and high unemployment rates. This area has a very high rate of robbery, drugs and violence.
The homes in this neighborhood consist of small, cement rooms. The houses crowd up the hills, and from the distance they look like cement shoeboxes, piled up with no plan or order.
Angelica’s family now lives in a vecindad, which is a cement-built set of rooms, much like the old-fashioned tenement apartments.
They have only one room for the entire family. The older boys, 18-year-old Alejandro and 14-year-old Miguel, share the top bunk bed; 12-year-old daughter Angelica uses the bottom bed, and Luis, the youngest at 8, shares the bed with his parents.
The family has a small hall that they use as a kitchen and sitting area.
They share their bathroom, their washing tub, clotheslines and patio with 11 other families living on the ground level and the second floor.
One day the family met a woman from the church who worked as a volunteer there. She served at the children’s club that is now one of our child development centers.
She invited the little ones to come to the program, and Angelica allowed them to come. Afterward, Luis was registered at the Happy Faces Club Child Development Center.
After Luis’ registration, Angelica started to come, volunteering a few afternoons to get to know the program.
After a couple of years, Angelica became a Christian and enjoyed the benefits of the teachings her children received at the center.
“The word of God came to our home through the children.”
Angelica was the first to start reading the Bibles her children received from the children’s club. She said that one of the first sections of the Bible to make an impact on her life was Psalm 51,
“Because it speaks about the sin and the forgiveness of God and how He can create a clean heart in us, and then it teaches us how to live.”
As part of Compassion’s strategy to release children from poverty, children are provided with Bibles. But how can a Bible help children find their way out of poverty?
Children in this part of Mexico are regularly threatened by violence, robbery and gangs, even in their own homes. Children easily become hardened and develop low self-esteem. Receiving a Bible has been a great gift, especially after the church tells them that the Bibles hold precious treasures for them.
Miguel, the teenage son shares,
“Receiving such a gift made me feel important.”
But this is not the only benefit of a Bible. All three children took their Bibles home and shared the love of God with their parents. Luis constantly asked his mother to read his favorite Bible stories for him.
He was too little to read and needed help, so out of curiosity his mother started reading the powerful Word of God.
The daughter, Angelica, had always been close to her father, and she didn’t hesitate to share the Bible verses she learned at the program with her daddy. One day when she, her mother and brothers came home from church, Miguel mocked them and called them “alleluias,” a common name used to make fun of Christians.
This was one of the most stressful times for the children and their mother, but they remained faithful and continued attending church. Instead of fighting their own father, the children prayed and invited him to see with his own eyes what they did at church. After only a few weeks he decided to come to church with them and became a Christian himself.
After Miguel committed his life to the Lord, he changed his old ways. He does not spend any money buying alcohol, and he is committed to his family. He does not use bad words or yell at the children.
Every morning before sunrise, at four in the morning, father Miguel gets up to pray and spend time reading his Bible and praying to the Lord.
Angelica shares about her husband and marriage,
“Miguel used to be very different. He even admitted to wandering off on the streets before coming home, instead of taking the children to church on the week days.
And I used to be very rebellious; I used to fight constantly with my husband about the expenses or just any other reason…. Now when I get mad, I try not to do as I used to do before. I am trying to become a better woman and wife.”
Other than the old TV and homework, reading the Bible has become one of the children’s afternoon activities to help them stay entertained. The children in this cement shoebox are very close to their family and to God.
Now at home the children sometimes start sharing the verses they have memorized. It is almost like a contest: One of them starts with one verse and another one follows. Sometimes two or three start at the same time, and the oldest son, Alejandro, acts as a referee.
They keep a record of the Bible verses, and at the end they acknowledge who said the most. They have developed their own rules: They cannot say the same verse if someone has used it before, and they need to say the verse and the reference, otherwise it is not valid.
Their walls are covered with their favorite verses or with the ones they are memorizing. Their home is full of the words of God.