BAREFOOT AND SAD
Juan* grew up outside of Chichicastenango. His parents owned several milk cows and goats. As a boy Juan’s job along with his five brothers and two sisters was to milk the cows, sell the milk to neighbors and scavenge enough food for the cattle to fill their bellies for the night. Each day Juan did this fearing that if he didn’t get enough milk, his mother would beat him or that if the cows were still hungry at night, he would have to wander the dark fields looking for more food to give the hungry cows at 10 o’clock that night.
Juan said he was almost always barefoot. He almost never received money from his parents for a toy or some candy treat. It was a childhood of fear and little love. Once he was given a pair of rubber boots and these were one of his prized possessions. Now it is some 30 years later, and he remembers those rubber boots with a special smile.
When Juan was about six years old, his father became a pastor of a small country church. Sadly, while his father was teaching the people in the church about the Word of God, little changed in the home. Juan said that as he entered his teen years he received almost no advice on what it means to be a man of God or things he should stay away from.
At one point Juan had accepted Christ, but as he describes it now, it was only with his lips not his heart. Juan said he had been sick and someone asked if he wanted to become a Christian so he agreed to this and prayed but he did not allow God to change his heart.
ALCOHOL AND GIRLFRIENDS
As Juan passed 16 years of age, he was soon carousing with friends, seeing five different girlfriends and getting drunk with other young men. Once he and some friends were walking the street drunk when they got into a fight with another man. After they beat the man up, they knew that his friends would chase them so he ran to his father’s church where a meeting was taking place. Soon, their pursuers caught them in the church and tied up Juan and his friends. After giving them a beating, they untied them and threw them into a well to sober them up.
Still Juan didn’t change his way of living. He played soccer as much as he could, and he was well known as being a great player in the stadium in Chichi. He continued to drink and run around. He said that he and his friends would sneak through the cemetery and steal liquor that people left for their ancestor’s spirits during the Day of the Dead.
At about 18 years old, Juan and a young lady named, Olivia,* committed fornication together. A few months later Olivia told Juan she was pregnant.
Juan didn’t know what to do so he left town without telling anyone. Soon he found himself working for a man near the coast still wondering what he should do. All this time, his family didn’t know where he was or why he left. Eventually, the girl’s father visited Juan’s dad and explained that his daughter was pregnant and that Juan was the father. Things started to make sense, but Juan’s dad still didn’t know where he had gone.
One day, Juan’ dad met a man in the market of Chichicastenango who knew that Juan was working at the coast. Juan soon was standing face to face with his father who traveled all the way to the coast to confront his son.
ANOTHER BAD DECISION
At first, Juan said he left just to find work, but his father told him he knew there was more to it and that he needed to come home. Finally, Juan agreed to return, but in his mind he decided that he would try to abort the baby to keep from having this “problem” in his life.
When he arrived in his home town, Juan talked with the girl and they agreed to visit a doctor to get an abortion even though they are not only wrong, but also illegal in Guatemala.
At the doctor’s office, the woman doctor talked with the young couple and explained why they shouldn’t get an abortion. Since it is illegal for a woman to get an abortion in Guatemala except if her life is threatened, the doctor explained how Juan could end up in prison if they went through with this. Flustered but determined, Juan and Olivia left the doctors office determined to try another way.
Juan bought some pills and gave them to Olivia to abort the baby, but nothing happened and soon, it was very evident that a baby was on it’s way.
In a quiet legal ceremony, Juan and Olivia got married and their daughter was born. Thankfully, she was a healthy, beautiful baby. Even at this time, Juan had little change of heart or lifestyle. He still drank and when he met his old girlfriends in town they would asked him who was the woman he was with. He told them that she was his sister.
SICKNESS TO SALVATION
After some time, Juan became very sick. This soccer player who it seemed that nothing could stop him, was sick and in his bed for 15 days.
It was lying there on his back that he realized that he couldn’t keep going on like this. He felt that God was using this sickness to give him the chance to change his life. There in his bed, he turned his life over to God and decided to never take it back.
After that, Juan gradually got better and he spent all his spare time in the church serving in one way or another. He kept praying for a job, but stayed busy serving in the church. Eventually, he was asked to help with the youth group at his father’s church. As evidence of his life change continued to be obvious, his old friends asked why he didn’t drink with them or hang out with them any more.
God did answer Juan’s prayer for a job and he got a low wage job at a local ministry where he continues to serve and have income for his family. Olivia now sells things in the local market on Sundays and their family has grown to four children. Now, Juan is training up his oldest daughter and other children to avoid the same mistakes he made and raising them to follow Christ.
How amazing that God saved that little baby, Juan and his entire family and now Juan is training up a new generation of children who will follow Christ.
*Names have been changed to protect identity in this true story.