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February 14, 2014

Mexico: Women of Hope

A prison ministry offers friendship, encouragement and hope to woman living in difficult and often dangerous circumstances.

  • A New Song

    Women from two La Paz churches visit the prison weekly. They often lead the women in worship songs.

  • Celebration

    The volunteer team was excited when the prison allowed them to have a Christmas celebration for the women.

  • Encouragement

    One of the women from the church group comforts a woman who had just arrived at the prison.

  • Health Needs

    TEAM missionary Martin Gonzalez recently accompanied a medical group from Arizona to the La Paz prison. They provided basic medical care, gave talks on health issues, and offered counseling.

Cake is traditionally involved in marking cultural celebrations in many countries around the world. But for Susie Gonzalez, cake has become more than a sweet treat. It’s become a symbol of God’s provision in her and her husband’s church planting work in the city of La Paz, Mexico.

TEAM missionaries Susie and Martin Gonzalez (along with fellow TEAM colleagues and a Mexican family) planted the La Paz de Cristo Church and El Faro Church in La Paz, Mexico, a city described by the news media as a “tranquil fishing and resort city.” However, this thin, peaceful veneer often hides the fact that many of La Paz's quarter-million residents are living lives of silent desperation.

No where is this more apparent than the local women’s prison, where Susie and several women from both churches visit once a week. They sing, teach from scripture, and bring basic necessities such as soap and toilet paper. They share, cry, and pray with the women. Susie describes it as “both very hard and a great spiritual high” at the same time.

In addition to rigid regulations that prevent them from bringing anything inside that could be perceived as a weapon, the environment in the prison is “often unstable and definitely out of our control,” she says. “When one woman told us about how corrupt things are in the prison, it made me afraid. I even considered not going back. But God gives us strength to trust in Him.”

Susie believes God sends reminders that He is with them and for them. In January, Susie tried to bring a “rosca” (a traditional cake for Three Kings Day) to the women during their weekly visit. “As I signed in, the attendant warned me they had rejected passage of 21 roscas the day before, ‘but you can try,’ he told me.”

As she proceeded to the area where the volunteers are searched (an “exhausting” process, Susie says), “the woman guard looked at the rosca, moaned, and said to me under her breath, ‘This is for the women, right?’ I simply said ‘yes,’ and she began putting the wheels in motion to get that cake through. It made it in. God must have wanted them to eat cake. They loved it. Even the guards got a piece.”

This and other small details that continue to work in the women’s favor remind Susie of the importance of their work.

“These women really need someone to encourage them, teach them truths about God, give them the good news of Christ Jesus, befriend them in their difficult stay there, and pray for them and their children,” she says. “Since the ministry began, we are stopped suddenly on the streets of La Paz and thanked by ex-prisoners for visiting them, caring for them and giving them the hope of Christ.”

God continues to work both in the El Faro Church and in the church’s ministries. The church has a congregation of about 70 believers, several of whom are ex-prisoners. “We are humbled by His work through us and excited to see what He’ll do next, either by getting a cake through the search process or saving a soul,” Susie says.

-Written by Cara Davis
-Photos provided by Susie Gonzalez