We were on our way back to Tampico from Ciudad Valles. During the 2 hour drive, Helen and I discussed the events of the day. It had been an overwhelming feeling of joy and blessing to see how the Lord had used $300 from children in Florida to bless children in Mexico that He had chosen to receive the gift of shoes. On top of that, it had been our introduction to Enrique Hernandez and his wife Ethel and their ministry to poor people in the Colonia Solidaridad (we call it “Soli”). We felt strongly that the Lord had not intended this to be a onetime event and we wondered what other plans the Lord had for us and Soli.
The next day we mentioned to Erika, Enrique’s daughter and our student at Ebenezer Seminary, that we’d like to meet with Enrique again when it would be convenient for him. The purpose of this meeting would be to discuss future ministry opportunities for us in the work at Soli. Erika promised she would give our request to her father.
Two weeks later we returned to Ciudad Valles to have the meeting with Enrique.
As we discussed the needs of the children in Soli, he said, “Many of these children go to school each day without having had any breakfast. The family can only provide one meal a day. I have to think the children would do better in school if they weren’t hungry.” I immediately thought of the poor children in our schools back in Virginia and how the schools provide a breakfast for them. Evidently there was no such program in Mexico.
We agreed with Enrique that breakfast was important for school children and asked him to do some research as to what it would cost to have this program. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for the next day.
Enrique’s research came up with a cost of 5 pesos daily for each child. This was going to work out to about 75 dollars a week. We had to tell him that we couldn’t commit to anything right then, but we’d pray about it and see him the next day. As the meeting broke up, Enrique mentioned that we didn’t need to make a long term commitment, but could try it for two months and see what developed.
After prayer and sleeping on it, Helen and I felt this was something the Lord wanted us to do. Helen, being practical, brought up the question of how we would pay for it. I remember commenting that, "If the Lord is in it, He will provide, and if He isn’t, we’ll provide." That day, before heading back to Tampico, we went to an ATM and got enough pesos for Enrique to get the program started and we committed to two months.
We were confident that the Lord was in this program and were curious to learn how He would provide. Upon our return to Tampico we got the answer. An email from a friend was waiting for us. In the email, he asked us where he could send a contribution for our mission work in Mexico. He had read my email about the shoes for poor children in Mexico and had $500 he wanted to contribute. The Lord sure got our attention with this email. He had moved in our friend’s heart before we had made the commitment to Enrique. Any doubt we might have had that the Lord was in this was removed at once. It is hard to describe the emotions we felt when we realized the significance of that short email.
The program started in September of 2003 and at the end of the school year in July of 2004, Enrique had an official from the government pay him a visit. This man told Enrique that for the first time ever, the children living in Solidaridad had scored passing grades in the school exams. This person had been sent to find what had changed in that poor neighborhood. The people at the school didn’t have an answer, but told him that he should go see Enrique. Enrique told him that all he knew was that the children for the first time were not going to school hungry.
Over the years, the breakfast program has made a profound impact on Solidaridad. When it was started, Enrique and his wife, Ethel, would prepare the food for breakfast each night in their home in Ciudad Valles. Early in the morning they would take it by bus out to the mission and serve breakfast to the children. When it would rain the road into Soli would be impassable and they would have to walk up and down the muddy arroyos to carry the food in. As the people in the community saw what they were doing solely because of their love of the children and Jesus, their attitude toward the mission changed. Some people, who had been hostile to Enrique and Ethel and had actually persecuted them, now came forward and asked if they could help. Eventually, mothers in Soli worked out a schedule where they took turns preparing the food to take some of the burden off Enrique and Ethel. The actions of these two spoke volumes as it demonstrated to the people of Soli the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ. More and more children and their parents began coming to the mission for food and left with Christ in their hearts.