OCC Special Report - Feature Article - OCC - Mexico

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Soccer Ball Boosts Evangelism

Throwing a punch in a schoolyard fight nearly caused Ernesto to be expelled from school.

It wasn’t the first time that the pre-teen had gotten into trouble at his school in Mazatlán, Mexico. If one of the boys at school taunted him by taking his backpack, kicking him, or calling him names, Ernesto would strike back.

“I wasn’t fighting just to attract attention or get respect, I got into fighting because I felt alone,” Ernesto recalled. “I felt sad because I was ashamed of the fighting, but that only caused me to fight more to push the sadness away.”

Mexico

Ernesto didn’t see an end to his sadness until friends told him about the hope and love of Jesus. Now Ernesto tells others about the great joy of following Him.

Turning Point

Playing soccer with friends in his neighborhood helped distract Ernesto from the trouble he was experiencing at school. Still able to see how miserable he was feeling, Christians within the group began talking with him about God and invited him to church.

Wanting to experience the peace of the Lord that he had been hearing about, Ernesto asked Jesus to be his Savior two weeks after starting to attend church.

Two weeks after that, the new Christian received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift at the church.

The shoebox contained a variety of school supplies, hygiene items, and toys—including a soccer ball with pump. Ernesto was thrilled to have his own ball. He also appreciated the school supplies because for many families the items are expensive, he said.

“I was excited when I saw the school supplies in the gift because most of mine were broken or used up,” Ernesto said. “They helped me improve my grades.”

His teacher recognized him as a top student as his grades continued to improve.

Not only did his shoebox’s school supplies help him with his homework, the soccer ball would play a key part in Ernesto’s discipleship as a new believer in Jesus Christ.

“I ask them to join me and my friends talking about Jesus.”
—Ernesto

“Before, I wanted to be like other kids, to join in what they were doing and imitating them,” Ernesto said. “Now, I stand apart and ask them to join me and my friends talking about Jesus while playing soccer.”

As Ernesto participated in our follow-up discipleship program for shoebox recipients, The Greatest Journey, he learned more about how to follow Jesus and tell his family and friends about Him.

Ernesto, now 12, still uses the ball he received in his shoebox gift as an avenue to talk with his peers about Jesus in between games at their local field.

Soccer Evangelism

“After we play soccer, my friends and I invite other kids to church to hear more about Jesus,” Ernesto said. “We teach them that He is the best gift that people can get.”

Ernesto said that lessons he learned in The Greatest Journey three years ago continue to help him to talk with his family and friends about Jesus.

“The Greatest Journey had a huge impact in my life because it has amazing stories of Jesus,” Ernesto said. “It is where I got excited to learn about Him. Lesson by lesson, I was learning more about Jesus, to know He is real in my life. It is the best gift.”

“Now, as God is helping me to grow,” he said, “I can help others to grow and know about Jesus, too.”

Being discipled to disciple others has made a lasting impact in Ernesto’s family. This past year, Ernesto’s mother Mirlanda put her faith in Jesus after being invited to church by Ernesto and her mother Alisia.

“I accepted Christ because of Ernesto’s testimony,” Mirlanda said. “I’ve heard and seen him pray with his grandmother. I went to church because of him. It has made a difference in my family and myself.”

“Now, as God is helping me to grow, I can help others to grow and know about Jesus, too.”
—Ernesto

Ernesto and his grandmother Alisia (right) rejoice that his mother Mirlanda (left) placed her faith in Jesus after seeing the change in Ernesto as he decided to follow Jesus.

Mexico: Pray for communities like this one in Mexico where local churches are sharing the Gospel through Operation Christmas Child.

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