This past Tuesday I ordered arrachera fajitas and he ordered stuffed chipotle peppers. The conversation that followed was incredible, and not just because of the great food.
Every now and then you meet somebody who is far more interesting than you thought he or she would be, and tells stories that are, well, extraordinary. Gaspar is from Oaxaca. He was born in Campeche. He lives in and around and with some of the most marginalized people on the planet, where ignorance is exploited, where strongmen dominate. But no one exploits Gaspar, or Chable, as many call him. Gaspar is unexploitable. He is dangerous, because he has knowledge, and more dangerous because he has truth.
He certainly doesn’t seem exceptional, packing in guacamole and stuffed chipotle. Indeed, he seems nearly invisible, just another short Mexican of Indian descent. Shorter than me even. I only needed one question to start an intriguing dialogue. Why are you the way you are? Why, when so many Christians are stuck in their little church services, isolated in their little temples, why do you see the world and see faith so differently? I was, after all, meeting him to deliver to him 20,000 anti-parasite pills and 18 wheelchairs, hardly a load of tracts, but so much more effective (and needed). You can’t eat tracts.
My dad was a Christian, he said. He worked as a teacher, but he was a Christian, and the wars in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua pushed hundreds of Central Americans up to Mexico in the 70s. There was a steady stream of immigrants regularly crossing Mexico’s southern border.
These immigrants were not appreciated by the Mexican population, and the perception was that they took jobs and resources that were already scarce. But my dad fed them, Gaspar said. He would tell them he would feed them for two days, and then they would need to move on or get work. We were actually rejected by much of the town for extending help. Gaspar was deeply impressed by the example of his father’s faith. Faith that reached out. It created an insatiable desire to DO rather than just talk. The evangelical church had gotten Christ of the cross. Gaspar wanted to get him out of the church building.
Gaspar went on to study at Lacy Baptist Bible school in Oaxaca. He was kicked out 5 times, not because of discipline issues, but because he was “divisive.” Instead of reading the required Bible assignments, he would visit people in the hospital. Instead of memorizing verses, he would devise ways to raise funds to help the poor. He was involved in holistic ministry before it was cool. Finally, he relates, he graduated, as a peace-keeping pact between him and the institution.
Below, Gaspar, Dave Miller (a kindred spirit) and me, at a FAMEX missions conference in Villa de las Flores last year.