“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

I met Alandro on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, 2001. I was on a short-term mission trip to a small village outside of Ensenda, Mexico, with my wife and three small children and some other families. We were putting on a Vacation Bible School (VBS) and holding meetings in the neighborhood church.

It was a cold and rainy day. Alandro stood in his bare feet, shyly watching the other Mexican kids in the village shoot baskets at the VBS festival booth that my son David (age ten at the time) and I manned. Alandro was about the same age as David, but he lived in a very different world.

In Alandro’s world, little pieces of garbage were blowing around everywhere, landing in the ravines at the side of the dirt roads and landscaping the hillsides. His mother was busy trying to feed and care for four younger siblings. His father was out of work again and at the bar.

I held up a basketball to Alandro, smiled and said “Jueges?” (Games). But he shook his head no and looked down.

I smiled again, held up a lolly pop, and in my broken Spanish enticed him, “Jueges para dulces?” (Play game for candy?). He shook his head no again.

Not willing to give up, I replied, “Jueges, Amigo!” and handed him the basketball anyway. I smiled and motioned for him to shoot. So he did! Free of hesitation and fear, the rest of the afternoon Alandro shot baskets at our booth. And every time he made a basket he was the one smiling, as he stuffed his pocket with another dulces from my son!

Later that day, midway through the festival, Alandro sat down in the dirt behind the one room church with 125 other kids from the village to hear in Spanish “The Wordless Book,” a colorful and symbolic felt booklet which shares the story of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  He was one of twenty-one Mexican kids who prayed to ask Jesus to come into his heart for the first time! And he and his friends learned that the church nearby was a fun and caring place.

It all started with a smile, a ball, and a piece of candy! Caring for people opens the door to share the gospel of Christ.

Our family is going back to Mexico to build houses for families in need. This will be Soul Shepherding’s first mission trip as Kristi and I will offer soul care and spiritual mentoring to pastors and missionaries. Read more…

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