He Had a Vision
Jesus Robledo Alvarado dug alone with his pick and shovel through the rock hard (“caliche”) ground and hit water 9 meters down. He then dug four more meters to water the fields of beans and corn he would plant. While others in La Reforma continued to depend on spring and fall rains, which had become more scarce in recent years, Jesus watered and harvested a bean crop that helped feed the family for a year.
After a second harvest of both beans and corn, he decided to plant a field of alfalfa for the sheep and goats. His village of La Reforma had just seen power lines reach the village but only one family could afford to connect to the grid. The gasoline-fired pump would have to be worked on before irrigating the more distant, new field.
So he set out early on the morning of Monday, November 19 with screws for the pump and went down three times that day into the well. Wife Marie Cruz and their youngest children, boys four and nine, brought lunch at noon. Perhaps while eating the young couple recalled celebrating their marriage two years before in the grand setting of Central Christian Church San Luis Potosi, with his friend Pastor Josue Martinez Cisneros presiding.
The decision to marry Marie Cruz was the result of other big changes in Jesus’ life. While working as a mason for eight years in several states of the U.S., the vision of living a life of faith and service of others had transformed Jesus. On returning to La Reforma, his first Sunday he gave thanks and
worshipped at La Reforma Disciples of Christ Church. Francisco Azuara met him that Sunday and immediately recognized this was a young man who could help him in serving the congregation.
A layperson at Central Christian in the state capital, 76 year old Francisco had for six months been leading in worship at the Church but in speaking with his Pastor Josue Martinez they agreed they had found a pastor for La Reforma in Jesus Robledo Alvarado. Jesus had scant formal education in theology or the Bible but his story was compelling and he told it well.
Alcohol and drugs had controlled him but before leaving home for the States Jesus began attending AA meetings. Invited by an AA friend in the U.S. he became involved in a church, made the confession of faith and was baptized. On his return to Mexico, with the encouragement and help of Josue and Francisco, he served as Pastor of La Reforma for two and a half years.
Eager to develop his skills and leadership as a pastor he attended all the trainings and conferences
he was invited to attend. I met and talked with him for the second time last month when he shared again his desire to return to the States. Life in La Reforma was hard: he had had to sell his cattle and horses as he couldn’t afford to feed them and his family and pay the children’s school fees too. The savings from his prior U.S. stay were running out. I thought I knew him when Pastor Josue told me last week of his death.
But I had known nothing of his dreams for his family and his community. He had hoped there was time at age 36 to work again in the U.S. and return with the funds that could transform lives in La Reforma. For Marie Cruz there would be enough capital for her to start a store in the village. And the connection to the power grid could be made for automatic, timed irrigation of the fields. No more tinkering with the faulty pump in a hole in the ground nine meters down.
Marie Cruz heard his cries for help but there was no way she and the boys could haul her beloved up to the surface. She went for help from the neighbors. While she was gone, the older boy Gerardo could hear his father praying before he lost consciousness, hit his head and fell into the water.
Four hundred plus people attended the funeral last Wednesday. Pastor Josue Martinez, who
presided, said he had never seen such a turn out for a burial. Most of La Reforma attended along with many from the larger town of Salinas nearby. In his homily, Josue referred again and again to the impact on the church and fellow AA group members of the deceased’s having turned his life around. Whether his example of irrigating fields in La Reforma will also have an impact remains to be seen.
What is certain is that Jesus Robledo Alvarado will be remembered by many people in La Reforma, in Salinas and in the churches of the Disciples in Mexico. The transformation and redemption of his life will be remembered. As I listened to the cries of his daughter, his oldest child, during the homily and throughout the funeral, “Por que, por que??”, I couldn’t avoid thinking that for some people in the U. S. for whom Jesus the stonemason had built walls, patios, and homes, he would be remembered as an “undocumented illegal alien”.
I want to close with acknowledgment and thanks to Francisco Azuara for his time and sharing about his relationship with Jesus. It was through our conversation that Jesus’ dreams for his family and community came to life. Here are some of the words the Francisco spoke to the La Reforma
congregation the Sunday after the death of their pastor:
“To relieve some of our sadness for the loss of our brother “Chuy” we are going to honor him with a posthumous hommage in gratitude for what he has done for this church in La Reforma in the littletime he served here.
I will begin by asking ‘what did our brother “Chuy” mean to me in the two and a half years I knew him as a coworker in this Church?’ What did he mean to you?
For me he was a young man who loved and was driven by the word of God. He worked for this church with dedication and enthusiasm; he sealed his marriage to Marie Cruz with a church wedding; he shared the word of God with you and with persons outside the Church; he prayed for divine healing of the ill. I saw him as a good father, a good spouse and a good son. Possibly he had his faults, but we as humans all have our faults and none of us are perfect.
I observed his hard work on this land and his caring for his animals. He was devoted to you of this congregation but he also had to care for and defend his parents’ legacy and that of his family. He had great hopes to overcome the hardships of his life and to know more about the word of God and to share it. As for me personally he was very respectful and helpful, honoring my age and elder status. So as for me, I will miss him and remember him for as long as I live.”