By Kathi Macias
Mexico is in the news a lot these days. We hear of gang violence, drug wars, murders, kidnappings, financial woes, and political chaos. In America we battle over how best to close our borders to illegal immigration (or legalize those who came here illegally), as thousands continue to sneak into the country, some in search of a better life through employment, others to smuggle or sell drugs—or even humans. Sadly, there’s a lot of truth to all the negative we hear about this situation. But how often do we hear about the extreme devotion of Mexican believers in Jesus Christ—“evangelicos,” as they are known in some parts of the country—who willingly give everything they have, sometimes including their very lives, for their faith?
Not often enough, in my opinion. Hence, the writing of More than Conquerors, the second book in my new Extreme Devotion series from New Hope Publishers. Releasing simultaneously with book one of the series—No Greater Love, set in South Africa in 1989, during the violence and upheaval preceding the fall of Apartheid—More than Conquerors is a work of fiction based in truth. As a longtime, avid supporter of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), I was greatly inspired by the real-life, modern-day stories of both missionaries and nationals around the world who daily pay a great price for carrying the cross of Christ. Each story in the four-book series has its roots in the lives of those whose suffering often mirrors the biblical accounts found in Hebrews 11.
More than Conquerors was probably the easiest of the four books to write, simply because I have spent time in Mexico and am somewhat familiar with the culture. I also speak what I would refer to as “conversational Spanish”—meaning, it’s not fluent by any means but I can get by in a face-to-face dialogue. As a result, the book seemed to flow more readily than the others. The exception was the substantial portion of the story that takes place in San Juan Chamula in Chiapas State—Mayan country. As with the other books in the series, I had to delve into the culture and customs of the people to bring those sections of the book to life.
I learned a lot in the process. Going in, I knew only that Christians were facing severe persecution in that area of Mexico. What I didn’t know was that many of the Mayans living there actually consider themselves Catholics, though what passes for Catholicism in their midst would scarcely be recognizable to true Catholics in other parts of the world, or even in other parts of Mexico.
I discovered that the main church in Chamula—St. John’s—is still considered a Catholic church and even has a cross out front. Inside, however, the statues of Catholic saints have been removed and replaced with statues of Mayan worship. In addition, a mass hasn’t been heard within St. John’s walls in decades.
From there I learned that the Mayans had absorbed some Catholic doctrine and beliefs while not jettisoning their ancient teachings, resulting in a watered-down perversion of Christianity steeped in superstition. Lady shamans, known as curanderas, rose to prominence and power through intimidation, playing on the fears and illiteracy of many of the local residents. It was an easy step from there to convince many of these followers of a perverted Catholic faith that the “evanglicos”—those who read, study, and proclaim the truth of the Bible and therefore contradict the teachings of the curanderas—were not only wrong and evil but also the cause of any problems or tragedies that came their way. The few Bible-believing Christians living in the area have suffered greatly as a result.
It was against that backdrop that I wrote More than Conquerors. The main character, Hector Rodriguez, pastors a small house church in the border town of Tijuana, where he lives with his wife and three small children. Hector also makes occasional trips to San Juan Chamula and other outlying areas of his beloved country to deliver Bibles and to speak to any who will listen to the truth of the gospel. His mother, Virginia, accompanies him on one of his trips and feels God has called her to remain with one of the few Christian families in Chamula, where she will use the Bible as her primer to teach reading to any who will come.
Hector grieves and worries over his mother’s decision, but he knows she has to follow God’s leading, wherever that takes her. Still, he doesn’t give up hoping that she will soon return to the relative safety of their Tijuana home.
He soon realizes, however, that Tijuana is not without its own dangers and challenges. When gang violence threatens to invade the sanctity of their Casa de Dios church, Hector wrestles with the possible cost to himself and his family. How far must they go to follow this call of Christ?
Hector’s American protégé, Marty, faces a similar challenge. Recently graduated from Bible college and seeking God for clear direction, Marty crosses the border from San Diego and spends time with the Rodriguez family. It isn’t long before he finds himself deeply attracted to Hector’s beautiful young sister-in-law. As the romance develops and Marty finds himself pulled to follow in Virginia’s footsteps and minister to the Mayans in San Juan Chamula, he wonders if it’s fair to marry and take a wife into such a dangerous situation.
None of the four books in this series offers any simplistic or pat answers; instead they challenge readers to search their own hearts and evaluate the depth of their own commitment to follow Christ, regardless of the cost. In the process of writing this series, my commitment and dedication was also challenged to the core, even as my love and admiration for my suffering brothers and sisters in Christ deepened beyond my greatest imaginings. I am both grateful and humbled that God allowed me to write such stories of love and adventure for such a noble cause.
Kathi Macias is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—as well as a radio show host and a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books and ghostwritten many others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and is a regular guest on radio and television. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association). Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley.
Valerie Comer here: Interested in reading Kathi Macias' book More than Conquerors? Kathi is giving away one copy to someone who lives on Planet Earth (at least in an area where such book giveaways are allowed) and who leaves a comment with valid email address before Friday midnight (PST). The winner will be announced in the May 13 Sunday Edition here at ICFW.