Most boys at the juvenile prison where we minister have lived on the streets with no one to care for them.
These boys, boys as young as twelve years of age and up through age eighteen, have endured abuse, suffered from drug addiction, and gone without any formal education. Our hearts go out to them. We pour out as much love as we can on them every week holding Bible studies, leading worship, playing games, and enjoying meals together. The time we get to spend with them is making a huge impact on their lives. Three of the boys feel a calling to become pastors. Others want to become Christian leaders in other areas. Yet sadly, a lot of these boys are afraid to be released from prison because that means going back to the same environment that led them to where they are. It has been our dream and prayer to provide a safe place for these precious young boys when they are released from prison.
Our dream is finally coming to fruition. God opened up an incredible opportunity in November of 2019 for us to purchase a property in Nogales, Mexico, that we can use as a safe house for the boys when they are released. This property comes with a four-bedroom house and a large, partially constructed building behind the house. Once finished, it will have a living quarters complete with bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. There is room on the property to build a community center that can be used to hold Bible studies, church services, and community outreaches.
In addition, God has provided just the right house parents, Jaime and Mary Fuentes.
Jaime and Mary’s Story
Jaime and Mary Fuentes are no strangers to troubled backgrounds. We met Mary in 2012 at a prison Bible study we hold each week at a women’s prison. When Mary was just six years old, her father kidnapped her. She never got to know her mother. Then when she was just 14 years of age, Mary’s father died in an accident. She thought, “Why me? Why my dad?”
Four years later Mary met Jaime, who would become her husband. He was working as a drug dealer, and Mary became his top helper. She enjoyed the comforts of having nice clothing, cars, jewelry, and a house. The couple became parents to three beautiful children. As time went on, Mary started using drugs herself and became an addict. Christians would come to the house, but Mary always rejected them because she thought that if God truly loved her, her dad would still be alive. Even though she loved her children, she was afraid to change.
When Jaime was 13 years old, his father abandoned the family and Jaime became the father figure to his seven siblings. His family needed more income so Jaime decided to go to Nogales, Arizona, to look for a better job to help out his mom. That’s when he became a drug dealer. While running drugs back and forth from Mexico to the U.S., he ended up in jail for the first time. After his release he returned to running drugs and made lots of money, but soon he started using the drugs he was selling. He was 31 years old when he met Mary.
It wasn’t long before federal officers caught up with Jaime. He was jailed and soon deported. The couple lost everything and landed in Nogales, Mexico. Mary prayed God would do a miracle in her life. Although it was very difficult, both she and Jaime quit doing drugs and moved back to the U.S. with their five children.
Jaime found a legitimate job, enabling him to afford a house and cars. Nonetheless, in 2007 the family was deported and lost everything again. Now with six children, Jaime and Mary felt hopeless. Life in Mexico is hard, especially with six kids. When it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, on October 11, 2011, Mary was falsely accused of a crime and landed in prison. Jaime was forced to take over both dad and mom duties. It was not easy, as they were living in an abandoned house with dirt floors. The house had been gutted and had no electricity or water. There were no windows, doors, bathrooms, or kitchen.
Even though it seemed that their situation was hopeless, God answered Mary’s prayer for a miracle. That miracle occurred the day we met Mary at the prison and she accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. She was baptized in the women’s prison! We prayed with her for her freedom, and she was released from prison five months later.
When Mary told Jaime she had accepted Jesus as her Savior and that she met some missionaries who were going to help them, Jaime didn’t believe her. No one had ever done anything that nice for them.
We were happy to help the family get their lives in order, but then their son Isaias became very ill. He technically died, but God revived him and gave him his life back. That miracle really struck Mary.
Even so, the Fuentes family had their new-found faith tested. In 2014, during Isaias’s continued struggle with lung problems and seizures, Mary found out that after being cancer free for seven years, her leukemia had returned. She had to take a bus to and from her four-hour chemotherapy sessions. Jaime was left to tend to Isaias’s serious health issues and care for their other kids as Mary was not able to. Yet the couple stayed committed to God and relied on Him to heal both Isaias and Mary. In the midst of their struggles, they asked us if they could serve in ministry alongside us. They remained faithful, continued to seek God, and eventually became part of our ministry team, God is on the Move.
Now Jaime ministers with us at the boys’ prison every Thursday. He even helps us baptize them. He understands the young men, having himself experienced drug addiction and life in prison. His advice carries great weight.
Jaime said, “God has made me into a new creature that is thirsty for His Word. He made me a man, a father, a husband, and He gave me a new life full of love. My father abandoned me when I was young, but God, my heavenly Father, has never left me.”
Mary has been cancer free since November 2017. She serves and ministers weekly to the women who are in the same prison where she herself was once incarcerated. She reflected on her journey:
These missionaries didn’t care who we were or what we had done. They came and showed us love and helped us like no one else did. They showed us God’s love has no boundaries. God brought my youngest son, Isaias, back from the dead. Only He could do that. After I accepted Jesus as my Savior, He changed my life from a life of pain, sadness, hopelessness, and drugs into that of a happily baptized, married woman with six wonderful kids. Now God rules my life and I am the happiest I have ever been. I know God gave His only Son for me and that He loves us no matter who or what we are.“
About the Author
Bill and Fayth McConnell (far right) are Open Bible missionaries to Northern Mexico. Click here if you would like to learn more about their ministry or to support their ministry.