by Erick Schenkel

Elizabeth and I just returned from the Yucatán Peninsula, where we helped show “The Story of Jesus for Children” and “Magdalena” in three villages on three consecutive nights and saw over 400 precious people make decisions to follow Jesus! We were there working with a partner organization, The Message for Mayans. Each weekend they visit one of the more than 1,000 such villages in the region. Along with us was another partner, Feet that Move, who made it possible for us to distribute shoes to many of the villagers.

Each evening, as the light faded, we settled onto the warm concrete or crusty dust in the center of a Mayan village of 250-500 residents. Sprawled around us were the children of the village. Behind them are the adults, sitting on rows and rows of simple wooden benches or plastic chairs. The screen in front of us flickered to life and soon we are all engrossed in the film, presented in the Mayan language.

The children of the village had already enjoyed games led by the team of Mayan followers of Jesus who spend every weekend evening bringing the good news to people in these remote villages. The young people entertained the children with games, skits, and a puppet show. So by the time the projector was turned on, most of the village had been drawn into the square.

We were especially touched on the third night by two tiny, wrinkled old Mayan ladies sitting on chairs in the very front row just behind the children. They both leaned forward, captivated from the first moment by this film, shown on the big screen and featuring actors speaking their own language. When Jesus was arrested the two ladies leaned forward, their eyes glued to the screen, hands covering their mouths. Even the children hush, mouths gaping, eyebrows knit in concern. Jesus is nailed to the cross and the entire community gasps at once. And when the invitation is given, these two ladies joined well over one half of the village as they stepped forward to pray and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Each night, after prayers were said, tears shed, and friendships in Christ begun, our team of Americans, along with the team of Mayan young people, climbed back onto our bus, reluctantly leaving our new brothers and sisters—tired, but full of joy.

We won’t be around for the follow-up that will take place over the following few days by the leaders of small churches in each village. We won’t accompany these precious people, young and old, into their new walks with Christ and through the inevitable challenges and crises that lie before them. But we leave knowing that their lives, and ours, have been changed forever by an encounter with Jesus.