Last November, Mexico handed out 10 awards to recognize individuals and organizations who donate time and energy to help those in need. The award ceremony took place at the World Trade Center in Mexico City, in an area set up for the nearly 1,500 in attendance.

Under the category "Award for a Better Country," Marcial Aguilar received the top prize, a gold medal. Four other individuals and five organizations also received awards that day for humanitarian aid efforts.

Marcial heads up efforts in poor neighborhoods surrounding the city of Torreon. He and his wife cook hot meals for homeless people; hand out food once a week to those living in poor neighborhoods; and coordinate clothing, footwear, and medical donations from organizations in the area.

From homeless to helping others

Marcial is known for his generosity, but he wasn't always able to give so much time and aid to his community. In fact, several years ago he hit a bad stretch and ended up on the streets, with no home, no food, and no income. During his time as a homeless person, he often asked others for help. Almost everyone said no.

One day, Marcial came across the church El Redentor (Redeemer) in Torreon. He went inside, found Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, and asked for help. Rev. Sanchez took him out to eat at a nearby diner. Marcial noticed, however, that after the meal, Rev. Sanchez told the restaurant owner he would pay him the next day, as he didn't have enough on him to cover that particular meal.

Over time, Marcial got back on his feet and began to support himself again. He never forgot Rev. Sanzhez, however, and one day, he returned to the church. This time, he wanted to know more about Rev. Sanchez's motivation to help others. Rev. Sanchez took him straight to the Bible; soon Marcial was studying the Bible and attending church. Today he is a leading member of the El Redentor congregation.

Humanitarian aid opens doors

Marcial now spends a great deal of time working on humanitarian aid efforts in the community. On weekends, members from El Redentor often join him. With the help of Rev. Sanchez, preaching stations are being developed in the areas where Marcial works. Additionally, a Bible class for children is offered once a week in those same areas.

Of the hundreds that Marical helps out every week, currently more than 300 come regularly to attend a Bible class or listen to the preaching of the Word.

Helping those in need has been made possible by the time donated by Marcial, as well as the support he receives from local organizations and the Torreon congregations. In addition to these, WELS Christian Aid and Relief helped to support Marcial's efforts with funding in early 2011.

Humanitarian aid in the areas surrounding Torreon has served as a great opportunity to make inroads into the community. Many people don't know what the Lutheran church is, and this kind of work has helped raise awareness.

And while the national award is evidence that God is blessing the project, the biggest benefit has been the chance to open doors and reach more with the Gospel.

We are thankful for the ongoing efforts of Marcial and those working with him. We pray that their work serves as a bridge to the Gospel for even more during the remainder of this year.

By Rachel Hartman. To read more about missionary life in Mexico, check out Rachel’s blog.