Demonstrating Christ in Mexico City
Over the past 8 or 9 years, I have had the privilege of traveling to 9 countries and speaking at 15 pastor’s conferences and business leader’s conferences. While each trip is different, one thing has remained consistent – the people. Every place I’ve gone, I’ve met incredible men and women demonstrating Christ, who have an amazing commitment to and love for God, a hunger to learn, and an unquenchable desire to share the gospel to a world that needs Jesus.
My trip to Mexico City was no exception. In April of this year, I traveled with a team from Global Advance to participate in a Marketplace Missions Conference. Global Advance Marketplace Missions has a strategy to awaken Kingdom vision and increase the acumen of Christian entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals throughout the developing world. Training Christian businessmen and women in developing nations increases economic and spiritual capital worldwide. These conferences provide these leaders with both encouragement and practical business training.
It was on this trip that I met a man named Arturo, who’s life would challenge me in ways that I wasn’t expecting.
A Taco-Stand With A Divine Purpose
At the marketplace conferences, we spend the first two days doing consulting visits with different business owners before the conference actually begins. During these visits, we get to know some of the men and women that will be attending the conference as well as advising them on various business strategies and how they can leverage their businesses for the spread of the gospel. The morning of the second day, we met with the owner of a taco stand who caught me completely off-guard.
This is Arturo (in the red shirt). Arturo has been working at this same taco stand for over 15 years. Arturo is perhaps one of the kindest men I have ever met. His smile is infectious, and while his means of making a living may seem quite modest, he is truly one of the richest people I know.
Arturo also served as one of the door greeters during the conference. The first night I watched as people gravitated toward him. He seemed genuinely happy to see each person and it was obvious that this man standing before me, demonstrating Christ, was so full of the love of God that it just flowed out of him in a sincere love for people.
I have to be honest though, as we were driving to meet Arturo, I was thinking – what can a guy with a doctorate in strategic leadership, a corporate accountant, and the owner of a multi-million-dollar commercial construction company offer a guy that owns a taco stand? While I immediately felt guilty about that seemingly arrogant thought, it remained in the back of my mind.
As we were parking, our translator let us know that Arturo’s wife of 40+ years passed away about 7 months earlier. She also told us that the two of them were such a cute couple and were extremely loved in their church. At that point I began praying that God would use us to be an encouragement to Arturo and possibly play a small part in his healing process.
When we arrived and introductions were made, Arturo began to show us how he made the tacos, and the different kinds he offered (I became immediately hungry). He also told us about how he began and how his business has grown over the years. His taco stand is actually pretty big and is the most popular in that area. He is right across the street from a large corporation and has a huge lunch crowd.
But it was when we asked him how we could help him or pray for him that made such an impression on me. Honestly, I was thinking he would respond with something like – how he could grow or possibly expand, how to get out of a week-to-week sustenance living, or maybe how he could continue to work into his late 60’s and 70’s, but that’s not what happened at all.
The Moment: Demonstrating Christ
With tears in his eyes, Arturo pointed to a building across the street that he told us was a teen rehab facility. He asked us to pray that he would be a blessing to the teenagers who lived there. Many of them would come to his taco stand for lunch, and he wanted to make a small difference in their lives, to be a beacon of hope to those desperately in need of it, and to somehow point them to Jesus.
You see, Arturo had been an alcoholic before he opened his taco stand. His addiction had almost cost him his marriage and family and strained his relationship with his children. When he started his taco stand, he chose that exact street corner for a reason. Not to be across the street from a large company, but to be across the street from those kids. For him, making tacos was simply a vehicle for the gospel. His ultimate goal was not to sell more tacos; his goal was to be a light in a dark world.
When I witnessed Arturo demonstrating Christ with the depth of love and compassion he had for those teens, I was inspired, humbled and challenged. He was asking us to pray for him, but I was wanting him to pray for me. I wanted some of what he had.
For the Sake of the Gospel
In reflecting on my short time with Arturo and how he is demonstrating Christ, I am reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:16–17: For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. (ESV)
When Paul spoke of His commitment to his mission, he was emphatic: “I am compelled by God…How terrible for me if I didn’t…I have no choice” (1 Corinthians 9:16–17, NLT). To Paul, ministry was a stewardship issue. There was no way that he would receive the gospel for himself alone. It was his to give away. He had a responsibility to the One who entrusted it to him. For Paul this commitment went even further. He saw it as a sacred trust. He didn’t say “I have no choice” out of duty. His compulsion, his obligation was not so much imposed on him as much as it rose up from the core of who he was. It was all consuming.
Just a couple of verses further, Paul makes it even more clear:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19–23, ESV)
Despite his impressive education, Roman citizenship and status as an apostle in the early church, Paul served the church rather than impose his authority. He chose to lay aside his rights as an apostle so that nothing would hinder the reception of the gospel. He was compelled by his calling – he couldn’t not preach the gospel. Not only would he do it for free, he would pay for the privilege. In a further demonstration of servanthood, Paul was willing to adapt his lifestyle and “become as” those he was trying to reach. Finally, he lived a life of strict discipline so that, after preaching to others, his life would never discredit his message and render him ineffective.
Consider these words by John Piper:
From time to time in the life of the church there needs to be a wake-up call to some simple and central and basic things. One of these is: Christianity is a converting religion. It is evangelistic. It is persuasive and expansive and missionary. It is not coercive. It does not use the sword, manipulation or brainwashing. But it does proclaim, and persuade and plead and pray. And where this is not believed and practiced Christianity ceases to be Christianity and starts to become another religion with another king who no longer says, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply.” When we lose a passion to see people won over to Jesus, we lose Jesus.
Christianity is a soul-winning, out-reaching, mind-persuading, heart-entreating, rescuing, missionary faith, or it is not true Christianity. We need to be reminded of this, because it is almost incredible how listless we can become while calling ourselves Christians. Little by little our whole orientation can become inward. We can go for months and years and not think about those who perish. We become so dull and spiritually callous that we don’t even ask if we believe in hell or lostness or the preciousness of Christ and the power of the cross and the freeness of the gospel and the command of Jesus. We just go about our in-house religious business like a medical clinic that sees fewer and fewer patients and has more and more staff meetings, until there is nothing left but a smooth running program for the doctors and nurses and their families. That is what happens to many churches.
Meeting Arturo, and others like him demonstrating Christ, was definitely a wake-up call for me. It really started me thinking. What would it be like to be motivated like Arturo? How freeing would it be to choose where we live, where we work, how we spend our time and money, for the sole purpose of reaching out to others? What would it be like for the things of this world to have no hold on us? I want to be so consumed by love for God and others that everything else pales in comparison. When I think about those God has called me to, I want to be moved by compassion in a way that I am demonstrating Christ just like he is. I have to confess, I’m not there yet. But after meeting this amazing man, I am more motivated than ever.
I want to be able to say, like Paul: I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.