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Lowell Brueckner

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What Our Hands Have Handled, chapter eleven


The apostles knew very well that the believers belonged only to the Lord, who bought them. They were shepherds that guided them, bishops that watched out for them and elders, who set the example for them, but they were never bosses that manipulated, controlled, or commanded them. Consider Acts 20:28 – “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which (not over which) the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”… 1 Peter 5:1-3 – I exhort the elders among (not over) you, as your fellow elder… shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight… nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

They are Christ’s, by blood redemption and by a relationship directly with Him: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name… he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (Jn.10:3-5).  “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me (v.14)… I have other sheep… and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd (v.16).” Then finally, verses 27-29: “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow me, and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”


Our twins, Dan & Dave
 One of the significant breakthroughs for us in La Costa Chica came through our children. Shortly after arriving, we made contact with a wonderful Christian doctor, an American, in the neighboring State of Guerrero. Because of the condition of the roads between our home and his hospital, he suggested that Margaret should come on April 1st to stay with his wife and himself during the last days of her pregnancy. What he didn’t tell us was that Margaret was carrying twins and that they might arrive well before schedule, but that was exactly what happened. Very early in the morning on March 23rd, 1967, the birth process began.

Totally at a loss about what to do, I woke a friendly neighbor, who took us and introduced us to a local doctor. By nine-thirty that morning, twin boys were born, Daniel and David. The tiny infants weighed in on a cheese-scale in the store of the doctor’s wife. Suddenly, Cacahuatepec took interest and pride in these two little boys, born among them, registered in their town archives, and to top it off, their birthday was on Holy Thursday. That was significant for the religious people in town. No one could remember both members of a set of twins surviving. You see, our children became missionaries and witnesses from the day that they were born.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1968, Stephen was born at the hands of the same local doctor. That was also the anniversary of the day that my parents came to know the Lord, 33 years earlier. Then, our doctor was very pleased and proud to deliver our first daughter, Raquel Fe, on his birthday, December 11, 1970. When we left Cacahuatepec to move to Pinotepa two years later, a man who had befriended us said, “When you came to live among us, you didn’t have any friends. Now, as you leave us, you have no enemies.” That little tribute still stirs emotions in me. We are so thankful for the evident hand of God in our family affairs from the beginning.

We left Mexico in the spring of 1979, just after our youngest child was born, and lived for an interim period in Minnesota, west of the Twin Cities. We started home meetings and the attendance grew until at least 90 people crowded into our split-level house every Sunday afternoon. I spoke in the living room, resting a Bible on a music stand, and most sat in that room, but many had to find a place on the stairway, in the kitchen, in the hallway, and even in the bedrooms. Although the older children sat with their parents, towards the end of our time in the States, our oldest daughters taught the little children’s Sunday school classes downstairs.

We wanted to expose as many as possible to raw missionary work and, therefore, on two occasions we formed a caravan of family automobiles and drove 1500 miles down I-35 from Minnesota to Laredo, Texas. We crossed the border and continued to pass through the length of Mexico down to Oaxaca State, another 2-day journey, to finally arrive in La Costa Chica.. The last of the two trips took place in the summer of 1984.

We first drove into La Costa Chica as very green missionaries in October of 1966. Twenty years later to the month, our family of ten left Minnesota and crossed the Atlantic to Germany. By 2002, all our eight children, as adults, had gone under the Lord’s direction, to live and to serve God away from home. Margaret and I moved to the west coast of Spain. I didn’t have opportunity to return to Oaxaca again until 2009.

As best I remember, it was late in 2008 that I received an email invitation from a committee of Christian youth leaders to speak at a rally, scheduled for the following March, in the city of Huajuapan, Oaxaca. Heriberto Ledezma with his wife, Licha, and a daughter were at the airport in Oaxaca City to meet me, when I arrived. There is no way that I can continue the story without writing a few words about this man of God.

Heriberto Ledezma
 Heriberto was raised in a Christian home and came personally into the family of God, when he was 12-years-old. He immediately began to serve the Lord, playing his guitar in the meetings in his home town. It wasn’t long afterwards that he knew the call of God upon his life and left home to attend Bible school. That decision is as much a testimony to the serious commitment of his godly parents, as it is to Heriberto’s own heart. His parents were poor and much needed the help of their son at home for their own welfare. However, they faithfully turned him over to the Lord for full-time service at the very young age of fourteen.

During the years that my parents lived in Laredo, Texas, and later inside Mexico, Heriberto, as a teenager, often travelled with my dad, as he taught from church to church. Very soon after we moved to Oaxaca, Heriberto came to help in that work. Now, so many years later, two of his and Licha’s daughters serve the Lord in Christian drug rehabilitation in Spain and Portugal. He leads a Christian organization from a central church in Huajuapan. It is involved with the formation and edification of many churches in northern and central Oaxaca.

After 25 years absence, I was able to visit La Costa Chica again. Heriberto drove me down the familiar, winding road, now nicely paved, through the mountains and towards evening, he pulled into Amusgos and parked. The village is just a few miles north of Cacahuatepec, where Margaret and I had settled in 1966. We walked into a little white church and a meeting was in progress. As I sat and listened, my mind went back those forty-three years, when we were the only missionaries - in fact, the only Christians - in a very hostile area. We went from house to house in our village, sharing the gospel, and when we felt we had covered it, we began to witness in Amusgos.

Immediately, opposition arose and I probably still have threatening letters tucked away somewhere that we received at that time. On the other hand, we were invited to come to pray for people in need. We had to go. At one of those times, I parked on the square by the village water faucet and went on foot to look for the home of a sick man. Returning to my pick-up, I found it surrounded by people with buckets of water, who thoroughly drenched me before I could scramble inside and shut the door. Now, I sat with Heriberto in a church building, feeling safe among fellow-believers. The gospel had triumphed.
Abel Olmedo with one of
his daughters, Cely
The next day, we came into Mancuernas unannounced and stopped in front of the house of Abel Olmedo. In the last chapter, I gave a short account of his testimony. I told how the depressed cantina singer, on the verge of suicide, found Christ and His peace, as he knelt in his corn field. That was 35 years before and he has been the leader in Mancuernas almost from the very beginning of his Christian life, simply because there were no older believers in town, who could lead. He has nine children. When we moved away, his oldest, Miguel, was a toddler and today, Miguel, like his father, is a gospel singer. They gave me a CD that they had done together.

You can imagine what kind of emotions arose as we met once again! We sat on Abel’s porch and his aunt and uncle, now in their 80’s, joined us. Stories began to unfold. When I first came to visit Mancuernas, the aunt had been bed-ridden for two years. After prayer, the Lord restored her health and she and her husband became fervent and faithful Christians. She reminded me of the day that she came to our house in Pinotepa to ask me to visit her father, who was dying of lung cancer. His heart was open to the gospel and ready to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. A short time later, he lay on his deathbed with relatives gathered around him, many of them non-believers. In those last moments, before those witnesses, he opened his eyes, gazed upwards and exclaimed, “I see the glory of God! Can’t you see it? That’s where I’m going!” And in minutes, that’s where he went.

With only short notice, a meeting of the believers was quickly scheduled for the following afternoon. We would hold it in a home, because the finishing touches were still to be given to a new meeting place, which would house the 150 believers of Mancuernas in the near future.

Before returning for that gathering, we went through the streets of the small city of Pinotepa nearby. I could not believe the growth! When we lived there, as I remember, only the main street was paved and now there were a number of major streets with traffic lights at various corners. I noticed a gospel bookstore, scripture verses on house fronts and even on vehicles. From time to time, I heard Christian music streaming from both.

In the last chapter, I also shared a little about our departure from Pinotepa, probably in 1974, and my doubts about the future of those new believers, who met in the living room of the painter, Javier Gomez. Of course, one must be concerned, but I need not have worried. Heriberto and I sat with Javier, as he told us that the local church has grown to about five hundred members. He has been the pastor for nearly 35 years. Once again, he shared his testimony with us. He said that we had come to him, hoping to hold an evangelistic meeting in a public building in the city center. We employed him to paint a large sign to announce the meeting. In all seasons, Pinotepa is a warm place, but we found this newly-married young man, sitting in his living room, covered with a blanket. He was in a depression. Now smiling, he reminded us that he was the only person to respond to the gospel in the meeting, for which he painted the publicity. We returned to Mancuernas and after speaking to those, who gathered for the impromptu service that afternoon, it was time to go to Huajuapan for the youth conference. Heriberto drove through the night.

I know the spiritual history of Huajuapan and its stiff opposition to the gospel. Two missionary couples, at least, left it in defeat. How the work began and developed in that city, which now has large congregations with a total of about 1,000 believers, is another miraculous story. On the outskirts of the city, there is an indigenous church and the meetings are held in the Mixtec language. There is a Spanish-speaking congregation in the middle of Huajuapan and one more, in yet another part of the city.

The Carlos Pedd family: Lilian, Carlos, Gloria,
David, Norman, Ursula
Years ago, while visiting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a friend told me of an Argentine family, the Carlos Pedds, who attended his church. The man had come to the United States to work, with a plan to gain enough money to thereafter return to Argentina and start a business. The Lord began to work wonderfully in his life and, when Christ transformed him, He turned him in another direction. As I conversed with Carlos, he told me that, while praying, he said, “Jesus, I want you to be my Lord.” At that moment, he saw a vision, in which the word Mexico appeared three times and felt the Lord was calling him there. He answered the call and soon was in Mexico, in the city of Huajuapan, with his family.

Not long afterwards, Carlos’ car was struck by a taxi and two passengers fell from it onto the street. One was bleeding from the mouth. People quickly gathered. Carlos related, “We started to pray for the one, who seemed in the worst condition. His skin turned gray and his eyeballs turned up. I thought he was dead and cried in my mind, ‘Jesus, why did you let him die?’ Suddenly, he got to his feet.” There were many witnesses and some said, “He died and came back to life!” Word spread about the reality of a prayer-answering God and it wasn’t long until 200 people were meeting with Carlos regularly to hear His Word.

When I visited in 2009, Huajuapan had a lady mayor. After she was elected, she went to Heriberto Ledezma, asking if he could recommend someone among the evangelical leaders to take the position of city secretary. That position in city government in Mexico is very important; often the secretary wields as much influence as the mayor. Heriberto told her of a Mixtec native, university-trained, who was a faithful Christian, husband, father and leader of the young people in the church. In fact, he was on the committee that invited me to the conference. Huajuapan, which had so long opposed the living gospel of Jesus Christ, now has one of His servants in a high position.

Three hundred young people came to the rally in groups, representing local churches throughout the State of Oaxaca. To me it was an unbelievable occasion, far beyond our wildest dreams, when Margaret and I first set foot in Oaxaca. During the first years, I used to go to Putla every week. I first spoke to a state policeman, who guarded the prison. He had written a letter to me, expressing hunger to hear the gospel. He gave his life to Christ and lived for Him to his dying day and through him, I was able to speak God’s word to the prisoners. Also, I preached the gospel in different homes and shared it one-on-one with individuals. In spite of those efforts, no church developed in Putla, while we lived in La Costa Chica. Neither was I able to break ground in Zacatepec, although I sometimes stopped to witness to individuals on my way to Putla. Now, however, at the conference, I met good-sized youth groups, sent from churches in both places.

I have read the words of Paul to the Roman Christians countless times – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” As I flew on the return trip from Mexico to Spain, the absolute certainty of that declaration made an impact upon my soul in a way that I had never known before. It took developments over the space of 43 years to produce the evidence, which was put before me on the trip, but I can tell you now that the gospel is more powerful than any opposition that can be formed against it. Not only can it conquer the most obstinate individual, but it can cause large areas to recognize its authority and make them bend before its power.

I have learned this, as well: Each and every person, who may be used to plant, water or tend in any way, as God unfolds His plan, is dispensable. It is not man’s work and he should never be allowed to lay claim to it. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep” and Peter told the following generation, “Feed the flock of God”. Listen, leaders, pastors, missionaries, evangelists… this is God’s business and to Him belongs the glory! He may use you, but at any given time, he may also remove you from the scene and put others in your place. That is His prerogative; it is His bride that He is preparing. My heart is thrilled and satisfied that we were able to cooperate with Him in the beginning of an effort that continues and grows today. Good and faithful people carried on, but only God can infuse the life that makes the seed sprout and grow to fruition.


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