Big Faith In La Ventana

One woman’s effort to help grow the town’s church
BY: KATHLEEN KIEFER

Big faith in a Catholic country goes a long way, even if you don’t hold the Pope on a pedestal. Good man that he is, so too are the simple fishermen and householders of La Ventana, many of whom, up until a few years ago, didn’t go to any church. That is changing, thanks to a Silicon Valley retiree who has returned to her home country to spread the faith.

Sandra Maciel was born in Veracruz, Mexico. She spent 33 years in the States, working with some of America’s leading technology companies, but her winter vacations were often spent in La Ventana, where her father lives. Six years ago, when Sandra retired, she decided to join him. She brought her faith with her.

Mexico is the second largest Catholic country in the world, but that is changing, and it has been for some time. Sandra was born into a family that was Catholic but going to church was not part of their routine. They didn’t read the Bible, either. Faith wasn’t a driving force in Sandra’s life until her grandmother died and Sandra started having visions. Her grandmother had a deep faith in Christ, and Sandra felt it move into her through her dreams.

On one of Sandra’s many vacations to La Ventana before retiring she had a chance encounter with Pastor Martin, a man with a big smile, a rich voice, and an incredible story of faith. He had hit rock bottom and lost his family before converting to Christianity. It was his faith that helped him find his way and reunite with his family.

Every Sunday, Pastor Martin drives to La Ventana from La Paz, about a 45-minute drive. When Sandra met him five years ago, services were held in a neighborhood home with five or six people in attendance. The community of faithful has now grown to 60 strong. The need for a church to accommodate the growing congregation became clear to Pastor Martin, and Sandra took the lead in making that happen.

A piece of land was donated and seed money was offered, which was enough for the construction of four walls that will eventually rise up to meet a roof. Each Sunday afternoon, the church members gather to sing and pray on a dirt floor. A generator is brought to the church each week and fired up for the sound equipment and two fluorescent lights. Services begin at 7 pm. In the winter, the sun has set by the time the music starts. Sandra or someone else has already watered and raked the dirt floor and the simple bathroom has been cleaned. (You don’t want to know how simple.)

A couple months ago Sandra met a filmmaker while walking on the beach and the two struck up a conversation. Turns out the filmmaker was a Buddhist and after a long walk and lots of sharing, they both agreed there were many things in common with their respective faith backgrounds. The filmmaker offered to support Sandra in her efforts by creating a short video she can use to raise money to finish the church. The video was finished this month; you can find it on YouTube by searching for “Big Faith in the Baja.”

Sandra believes this meeting was no coincidence. God loves La Ventana, it’s a good place, and a deserving place. Sandra believes in miracles. Why wouldn’t she? The people who come to church on Sunday have shared stories about how their lives have changed since they began attending church. Many have stopped drinking and using drugs; others have turned to faith for the peace it brings them. It’s a good thing for the people, the church and little village of La Ventana. ,