PIEDRAS NEGRAS—Pastor Jose Sepulveda has a heart for the children of Piedras Negras, and he has spent more than three decades seeking to make sure they have enough to eat.
Sepulveda is pastor of a Messianic congregation of about 100 worshippers in the border city and president of Mundial de Asistencia Social y de Alimentos.
Eight years ago, when he and his wife Juanita relocated to northwest Piedras Negras, he saw the needs of children in his neighborhood. So, the Sepulvedas converted their small home into a place where the schoolchildren—and their preschool siblings—could come before and after school to receive a hot meal.
They called the ministry La Mano de Dios—the hand of God.
South Texas church partners with Piedras Negras pastor
First Baptist Church in Charlotte, 50 miles south of San Antonio, has partnered with Sepulveda’s ministry for more than a year.
When a group from the church traveled to Piedras Negras in the summer, Sepulveda was feeding 40 children breakfast and lunch five days a week, as well as 20 elderly residents.
At the time, Sepulveda was working on an addition to the building, where he plans to open a soup kitchen to expand his ministry’s reach in the community and serve more hungry people.
Some who initially pledged financial support for the building project withdrew it without notice when they learned about escalating crime in the area.
An exception was Alford Brundrett, who saw the tears in Sepulveda’s eyes as he described his vision.
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“God told me to empty my wallet,” Brundrett said.
Brundrett gave Sepulveda all the money he had with him, without even considering how he would be able to return home to the United States. God provided. Later, Brundrett returned to Piedras Negras to see the work Sepulveda was doing.
Dedicating a soup kitchen
Earlier this month, members of First Baptist Church in Charlotte—working with Operation Christian Love, a ministry founded by Frio River Baptist Association— returned to Piedras Negras for the dedication of the soup kitchen.
Duane Mayberry, pastor of First Baptist in Charlotte, spoke at the ceremony.
“As you minister to children and adults who have needs, you can be confident that God has plans for each person and their future. He is using you, this facility, and many others to love and meet their needs so they know God loves them,” Mayberry said. “Jesus loves them, and he has a plan and purpose for each person whose need is met.”
Loren Fast, director of missions in Frio River Baptist Association, dedicated the soup kitchen after children in the congregation sang multiple alabanzas (praise choruses).
“I was moved by the fact that the church did so much to reach out to the whole community,” Fast said later. “This church is fulfilling what the Lord has asked all of us to do: ‘When you have done unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.’”
Before the closing benediction, members of the Southern Justice Motorcycle Club from Eagle Pass gave away about 12 bicycles to the boys and girls in attendance.
Vision for the future
After a closing prayer, the congregation and guests gathered for a meal. More than 400 plates were filled. Fewer than 60 remained.
Sepulveda sees additional needs in his community, and he is committed to meeting them.
Currently, he is considering expanding into the lot next to his. He wants to purchase the adjacent property to erect another building that will function as a food dispensary.
His vision is to do more than just serving meals twice a day. He wants to provide families with enough corn, beans and rice for 15 days at a time.
Currently, a local tortilleria provides 22 pounds of tortillas each day for use to feed the children of the area five days a week. The Sepulvedas are praying the tortilla company also will be able to provide tortillas for the food dispensary.
Jeff S. Bray is a freelance writer and member of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, Texas.
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.