“Mrs. Velazquez, I regret to inform you that you have breast cancer.”
Her doctor’s grim words may well have sounded bittersweet to Leonila Velazquez, as she contemplated a diagnosis that could signal an end to her life, a life that had been filled with tragedy.
Twenty years earlier, Leonila’s husband was brutally murdered, leaving her to raise ten children on her own. The bereaved family, marginalized descendants of Mexico’s original Indians, lived in an impoverished mountain village in Mexico. After her husband’s death, Leonila feared for her own life and the lives of her children, so she fled with them to another village and moved into the only home she could find—a wooden shack adjacent to a sewage pond. There Leonila struggled to feed and raise her children by selling plants that she grew around her shack.
Over the years all but one of Leonila’s children moved out, but all still live in abject poverty just like her. Leonila hasn’t seen some of them in 14 years because they live so far away. Sadly, most are alcoholics. Two are dead. And Leonila still lives in her shack beside the sewage pond—now with her common-law husband of many years. For her, a prognosis of death may have seemed like a relief.
Mexico’s government provides some healthcare benefits for its native Indian population—making possible the cancer surgery that Leonila needed, and which extended her life here on earth. Still, Leonila’s greatest problem and potential tragedy loomed before her. Although cancer-free in her body, the cancer of sin in her soul remained, threatening to one day drag her from her sewage-pond shack to a lake that burns with fire.
God, however, the One who sent His Son from a throne in heaven to a cross on earth, so loved Leonila that He also sent a missionary family to her remote mountain region of Mexico. Those missionaries, Jason and Nicole Fitzpatrick, discovered Leonila’s situation, and they began regularly bringing her food—made possible by Heaven’s Family’s Food Fund—as she recovered from her surgery. They also brought her Jesus, and Leonila and her common-law husband eventually gave their lives to Him. Jason and Nicole are happy to report that both will soon be legally married and baptized. Now they have a beautiful home waiting for them in heaven—near a crystal river that flows from the throne of God (Rev. 22:1).