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Food for body and soul

woman giving chickens to church
Cruz de Cristo supplied food for body and soul to the people in Mahahual when tourism dried up during the pandemic.

For the residents of Mahahual, Mexico, COVID wasn’t only a threat to their health. It also threatened their livelihoods.

Mahahual, a remote beach village about four hours south of Cancún, has become a popular stop for cruise ships. Each year, over 1 million tourists disembark in droves to enjoy the variety of restaurants, shops, and excursions Mahahual offers. But in 2020, due to COVID, the cruise ships stopped arriving. For a village that relies so heavily on tourism dollars, the consequences were dire. Families struggled to meet their most basic physical needs and put food on their tables.

Cruz de Cristo (Cross of Christ), the Lutheran church in Mahahual, mobilized to serve its community. “At the time we weren’t sure how to face COVID as a church, but with almost all jobs drying up and businesses closing in Mahahual there was a real need,” recalls Martin Valleskey, pastor of the church. “We knew that God was giving us a unique chance to live the love of Christ in action through the food packets and biblical messages of peace we shared.”

The church quickly developed a relief program and opened its doors to help its neighbors—up to 400 families per week. At first, the program supplied staples like rice, beans, oil, flour, and chicken. Eventually, it expanded to offer items like vegetable and fruit seeds and live baby chicks so people could help provide for themselves. Relief was also distributed up to an hour south in the small town of Xcalak and 45 minutes north along the coast to those who did not have transportation.

God’s people throughout the US opened their hearts and shared their financial blessings to help support these efforts. WELS Christian Aid and Relief also provided $86,800 through two pandemic relief grants to help fund the program.

Today, cruise ships dot the horizon and dock in Mahahual. Since tourist dollars are again available, the weekly food distribution at Cruz de Cristo has ended. But the spiritual impact has not. “The best part of each week during COVID was bringing the Word to over 400 people in live devotions and handouts and talking about our heavenly home won by Jesus, where there is no hunger or thirst. We know the gospel planted in their hearts will bear fruit for years to come,” says Valleskey.

To learn how Cruz de Cristo was established in Mahahual, read “My Christian life: When vocation and ministry collide.”

Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 109, Number 10
Issue: October 2022

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