Guest / Limited Access /

Pastor José Padilla sat on a rock one hot, dusty August afternoon, praying for hours for his community in the rugged Mexican desert. Already, on the few dirt streets in Kilometro 29, a squatter village of seven cardboard shanties on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, there were too many niños de la calle—street children living with drugs, alcohol, and abuse in place of loving parents and food. His heart heavy, Padilla asked God what could be done.

God showed him.

With rugged mountains towering to his left and a seemingly endless desert to his right, Padilla gazed at the scene in front of him and received a vision.

"The vision was that God was interested in helping the children of a destroyed place," said Padilla, who 13 years ago saw images before him of pale yellow school buildings, a wedge-shaped church with lofted ceilings, and children praising God. He whispered the words Dios es maravilloso—"God is marvelous"—and asked God how these images would come to be. "This is when God told me I was going to make a school."

A former street child himself, Padilla had no money, no training, and practically no education. But after fasting and praying for 15 days, he put into motion the one thing he did have—faith. Out of his vision came Gabriela Mistral.

Gabriela Mistral opened its doors in September 1992, meeting in a pallet-and-cardboard shack the size of a small garage with two of the pastor's daughters as teachers. Excited, they prepared tables and papers for 50 people on the first day of registration. Only four came.

"People said, 'You guys are crazy. This is not a school, just a cardboard house,' " said Padilla. Some thought a Christian school would just teach songs, while others accused them before the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Churches Split Over Constitution
Muslim power, social unrest are key issues in the debate.
RecommendedUnder DeVos, the Real School Choice Christians Face
Under DeVos, the Real School Choice Christians Face
The future of public education will depend on the church.
TrendingAll 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.
Editor's PickMy Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.
Christianity Today
It Takes a Schoolhouse
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.