Twenty-eight year old María Antonieta Jiménez Sedano comes from Cuentepec Morelos, population about 4000, in the central Mexican state of Morelos, just south of Mexico City. When she speaks she looks straight into my eyes, but not in an aggressive way. Her eyes seem always to be saying, "This is the exact way I am and I hope that that's alright with you." Here's her story:
"When I was a child, my father cultivated the land, producing corn, beans and peanuts. "My mother worked at home. I had four sisters and two little brothers. Every day I'd help my mother make tortillas and do other things around the house. Also when my father wasn't working in the fields, I helped him make sweetbreads, which we sold in the streets. In those days my only dream was to study -- to go to the nearby town of Temixco to attend high school, for in Cuentepec we had only a grade school. When finally I graduated from grade school I did go to Temixco, where I lived with a family and studied in high school. However, at that time, like most people in Cuentepec, I spoke only Náhuatl. Also, I had so much work to do for the family with whom I stayed that I seldom could study. I just couldn't adjust to life there, so I went back to my family in Cuentepec without finishing school."
"Then one day I went to live with a godmother in Cuernavaca, the largest city in our state. My godmother spoke both Náhuatl and Spanish and she was very patient with me, so this time it was easier. I helped take care of her two children, and the two little stores she ran, in which she sold chicharrones (pig cracklings) and vegetables. One day some people came through selling books and I bought one. It was about The Message -- about being a Seventh Day Adventist. Though in my family we were all Catholic, I read the book and I liked it a lot. I talked to some Adventists, accepted The Message, and converted. It was a wonderful feeling, so after eight years with my godmother I wanted to return home to share what I'd found, for among my people there were many problems -- much fighting and drinking."
"Meanwhile my father also had discovered The Message and had converted, so he and I, along with my little brothers, began holding study sessions in our home, and to invite neighbors to join us. An Adventist pastor from a nearby district heard about us and decided to help us build a church. One day he mentioned our work to the Maranatas, from the state of Michigan in the United States, so they came and built a temple for us there in Cuantepec, staying among us for about a month. And they also talked with me, asking about my life the way you are right now, and then they told me that if I wanted to study they'd help me any way they could. They are responsible for bringing me to Yerba Buena, where I've been studying for over a year."
"When I first arrived here it was very sad because they didn't want to accept me here, because I'd never finished high school. I wrote to the Maranatas about my problems, and they wrote to Doña Nela on my behalf. I don't know what they said but later I was invited to stay and study at Yerba Buena. Of course it's been hard because I don't know a lot that the others do, because they finished high school. However, I've managed by working at my studies very hard."
"When I graduate, I'll return to my village and try to improve things there. At first I'll just try to set things right in my own family's house. Maybe greater projects will develop from there. Do you have a better idea that can help me... ?