Outside the Bowl's kitchens employ in-country nationals who are passionate about taking an active role in caring for their communities and sharing God's love. This blog series will introduce them to you and bring you their stories. We are truly a global team and we look forward to helping you get to know these amazing team members who make our work possible. First in the spotlight: Maria Luisa in Mexicali, Mexico.
A wife, mother of four and full-time employee of Outside the Bowl, María Luisa is a representation of many women in México. Women with dreams and goals, unfortunately forced to give them up due to lack of resources and obligations to support their struggling families.
“I grew up in family of four children with both of our parents, here in the Mexicali Valley. My father was a farmer and our mom stayed home. She was devoted in her faith and led all of us to Christ in our childhood. Resources were scarce, but we didn't know any different. We were children and had fun playing in the fields and amongst the cattle and climbing trees. We had a little elementary school in the village, and a middle school in a nearby town but high school was far away and only for those who could afford it. My parents made an effort to send all of us to high school, but as we faced some bad years with the land, I had to drop out of high school and start working to provide a solid income for our family.
Eventually, I got married and became a stay home wife myself. When our third child, Valentín, was born, I had to go back to work, as my husband's factory wages were not enough to sustain our family anymore. This is when I realized things had changed so much over the years, since my days as a young working adult. The factory environment was not friendly anymore, on the contrary, it was hostile and peer pressure came from every direction including obscene invitations of every kind. It was hard to share my faith like I was accustomed to doing. The simple fact that I was Christian bothered many people. I was often teased and ridiculed. They called me “the Hallelujah.” My work days were long and unpleasant. I was producing artifacts all day, but unproductive in living out my faith.”
María Luisa struggled working in the factory for years with such experiences. Her desire was to be God’s vessel everywhere she went, but it seemed almost impossible as she spent so much of her time in a hostile work environment. She prayed God would allow her to be in a place where she could witness and serve Him. Surprises by her fourth pregnancy, she decided to leave work and stay home again. As time passed, she kept praying and one day, finally got a glimpse of hope!
“My niece told me about an industrial kitchen that would soon begin hiring. She said it was like a ministry, run by Christian people and that it was near my house! I was so excited, I almost couldn't believe it! But months passed and the kitchen wasn't built, they weren't hiring. I was giving up. We were in dire need for a better income, so even against my desire, I went to look for a job at the factory again. As I enrolled in the factory listing, God showed me he had heard all my prayers. I got a phone call! It was my niece saying ‘They are starting in February, but they will be taking applicants for training right away. Are you still interested?’ ”
María Luisa signed up to work at OTB's Mexicali Kitchen immediately. She has been there since Day 1 and has seen God move in magnificent ways. She says: “I love it here. It is a dream job for me. We pray, we share our hearts, we serve and we grow together. We are a family, so much so that my children call my colleagues aunts and uncles. We are certain that God is present in what we do, in every meal we cook, because we see the results of our work in the ministries and feeding programs we serve. I witness not only to those who come to the kitchen and those who ask about my work, but I am a witness of God’s glory each day. I have seen provision and multiplication, salvation and healing, and God feeding the hungry inside and out; my family and I included.”
Certainly, God has honored Maria Luisa’s eager heart for service. She is a faithful, kind and compassionate woman, with a charming personality and contagious laugh; loved by all in the Outside the Bowl Mexicali team. Her story touches the heart of OTB's ministry, when we prayed God would bring the right people along to serve in the mission to feed the hungry. María Luisa is definitely one hand picked by God to be part of the OTB Family.
She concludes: “I feel spoiled by God. Like I have a front row seat to His daily work in my community here in Mexicali. I love my job. It is a good place for me. I am grateful for this opportunity and grateful for each experience.”
Help staff members like Maria Luisa reach other communities in Mexico by supporting the building of our seventh kitchen in Jalisco, Mexico. All contributions, large and small, make a difference.
Written by Vianney A.E.