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God’s Kingdom the Latest to Rule Mexico’s Yucatan


Gregory J. Rummo

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico—Business for Wilbert Nadal Hernandez isn’t brisk along the Paseo Montejo, the main drag here in Merida, this bustling metropolis in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. But it’s only 7:30 in the morning. Later as the sun climbs higher into the tropical sky and the sweltering heat drives thirsty customers his way for a cup of shaved ice in an assortment of flavors or slices of chilled mango and papaya he’ll hopefully cover his costs for the day.

“It’s a side business,” he tells me in a blasé manner, while sitting on a bench in the shade under a tree near his stand. While it’s OK for the locals to indulge in one of Hernandez’s frozen confections, for a Gringo like me, it’s almost a sure bet I’d develop a case of Montezuma’s Revenge. You can never be sure where a street vendor gets his ice, even if he swears up and down it was made from agua purificada. The water in Mexico—even in a modern city like Merida—is simply not suitable for drinking.

Hernandez’s push-cart business stands in stark contrast to the extravagant wealth on display across the street where a blinding white colonial-style mansion sits elegantly behind a black wrought iron fence; the lawn and gardens meticulously manicured and neatly edged tightly up against the long, cobblestone driveway.

Such are the contrasts in the Yucatan peninsula. Centuries ago, beginning in the 9th century, the Mayans ruled this part of the world from their capital city, Chichen Itza where today, acres of well-preserved archeological ruins draw millions of tourists annually.

References to Mayan culture are ubiquitous, often intermingling with the culture brought over from Spain when a party of shipwrecked sailors landed in 1511. Something as simple as a drive along Highway 180 where the large green overhead signs pointing the way to places with names like Xmozon, Hecelchakan and Poc-Boc serve as reminders that it wasn’t just the Spanish that laid claims to this area.

And now, almost 500 years later, another kingdom is quietly laying claims to the Yucatan peninsula.

Roy Seals knows the Yucatan like the back of his hand. He grew up here as a kid when his parents moved to the peninsula as missionaries about 40 years ago. They first settled in Cuernavaca, a 45-minute drive outside of Mexico City.  But Seal’s father, Odis, was a country boy at heart and the family finally settled in Merida.

Odis loves children—the family has adopted four Mexican girls—and he first reached out to them by teaching Bible stories on a flannel board he set up in an abandoned lot around the corner from the Seals’ rented house.

Children and adults alike responded to his evangelistic efforts and La Iglesia Bautista El Calvario de Merida was born.

After establishing national leadership in the church, Odis moved out to the countryside with his family to a small town called Tecoh. There, from out of the rain forest, he carved a house, a church, and a Bible institute. For the children of Tecoh, he made a huge playground that even includes an electrically powered merry-go-round.

His son, Roy, pastored Calvary Baptist Church for a number of years until finally turning the work over to the church’s current pastor, a national named Manuel Verde, who became a Christian when a Gospel of John was slipped under his door.

“Manuel filled out the coupon that was inside the Gospel, requesting a correspondence Bible course,” Roy explained. “One day my wife and I went out to visit them. They joined the church and eventually he became the pastor.”

Roy continues to stay in close contact with Manuel and the work in Merida. Together they started “Project Yucatan for Christ” and Seals brings groups of young people with him several times a year to distribute Gospels of John door to door in the towns and villages throughout the Yucatan peninsula. He prays they will fall into the hands of those who are willing to hear the Gospel. “You never know if there’s another Manuel Verde out there,” he says.

During our week-long stay, we embarked on Gospel distributions in a few areas in Merida, in Campeche where we assisted another church and in Chuburna Puerta, a small fishing village on the gulf where we later feasted on fresh filete de pescado empanizado at an outdoor restaurant called “Costa Azul.”

We gave out over 11,000 Gospels of John, hardly putting a dent in the 300,000 Roy shipped down last February. And he’s planning to ship another 250,000 next month.

“The Peninsula of Yucatan has been under the influence of the impressive Mayan Civilization and the Spanish Conquistadores,” Seals says. “Ours is the privilege of introducing the Yucatecan people to the greatest of all kingdoms, God's Kingdom!”

It is an ambitious endeavor, yet, in the words of Jesus, truly the Yucatecan people are “not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Read all of his columns at

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