Nikiski missionary starts orphanage in Mexico

His hand through hers

Jorge Pinacho could have made a lot of money selling his Mexico land holdings to the missionaries. But the benefactor wasn’t interested in the money.


Maria Pedro said, instead, Pinacho gave En La Gloria Ministries the 20 acres for free.

After Pinacho’s “accident” — something for which Pedro’d rather avoid telling the details of — the man reflected on what he’d done in the past and where he could be.

Because life in Oaxaca is hard — children are beaten, molested, neglected — Pinacho felt that donating land for an orphanage’s construction was another step to a good beginning, Pedro said.

Now Pedro is back home in Nikiski, for a little while, before she leaves again for Mexico on Aug. 26. She will live there for another six months before she returns briefly to see her family and her friends.

The Nikiski resident has served as an missionary for En La Gloria Ministries, of Nikiski, for 15 years. Before Mexico, she spent six and a half years in Nicaragua. But that mission is now complete, and Pedro is a year ahead of schedule with the orphanage in Miahuatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Pedro has met others as carrying as Pinacho. One American man helped her missionary start an orphanage in Nicaragua. Others, wealthy and poor, have donated money.

Without their help, En La Gloria Ministries’ missions would be difficult, Pedro said.

Her friends say the orphanage wouldn’t be a year ahead of schedule if Pedro hadn’t been involved. Pedro attracts those that want to help.

Ronda Holben, of Nikiski, knew her friend before Pedro was even a Christian, before Pedro was in the ministry.

Pedro is smart, Holben said; Pedro listens well. Pedro investigated farm-worker abuse in her former career.

“And she prays about stuff,” Holben said, sitting on the couch of Pedro’s son’s Nikiski apartment. “There’s a lot of knowledge out there, but when you pray for wisdom, there’s a difference. A big difference.”

Holben and about a dozen of Pedro’s other friends and friends’ children met Thursday afternoon for a salsa party. Preparing dinner, laughing children balled up and flattened tortilla dough, chatting adults picked pork and chicken from baked bones, and Pedro strode from kitchen to living room with a baby under her arm.

“It took me three days for it to sink in,” Pedro said about receiving the land for the orphanage.

The ministry had originally given Pedro two years to find and settle on land in Oaxaca. And for 30 days Pedro fasted, prayed and spoke with villagers trying to find the answer, she said.

But Pinacho found her.

The village has no orphanage, Pinacho told her. Children are beaten. Children are molested. Children are without homes. One child’s mother is a prostitute and bars her daughter from her home on nights with clients. Pedro met the little girl when the child was begging for food, Pedro said.

Pedro first visited the village of Miahuatlan in 2010. She wanted to ask about building an orphanage. She didn’t know much then, she said.

But attorneys carried her stacks and stacks of cases files against abusive parents and neglecting households.

There is no winning, they told her.

When babies are born homeless, most either find homes, or they die, Pedro said.

Children will often live with the attorneys until other family are found to live with, but many of them, eventually, fall back into the broken home they ran from, attorneys told Pedro.

And when there is no other option, a large orphanage in a big city swallows the children. The building is a mystery, Pedro said. No one is allowed in, except the orphans; no one is allowed out, especially the orphans. Pedro is afraid of what happens in there, she said.

But Brazos de Shalom, En La Gloria Ministries’s orphanage’s name, will hold children in the arms of peace, Pedro said.

“There’s no hitting. They’re not allowed to spank,” Pedro said. “We have to find alternatives, because there’s been so much violence in their lives.”

Back in the kitchen, Judith Dixon, a ministry board member and treasurer, stood over the stove, flipping the tortillas, stirring the beans and watching the rice.

The orphanage, Dixon said, is the ministries’ largest independent undertaking.

The ministry needs $180,000 to build the orphanage, $800 for a water system, $500 for an outside kitchen, $300 for a storage building, and $420 a month per every 10 children for fruits, vegetables, poultry feed, Internet and a used van, according to an orphanage needs list.

The ministry also hopes the orphanage will sustain its self.

The orphanage needs only three acres, and aside from the building already in place, the remaining acres will support a farm.

The children and staff will grow crops and raise cattle, and what they don’t eat they will sell. Already corn, black beans, squash and cantaloupe are growing for the children, staff and animals living there, Pedro said.

The orphanage will also pull water from two wells, once pumps are installed, and the ministry can sell the excess to the village. Ready access to fresh water is a luxury in the village, Pedro said.

Stirring the black beans in the kitchen, Dixon said the ministry tries to reach as many as they can in Miahuatlan.

“It’s also important to remember what’s first,” she said. “We’re trying to help the people, but we’re also there to bring them to the Lord.”

God’s hand is in Pedro’s work, Dixon said.

A half hour later, the beans were cooked.

Although Pedro travels constantly, leaving home or coming back is never routine. Good-byes, on both sides of the boarder, are always hard.

“I feel like it’s like doctors who always deliver babies and it never gets routine,” she said, “and I have delivered babies, so I know that feeling — you’re bringing life into the world.”

Everyone sat in the living room after they had eaten, some on the couch, kids on the ground, others at the fireplace, all facing Pedro.

“Pray for the children down there that don’t have anywhere to go,” Pedro told her friends.

Pray for the women homeless and scared. And the attorneys and the directors of care centers — all those that help the children, Pedro said.

“And more than anything, they need love.

“Whatever it is you have to do, you like to do, it’s an open door,” she said; “it’s an opportunity.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at


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