Pastor Carlos Mariñelarena has used the power of gift-giving to reach hundreds of children and families for Jesus and has opened a dozen breakfast kitchens run by former inmates to help continue spreading the Gospel.
Mariñelarena, who has been in ministry for over 20 years, teamed up with Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, 13 years ago and has since helped lead hundreds of families to faith in Christ, making a multitude of disciples throughout the popular Mexican city.
“When I was a child, I never received a gift. My father made very little money. We never had a birthday celebration,” Mariñelarena told The Christian Post during a recent mission trip with Samaritan’s Purse before the holidays.
Several years ago the pastor and his wife, Marilu, felt called to Mazatlan to give gifts to the children of those in prison as they witnessed to the inmates.
“We did not know anybody. We had no financial support. But we knew God sent us here,” Mariñelarena maintained. “We started working in the prisons. We first wanted to give gifts to the children of those prisoners and no one gave us a simple gift. My daughter gave all her gifts.”
As time passed, the couple met a pastor who gave them soccer balls and that’s how their ministry of giving began.
Mariñelarena eventually learned about Operation Christmas Child and received training on how to host outreach events and present shoebox gifts. Operation Christmas Child has provided an open door for people to help pastors like Mariñelarena around the world by filling shoeboxes with gifts of toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and booklets with the Gospel message that are sent to more than 160 nations, including 50 hard to reach areas.
“We heard that there were these gift boxes that would be available. So we looked for ways to connect with this ministry. We gathered a group of pastors, we receive training at that time and then we also started giving out these toys, these gifts,” Mariñelarena told CP.
Operation Christmas Child also offers a 12 lesson discipleship program called The Greatest Journey, which takes children further into discovering what it means to follow Jesus and how to share it with their family.
As the minister grew his church, he felt led to also launch feeding programs for children in the poorest areas of the city. Mariñelarena now has 12 food service programs in various locations that are run by rehabilitated former inmates and their families who serve the communities.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law