He was a Brother beloved. Perhaps not the very best friend to any of the other ministers, being so quiet, reserved, and unassuming. But he was highly appreciated for his firm faith in face of threats to his life and adverse circumstances that seemed to assail his entire walk as a Christian.
When Alfonzo Lima first sought to walk with the Lord it required much literal walking. It took him three hours one way to walk to La Sorpresa either in the warm subtropical sunshine or through the rain during the rainy season.
Rafael Segura, the minister in La Sorpresa at that time, walked the same paths to Pital every two weeks to hold services. During that time Brother Rafael's life was threatened. Thus there was opposition to the gospel in Pital from the very beginning.
At first the services were held under a make-shift arbor of crude stakes, holding up split bamboo sticks, covered with banana leaves; a kind of lean-to against Alfonzo's rustic house. The benches were of split bamboo on stakes planted into the ground, or the large stones around the edges of the construction. It was a simple, temporary, but adequate chapel.
It was to this setting that Harold and Darlene Kauffman, and Urie Sharp came for the first baptismal service, when Alfonzo and Auralia were baptized.
Soon others responded, were saved and baptized; and the church began to grow.
Services were moved to an old dilapidated one-room mud house on the adjoining lot, next to Alfonzo's place. In the meantime plans were being made to build a new chapel. Most of the work on the new chapel was done by local workmen.
During this time the opposition intensified. A group of about 15 men drew up accusations against Alfonzo and presented them to the local township, hoping to get Alfonzo put in jail. The township threw it out of court, however, because they knew that the accusations were not true. The accusers did not give up. There were times when they came to Alfonzo's house, shooting threateningly into the air to intimidate and frighten the family. There were numerous times when Alfonzo sensed that men were lying in wait for him as he walked in and out of the area to go to the City or elsewhere. Sometimes others gave him warning. Alfonzo was always delivered out of the hands of those who were against him.
In spite of adverse circumstances, opposition to the witness, death and sickness in Alfonzo's immediate family, unfaithful brethren, and other trials, Alfonzo remained steadfast. On May 25, 1992 Alfonzo was ordained to the ministry, with Brother Harold Kauffman officiating.
The first baptismal class in the new chapel was made up of nine souls. It seemed like the gospel was taking root in this notoriously wicked and lawless part of Guatemala, that was renowned for it killings and acts of vengeance.
On December of 1996, however, those who opposed the work stepped up their efforts. One night 11 men showed up shortly after nightfall. They demanded that Alfonzo come outside. When he didn't, they broke the light bulb, shot through the roof, and tried to break down the door. The neighbors were alerted, due to all the racket, and before they could get their goal accomplished, the 11 men had to flee.
A few days later, in a regional ministers' meeting, Alfonzo poured out his story. He was concerned that these lawless men might be lying in wait for him on his return. Native pastor, Isaías Muñoz offered to take him home on his motorcycle. The rest of us held a prayer meeting in our vehicle as we returned to the City.
All of us were relieved to hear that all went well on Alfonzo's return trip, and even more so when we heard that at least eight of the men who had showed up that night, came back to Alfonzo to apologize to him.
A week later when I went with Amilcar Lopez to a midweek prayer meeting, things looked much more hopeful. Alfonzo wanted to know what he should do. If he left, who was going to look after the work that had begun in his home community. Where would he go to earn a living for his growing family? Also, in Alfonzo's mind was the question: Would his adversaries let him alone even if he left the area? I told him that if he felt that he should stay, then he should do what he felt was right.
Sadly, another change was in store. Just how Alfonzo knew that the men were still planning to kill him, we don't know for sure. About two years and nine months earlier, he had told Wesley King that the Lord showed him that he was going to live for three years yet. Then, too, not long before his death, he gathered his family around him and informed them that the Lord had showed him that he was going to be shot in the stomach and the bullet was going to come out of his back (just the way it happened). He also described the beautiful mansion that he was to move into.
Alfonzo sensed that his life was in imminent danger, and made plans to get out on Thursday, the day after New Year's day. It wasn't to be. Seven men showed up on the evening of December 29th. With one shot, his life was taken. It happened more or less on this wise:
Alfonzo was already in bed with his family when the murderers showed up, cursing, swearing, and demanding that he come out. This time they took a knife and worked the screws loose on the hinges of the door and forced themselves into the cooking area. They shot through the door into the bedroom area where Alfonzo and Auralia were together with six of their children. What horror for the children!
Alfonzo had time to get his trousers on, and then the murderers were in the room. They grabbed him by the belt and jerked him around severely, demanding that he give them the 400 quetzales that he had received for selling a pig, not too many days before. Alfonzo told them that he had already used some, but what was left, they could have. He told them they could take the church offering, the communications radio, or anything they wanted. But robbery did not seem to be their main motive.
Auralia was trying to stand by her husband in a desperate attempt to offer some protection, but she was getting shoved roughly back and forth between the men.
Meanwhile, the terrified children were jumping up and down and screaming. The men fired shots at their feet to try to get them to be quiet. The oldest child present suffered one burn on her leg where a bullet grazed the surface. Thankfully, none of the children and Auralia were seriously hurt, physically.
During this time Alfonzo tried to speak to them about their souls' need. He picked up his Bible, but they ripped it out of his hands and threw it to the ground. Nonetheless, Alfonzo never resisted, nor reviled them.
Finally, Auralia broke free and ran with the children to her parents' place nearby. When Alfonzo was left go, he headed toward his parents' home. A short distance from his house, as he came to the barbed wire fence, he turned and with the reality of the situation, he said to the young man who followed him, "You're going to kill me aren't you!" The youth fired one shot into his stomach. As he fell, the accomplices left. Behind them lay a Christian, dying because he loved the Good Shepherd and His sheep more than his own life. He was identifying with the Lord Who laid down His life for the sheep.
Immediately a vehicle was sent for to take Alfonzo out for medical care. In the meantime, Alfonzo's family gathered around him. They heard him pray for his family, and the little flock. They heard him ask God to forgive his murderers. Near the end, he said they could stop praying for him, for he was now in a better place. When the pickup arrived, Alfonzo was dead, or should we say, he was in heaven?
The pickup took Auralia to Oratorio to inform Isaías Muñoz of the murder. Isaías informed the Mission as early as he could the next morning. Immediately, Harold Kauffman and Amilcar Lopez left with materials to make a vault. Leighton Zook and Isaías went, also. In the meantime, the other MAM personnel were informed.
Later in the day, when Levi Martins came into the City, they, too, left for Pital.
That night in the Pital chapel, Levi preached to a large crowd, including those of the murder gang. He preached about the need of repenting from their evil deeds.
Some of us didn't hear about it in time to be at that first service, or were too far away. Two vehicle loads of mission folks left early the next day in time for the procession to the grave. On the one-kilometer walk, many of Alfonzo's fellow brethren helped bear the casket. But so did at least one who assisted in the murder. He, the murderer, and other participants of the crime, were present once again at the graveside service.
Brother Harold Kauffman and I had brief meditations. Then the grave was closed.
To me, the words of Jesus are the most fitting epithet: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
We don't know where the work in Pital will go from here. Alfonzo's parents left the area soon after his death. Because of more threats against Auralia, we've moved her out as well. Most of those who were considered faithful have moved out or are going to do so. Right now tensions are high because there are threats of vengeance from non-Christians who sympathized with Alfonzo as well as counter vengeance from the murderous gang.
We ask for your prayers for those who are lost in this downward spiral of violence. What a cold, empty, condemned life for these Christless people.
Pray for Auralia. Pray especially for the children that they will be able to forgive the murderers, and follow in the godly footsteps of their father. Pray for the church leaders who remain, who must make decisions, carry on, and decide how to move ahead from this point.
May the same God who saved Alfonzo Lima from eternal death be glorified for having called him home.