This afternoon we will bury Guadalupe Herrera, next to his father. No, that is not quite right. We will bury Guadalupe´s body, for surely Guadalupe is with the Lord in Heaven.
I met Guadalupe Herrera at KAIROS #27 in July of 1999 at the Ferguson TDCJ unit near Huntsville, Texas. I can truly say I have never heard anything come out of Lupe´s lips that was not praise for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Lupe´s life is a strong witness of the power of faith, regardless of your circumstances. Whenever Lupe was around, it was hard not to be peaceful. Lupe had truly accepted Jesus into his life, and turned himself over to Jesus about six years before I met him. He and I shared many failures in our lives. We both struggled with divorce and addictions. From the moment God put Lupe and me next to each other at the Table of San Pablo in KAIROS #27 we knew we were brothers. As we shared each other´s lives we continued to marvel of the miracle that we were put together. After KAIROS #27, I continued to meet with Lupe, via letters and monthly trips for small group meetings.
In April 2000, six months before Lupe was due to be paroled; he was diagnosed with leukemia. It took me a while to learn of this, and then get permission to visit him, in June, at the Galveston TDCJ hospital where he was being treated. When I walked into his room, his eyes just lit up. He was in pretty bad shape, with sores inside his mouth and all over his body. He told me that his roommate, seeing his suffering, had told him to just give up and die! What was Lupe´s reaction? He said to me that was when he realized that he was living the part of Job!
Even in this terrible pain, his reaction was to praise God. During the next year and a-half, Lupe had a few good days, and a lot of bad days, yet I never heard him complain, or say one single curse word! Even when told he only had a few more months, his reaction was to be grateful for the year and a-half he had had with his family, and he was grateful that he had not died in prison!
Family was very important to Lupe, and his prayer was twofold, that they each would find the Lord, and find it in their hearts to forgive past hurts. He lived long enough to see much, but not all, of that healing happen. He is survived by his wife Jo Ann, his children Guadalupe III, Nicole, Angelita and Estrella; two grandchildren Alexis and Amber; his mother, Maria and stepfather Charlie, his brother John and sisters Nancy and husband, Carlos, Letty, Rose Mary, and Marisol. His aunt Maria Guadalupe and husband, Casmiro were like second parents, and his cousins George and wife, Audrey, and Anna and husband, Adrian were like bother and sister. It has been a special joy to me to become a part of this loving family. Like all of us, this family is not perfect, but I have seen much love in the past months as they all supported Lupe in many ways, from providing a place for him to live when he was first released from prison, to caring for him in the hospital. His wife Jo Ann was a tower of support and strength. Either she, one of the three sisters his mother Maria or his aunt Lupe were always with him, providing physical care and loving support. It is a blessing to me just to watch this family in action.
Lupe and I often prayed together. Lupe often asked for ten more years, but always ended his prayers saying he was ready to die if that were God´s will. I just wish I had Lupe´s faith. I am having a LOT of trouble with the very idea that it was God´s will for Lupe to die. He died because he got leukemia. What I KNOW is that God gave Lupe comfort during this journey, and that Lupe´s strong faith brought a lot of healing to his immediate family, and the Christian family that loved him.
I was sharing my struggle with a KAIROS Prison Ministry bother, Chris Pearson, and he responded
" I should stop being amazed at how much peace I feel when someone I know is right with God moves on from our world to His. I just feel lucky to have been touched by Guadalupe's life. It reminds me that when we are faithful to God, He makes good things happen".
I am comforted by this reading from the Forward Day by Day special on September 11 ...
"Psalm 124: Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. ... God cannot stop your mother from dying or your father from being a drunk. God can help you survive. God is about helping us survive and getting through. As we will once more".
Lupe learned to read so he could read the bible. He particularly liked "The Message" translation. I share from John 17:
"25Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
26I have made your very being known to them-
Who you are and what you do-
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them."
Lupe was a living example of my favorite motto:
PRAISE GOD ALWAYS, and if necessary, use words!
God´s love was in Lupe, and he freely shared that love with all that knew him. On Friday night, a night we all, including Lupe, thought might be his last, I watched as he told his youngest daughter Estrella: "Daddy loves you very much. Daddy will be OK, he will be in the arms of the Lord", and later to the whole family: "My prayer is that you will not turn your backs on the Lord". I am told that his last words on Sunday were an exclamation: "I am home"! Lupe surely is in Gods precious arms.
Amen and Amen!