When 21-year-old Lupita Romero became a Christian, she wanted to tell her friend Guadalupe that Jesus changed her life. This friend -- with whom she shared a name -- had repeatedly tried to interest Lupita into going to church in the past.
Lupita was shocked when she called her friend's house. Tearfully, her mother explained that her daughter had recently hanged herself from a tree. Later, Lupita imagined a picture of all of her friends hanging from trees.
"The Lord clearly showed me that many women were living lives of anguish and searching for a reason to live," says Lupita. "He showed me the difference between being religious and being a Christian. I needed to tell these women about Christ and equip myself for ministry."
That year, Lupita attended an 8-month training session at Mexico's Campus Crusade for Christ headquarters. Afterward, she honored her parents' request to return home to Jaltipan, Mexico. There, she and her family, all new Christians, presented their testimonies in homes and public parks. One hundred youth became Christians; some later became pastors.
Two years later, in 1980, Lupita married staff member Agustín Garduño and joined the staff of Campus Crusade. God blessed them with a son, then another, and finally a daughter, so Lupita scaled back her outside involvement.
In 1989, Lupita sensed the Lord reminding her that He wanted to use her to win influential women to Himself.
The mother of 3 began praying toward that end and soon met the wife of a famous actor in Mexico City who desired to learn more about living the Christian life. Lupita agreed to mentor her. Soon other prominent women, including a singer of ranchero music (a popular Mexican style), joined Lupita's Bible study.
"My guideline was that I used the hours from 9 a.m. to noon, when my children were in school, for ministry," recounts Lupita. "God made those few hours as productive as if I were working full time."
After a while, she explained to these 12 women that it wasn't good enough to study the Bible and ignore the women outside their group who needed the Lord. Timidly, the small circle of women agreed to host evangelistic breakfasts for their friends.
Soon more women were becoming Christians, so they started new Bible studies. This original group of 12 women eventually multiplied to the sixth generation; that is, women taught their friends about Jesus, who taught their friends, and so on, eventually reaching 100 women.
When Lupita's husband, Agustín, stepped into the role of national director for Mexico in 1992 and the family moved to Cuernavaca, she prayed once again that God would use her in this new town. Shortly afterward, she met María Elena Pineda.
"I was skeptical of Christianity," says María Elena. "But before I met Christ, I felt an emptiness. I thought I'd find fulfillment when I married, developed my career, or had a child. When I became a mother and still felt that emptiness, I got worried.
"Lupita approached me with love and patience," says María Elena. "Little by little, I gave control of my life to Christ."
Like so many others, María Elena understood that she, too, could be used in the lives of others. Regularly, she shares her faith with women and teaches them to do the same.
Twenty-five years ago, Lupita's dreadful vision prodded her into ministry. Since then, she has watched God strip the trees of many women. As only God can do, He exchanged meaninglessness with an eternal hope. And like Lupita, those women He has changed have not wanted to keep it to themselves.