Ruben Mercado grew up on the streets of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a drug addict who stole and ran with gangs to survive. At the age of 19, he had a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ that transformed his life. He became a pastor and leader in the Evangelical Anabaptist Church of Bolivia (LIEAB).
In 1997, the Mercado family was sent to Mexico City as missionaries to work with the United Committee for Anabaptist Mission (CUMA), an inter-Mennonite effort to plant churches in the metropolitan area of Mexico City. After 12 years of ministry in Mexico, the Mercados returned to Bolivia where Ruben was the pastor of the Light and Truth Church in Santa Cruz and a mentor to pastors and leaders.
Sadly, Ruben Mercado passed away on June 9, 2021 from COVID-19. He was 50 years old. He is survived by his wife, Guadalupe, daughters Heidy and Abigail (married to Franz), and a granddaughter, Hannah.
I met Ruben and his family the day they arrived in Mexico City where we had been sent by Franconia Mennonite Conference to serve as church planting missionaries. We became close friends and worked together for 24 years. Out of our shared vision for church planting, leadership development, and sending Latinos to areas with little or no Christian witness, we formed the International Network of Missionary Churches / Red de Iglesias Misionaras Internacional (RIMI), a partner in ministry with Mosaic Mennonite Conference. Today RIMI is made up of over 100 churches and church plants in 13 countries.
In 2012, while visiting Ecuador, Ruben noticed the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations. The modern building was surrounded by the colorful flags of its member nations. Ruben thought, how much more should Christian youth of Latin America come together to be encouraged and equipped to participate in God’s mission in the world? Out of that experience, the vision for Generacion Sana / Wholesome Generation was born.
Generacion Sana holds an annual conference that brings youth together from different countries for training and building relationships. Since 2014, Generacion Sana conferences have been held in Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia and most recently in Venezuela where over 1000 youth participated. Due to the pandemic, Generacion Sana conferences were suspended in 2020 and 2021, but plans to resume in 2022, possibly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As a gifted evangelist, Ruben preached in churches, stadiums, streets and fields. He effectively used radio, television, and the internet to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. Several years ago, Franconia Conference provided funds to produce a video of Ruben’s testimony which has been used as an evangelistic tool in many countries. Through Ruben’s encouragement, new radio stations were started in Mexico. He was also the co-host of the weekly program, Consejo Oportuno / An Opportune Word.
Ruben never ceased to be amazed by the grace and power of God who took a young drug addict off the streets of Santa Cruz and gave him the opportunity to preach to the nations. He rejoiced to see other lives transformed by the same Lord who changed his. Ruben now joins that great cloud of witnesses. The memory of his life well lived for Christ encourages and challenges us to live our lives fully for Christ and God’s mission in the world.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)