November 12, 2019 | Malpaso, Chiapas, Mexico | Uriel Castellanos/IAD News Staff
When Daniel Gallardo first learned of the tragic death of five-year-old Ximena Gómez in the news recently, it moved him, just as it did for thousands of Seventh-day Adventists in Chiapas and across Mexico. Ximena had been kidnapped from her Adventist home in the town of Malpaso and had gone missing for ten days until her body was found on September 14, 2019.
It was devastating news that swept across churches in Chiapas, in Mexico. Leaders from religious organizations, politicians, and the public in general united in prayer for 10 days for Ximena’s safety, remembered Gallardo.
Gallardo had recently lost a brother and had family still living in Malpaso, so he was able to contact the mourning parents and request photos of Ximena growing up. He wanted to bring hope to the family.
“I was moved by Ximena’s smile in the photograph that was attached to the tragic news, and I went to work right away to create a happy memory of her,” said Gallardo. Gallardo is a photographer and visual artist, who works with what is known as “Photobashing”, a technique where artists merge and blend photographs or 3D assets together while painting and compositing them into one finished piece. He worked for 51 hours on the piece, and was able to send it to the family just a day after her funeral. The image went viral on social media.
Weeks later, on Oct. 8, Gallardo, along with church leaders from the Chiapas Mexican Union went to visit the family to deliver a 30×45 inch reproduction of Gallardo’s art. The finished image depicts Ximena surrounded by three angels being approached by Jesus on the resurrection morning.
“When the enemy takes away something that you love, any hope you have can be blinded by pain, that is why I wanted to remind you and strengthen you through this–the promise of resurrection,” said Gallardo as he gave the finished piece to the Gómez family.
Amid tears and embraces, Ximena’s parents Antonio and Mara thanked the artist and said they had received the image through social media after the funeral of their little one.
“That afternoon, we had just returned from church, very sad, but when we saw that image our faces changed, we cried tears of joy, we smiled because we were reminded what will be like when Christ comes, that’s how Jesus will receive my daughter,” said Antonio. “Our hearts were filled with joy.”
The framed image has been an opportunity to testify to other persons and share with them the blessed hope that sets us apart as Seventh-day Adventists, Antonio said.
“Ximena loved to take photos, she would smile in all of them,” said Mara.
“That’s how Jesus welcomed her, many people tell me. But I say no, that is how it will be when Jesus comes and together we can be a complete family again,” said Mara. “To see the image reminds us that we need to be prepared and to preach the gospel so that people can know of the love of God and for Christ’s soon return.”
Weeks later the Gómez family organized an evangelistic campaign in their own home, where their daughter was abducted from.
“We wanted to organize this evangelistic campaign in our home because we know so many people now,” said Mara. “This is the moment that we have to use so that people can learn more about the love of God. Many people want to know about the love of God. When they ask us ‘Why are you so calm?’ we tell them about the peace that only God gives us.”
Many of the 29 who attended the evangelistic campaign were visitors, friends and family members who had never gone to church.
“The death of Ximena marked a very sad moment for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chiapas, but also brought unity and solidarity,” said Pastor José Luis Bouchot, executive secretary of the church in Chiapas. “This is a moment that publicly testifies today our blessed hope–the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of those we love.”
Ximena is survived by her parents and two older brothers, ages 11 and 8.