Returning to their homes in Juarez, Mexico from a time of prayer and fasting a couple hundred miles into the Sierra Madres in 2011, members of the Ramirez family felt strong impressions that something unusual and miraculous awaited them in the United States as their van moved into view of the border and beyond.
Traveling throughout Mexico at the time, the family and its cumbia-style band shared the Gospel through praise and worship music, personal testimonies and preaching God‘s love, forgiveness and repentance. The group’s leader, Jose Luis, had played with a secular band and was involved with drug cartels before giving his life to Jesus Christ. Afterward he formed Vision Celestial with members of his immediate and extended families.
The Ramirez family didn’t know just how unusual and miraculous its future ministry in the U.S. would be until Easter Sunday two years later, and the agonizing days that followed what was intended to be a celebration of life.
Gathered outside Jose Luis’ home to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection with a barbeque and music in March 2013, the band began warming up as family, friends, neighbors and a Juarez pastor moved to the God-honoring beat, while enjoying food and fellowship.
Suddenly, an unknown assassin pulled a gun and began firing at Jose Luis’ 24-year-old son Junior who, miraculously, remained on his feet as his body took 37 bullets, and spoke directly to the shooter: “Jesus loves you. I forgive you.”
Believed to be a hit man hired by a Mexican drug lord, the shooter turned quickly, murdering Jose Luis, then took aim at his son Chuy Ramirez. The gangster pulled the trigger but, thankfully, was out of bullets.
Fleeing the traumatized, blood-covered crowd, the assassin declared, “You’re all next.”
Bolstering the threat, the ominous message “All you Christians are next” appeared on posters throughout the neighborhood the next day.
Knowing the threats to be promises, Vision Celestial band members and their families fled to the U.S. border where, miraculously, agents placed them all under protective care as talk of murder continued in Juarez. With faith in God’s promises about ministry in the U.S., their clothes and musical instruments, the Ramirez family prepared for an uncertain future.
Supporting Vision Celestial‘s call to the U.S., a number of ministries and churches in the El Paso area, South Dakota, and Colorado have worked collaboratively to shelter 30 family members at a refugee center in Texas. Supporters say they are committed to helping Vision Celestial by hosting the band’s praise and worship concerts. Free and open to the public, the concert tour in Colorado - and possibly future ones in Arizona and Illinois - are designed to raise funds for the Christian-based refugee center.
“God has a purpose and a plan through these tragedies,” says Lorenzo Ramirez, who publicly prays for his brother’s assassin and speaks about the family’s need to forgive as Junior Ramirez did before he died. “He (God) has created the structure for Vision Celestial to be here and take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.”
The wife and mother of the two slain men admits to still “falling to pieces at times. But thank God we’re pressing on by the grace of God,” says Rosa Ramirez
Moving forward is what Jose Luis wanted the band to do. The family patriarch intended to delegate future responsibility for the ministry to his son son the night Junior Ramirez was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ.
With help from an American band, Vision Celestial may reach the ends of the earth before it expects. With four million Facebook fans of its pop-rock style, an internationally acclaimed band is considering the possibility of a combined tour of both groups, according to the Mexican family’s tour coordinator, Timothy Alm, a missionary with Longmont, Colo.-based Amigos of Mexico.
Moved by Vision Celestial’s story, another ministry leader in the U.S. is calling for repentance in North America for its demand of illegal drugs and, as a consequence, helping to boost Mexico’s supply of them across the border.
Brad Tuttle, the leader of a men’s Spiritual Warfare Attack Team in Colorado (SWAT), is asking churches to stand in the gap for Mexico. SWAT worked in tandem with other churches and ministries to launch Vision Celestial’s concert tour, and to provide support for the refugee center in El Paso.
One of SWAT’s prayer intercessors, after hearing the story of Jose Luis, publicly repented of apathy for Mexicans and Christians who, like members of Vision Celestial, face persecution for following Jesus Christ.