You’ve probably never heard of Vicente Menchu. He was a poor farmer from the mountain region of Guatemala. He lived in the tiny village of El Quiche (pronounced kee-chay). And didn’t think he would ever touch the world.
In the late 1970s, when the Guatemalan government began seizing land owned by his fellow villagers, Vicente talked all the people of his village into banding together. His fight against unfair treatment of peasants spread rapidly to other villages.
By 1980, they took their cause to the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City, where Vicente was killed by government troops.
His influence never left Guatemala during his lifetime. But it didn’t have to. Vicente had enormous influence on his children. El Quiche had no schools, so he trained his children at home. He was a big believer in education and taught his kids thorough lessons in the Scriptures. They never had the opportunity to learn physics, chemistry, or advanced mathematics. The academic lessons were fairly basic.
Instead, he taught his kids right from wrong and about the teachings of Jesus and other figures from the Bible.
When Guatemala’s civil war began, many of the villagers were involved in the fight. But his daughter, Rigoberta, decided to fight in a different way. And this is where Vicente’s influence had its greatest impact.
Rigoberta traveled to the U.S. in 1982 as an exile and began to work for Guatemalan peace. She lobbied at the United Nations for the next 10 years trying to get the international community to work for peace in her home country.
“I am like a drop of water on a rock,” she wrote in her book Crossing Borders. “After drip, drip, dripping in the same place, I begin to leave a mark, and I leave my mark in many people’s hearts.”
Slowly, religious and human rights groups began to join her cause and the UN finally stood up and took notice. Rigoberta won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. At the age of 33, she was the youngest person ever to win the award. And, more importantly, the civil war in Guatemala ended three months after she won the award.
Rigoberta used the $ 1.2 million award to set up a foundation to help keep the peace in Guatemala. Her work has helped relations between the government and the peasants for the last 15 years. And Rigoberta credits what she learned from her father’s Bible lessons as the inspiration for her work. The persistence, patience, and the power of God to use small people to triumph over powerful people helped her see that her father’s death — and teaching — was not in vain.