Mission Statement

Fishers of Men is an organization of evangelical Christians
whose mission is to glorify God by meeting the basic needs of our neighbor
while seeking the integral transformation of that person.

From Victor's background as a member of a street gang in Mexico City and Julie's childhood as the daughter of a Michigan pastor come their combined passion to provide a secure home for abandoned children at Refuge Ranch and to proclaim the healing power of Jesus Christ to remote regions of Mexico through the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades.

The Story of Victor and Julie and of Fishers of Men

Victor Zaragoza was fleeing for his life.  The gang members would likely kill him if they caught up with him.  Running in a grassy area, he tripped and fell.  They would be upon him in seconds.

Since the age of 9 he had been living on the streets, part of a gang.  One of seven children, at age 6 Victor had watched his father walk down the street and out of his life.  Working to support her large family, Victor’s mother had little time to give the children, so Victor dropped out of school and found acceptance with a gang of boys in a rough section of Mexico City.  Eventually he became  the gang’s leader.

Victor enjoyed the camaraderie of the gang and the excitement of fighting and stealing.  He had acquired the nickname “Mequetrefe,” which means “troublemaker.”  But in his moments alone he felt empty and knew something was missing in his life.  He began to think more seriously about God, stole a Bible from the home of a friend, started to read it, and attended a few church services.

Now, lying in the grass, waiting for the enemy gang members to find him, Victor remembered a song from a church service based on a statement from the Bible in Psalm 3:3, “But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  He heard the gang members approach, then pass him by, having failed to spot him hiding in the grass.  Victor knew it was a miracle they hadn’t discovered him.  Eventually, at the age of 20, Victor gave his life to God.  He began to work in a church in Mexico City, sometimes going on their  medical mission crusades. 

Julie Claassen was enjoying her teenage years playing in the Toledo Youth Orchestra and studying to maintain good grades.  The daughter of a pastor, she enjoyed the opportunities she found for ministry in her father’s church, including participation in a mission trip to Mexico at the age of 16.  It was on this mission trip that she felt a call to go into full-time missions.  She also had a passion to meet the needs of poor and abandoned children and hoped to find a way to combine her sense of calling to the mission field and to children without hope.

During college, Julie spent a semester studying at a language institute in Mexico.  While attending a church in Mexico City,  she met Victor.  Upon returning to the U.S., Julie began to work among the migrants in Indiana.  Arrangements were made for Victor to join her, and they worked together in the migrant ministry, while also working to    establish a Hispanic church.  They were  married in 1998 and served in the newly-founded church for the next five years. 

A New Life in Mexico
Victor and Julie poured their lives into the church in Indiana, but their hearts were in Mexico.  A new pastor was found for the church, and in June of 2003,Victor, Julie and their toddler son packed up their van and headed to Mexico.  They had a dream to  conduct medical missions and to take in unwanted children.  Such a unique plan would not likely fit into the structure of any existing mission organization, so they made the decision to establish their own mission, Fishers of Men.

After a few months they purchased several acres of land on a mountainside south of Mexico City within sight of the volcano Popocatepetl.  The land had not been farmed for years.  Walking through the waist-high grass, making their way through an old avocado grove and climbing the rock-lined terraces, they began making plans to build a small home. 

Like the pioneers in early United States history, Victor and Julie began the process of taming the wild land to make it their home.  The house was built with donations from supporters and volunteers who came on short-term mission trips.  A large holding tank to provide household water was moved into place.  Slow-moving local bureaucracy resulted in Victor stringing their own electrical and  telephone wires.

A chicken coop and roofed stall   were built.  Chickens and a milk cow were purchased, and a garden was planted .  The goal to be at least partly self-sustaining was beginning to take shape.

The steep dirt road to the property became nearly impassable with the heavier traffic of the water truck, family vehicles, and visitors to Refuge Ranch.  A major    project was undertaken to pave approximately 400 feet of the steepest grade of the road.  Again, funds donated by supporters and short-term mission teams provided the      resources to make it happen.

Two lives and two dreams have merged at a crossroad on a mountainside in Mexico, giving birth to a mission Victor and Julie call Fishers of Men.  The ministry has two facets.  Refuge Ranch provides a home for abandoned children.  The Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades provide medical treatment for the poor and are an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Refuge Ranch
The land, house, animals, and gardens of Refuge Ranch provide the backdrop for the
ministry to unwanted children. Since 2004, the Zaragoza family has gradually grown from one child to 18 children, 17 at Refuge Ranch and one in heaven.  Fourteen have been rescued from neglect and abuse, one was orphaned, and three are the biological
children of Victor and Julie.

Angie and Diana, ages 22 and 21, are sisters and came from a life on the streets of Mexico City.  Martita, 20, and Lolis, 18, also siblings, experienced  the death of their mother during Lolis’ birth and subsequent abuse from a stepmother and alcoholic father.  Martha, 17, also survived the death of her mother and an abusive alcoholic father.  Fidel, age 15, was abandoned by his family and was found living in a village jail.  Nine year old Ana was willfully surrendered at birth by her single mother of five other children.  Jocelin, age 13, joined the family when her single mother, Victor’s   sister, died unexpectedly.  Daniel joined the family at the age of 20 months when his birth mother abandoned him.  Severe congenital heart disease led to surgery at age 5 which resulted in his tragic death.  Five siblings, Fatima, Leo, Miguel, Carolina, and David, ranging from ages 15 to 6, joined the family when their mother abandoned them.  Alejandro, age 15, was rescued after being rejected by all of his relatives.

Josiah, now 14, Caleb, who is 11, and Ruth, age 10, are the biological children of Victor and Julie.  All of the children are home schooled and enjoy playtime among the hills, trees and animals of Refuge Ranch.

Construction has begun on a much larger home that will accommodate more children and staff.
The new facility will also
serve as the headquarters for the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades. 

Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades
Teams are made up of doctors, dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, paramedics, children’s workers, cooks and general volunteers.  Hair stylists are also often part of the team, as many of those ministered to have never had a real haircut.  Teams travel to poverty-stricken areas where medical care is nearly non-existent.  Medical conditions are diagnosed and treated and medical supplies are distributed, including anti-parasite medication, multi-vitamins, and diabetic supplies.    Each person who comes for treatment has a one-on-one encounter with a crusade volunteer who shares the message of Christ and gives the opportunity to accept Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior.  Helpful spiritual literature is also provided.  Other crusade volunteers interact with the village children through songs, games, crafts and Bible stories.

Several crusades are conducted each year, the number largely determined by the availability of funds and team workers.  The majority of the team members are from Mexico, though some come from the United States.  Teams range in size from 10 to 40.  Crusades are only held in areas where there is an existing mission or church in order to ensure more effective follow-up.

The national religion has minimal impact on people’s individual lives and is often little more than empty ritual permeated with superstitious beliefs and practices.  The purpose of the medical missions is to provide much-needed medical care while offering the hope and help that come through a personal faith in Christ.

A young gang leader on the streets of Mexico City and a girl raised in a Michigan pastor’s home seemed to be on very different paths, but they each came to a crossroad in their lives, finding each other and a life together.  Victor’s vision of carrying out evangelistic medical missions and Julie’s dream of taking in unwanted children have merged into the ministry they call Fishers of Men.  Together they seek to carry out their dreams and God’s call on their lives on a mountainside in rural Mexico.