Kristi Nelson, NBC 5 News
A North Texas family of pastors and missionaries wants to spread the word, especially to Hispanics, that religion shouldn't keep anyone from being an organ donor.
An Arlington father, pastor and transplant recipient is encouraging other Hispanics to learn more about organ donation.
The Rev. Angel Mercado, the pastor of a Spanish-speaking Christian congregation in Arlington, and his family want to use their ministry to educate Hispanics about organ donation and transplantation.
"I believe God has gifted us with many things we can gift to others to enhance their way of living," said Liza Solares, Mercado's daughter. "And I'll share this message as long as I can."
Baylor transplant specialist Dr. Maria Lepe-Suastegui said the family's message is important. Not only are more Hispanic donors needed, but many Hispanics who need transplants aren't getting them.
"It is a problem, particularly as Hispanic patients die twice as much from liver disease than any other minority group," she said.
As a man of faith, Mercado prayed and asked God to heal him -- first when he needed both a liver and kidney transplant and again when he learned a second kidney transplant was necessary.
"I thought that by prayer and being faithful to the Lord and fasting, I was going to get healed," he said. "It never happened."
The need for the second transplant weighed heavily on Mercado.
"I lost my encouragement. I lost my desire for ministry and for everything," he said. "I was just living -- existing; not really living."
Eventually a kidney transplanted from Mercado's daughter Liza was successful.
"I didn't see the healing through prayer or fasting; the healing came through my daughter,” Mercado said. "That's a wonderful thing, that God uses human beings to better the life of others."
According to the Mayo Clinic, many people believe their religion opposes organ donation. But the Mercados said they want people to know that most religions don't oppose organ donations.