Below is a story of God working the lives of gang bangers here written by one of the male mentors. The names have been changed for their safety.
“Romans 10:14-15,”How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
This is the verse that the Lord laid on Marco’s [one of the mentors] heart this past Saturday as we drove, praying on our way up to Lake Villa to meet Carlos, Julio, Sergio and Javier who are in drug rehab. We also prayed that the Lord would favor us by allowing us to take the boyz out for a walk to the lake on the premises since [the drug rehab center] has changed their policies with respect to taking the boyz off site. Prior weeks ago, we had visited the same group of boyz and two were fairly new arrivees but the excitement in the conference room at that time was electrifying as Sergio actually volunteered to lead in prayer over the food we were allowed to bring in. In his prayer he voiced his joy and as an ambassador for the others, expressed their joy as well for our visit. As we left that first visit we could see the massive change that has and continues to take place in Carlos and Sergio. Afterwards, much to my surprise, Marcos informed me that during this past week the boyz had actually called from the drug rehab center asking us if we could have a return visit with them this past Saturday. They also asked for two bibles, one for Carlos and one for Sergio.
With gas prices up and my daughter coming from the great U of I (Ha! 5-0!) to visit for a weekend and me having to drive her to Indiana and then later picking her up from there on the same day of a possible visit to the drug rehab center I thought for a split second to myself, “Man, I don’t know if I can make it this Saturday”. But as I said, it was a split second. I often tell the boyz, “You have not because you ask not”. Once I told one of my boyz, because you asked me to visit you at Abraxas twice a week, that is the only reason why I went, otherwise who knows how often I would’ve visited you but because you asked. So with that in mind, Sergio (my partner in Christ) and I knew God willing we would be on our way to Lake Villia (or “chilla” as I call it or “thrilla” as Marcos calls it). As we were running late, Marcos reminded me of the 2 bible requests and at first we decided that we’d bring the bibles on a subsequent visit but then I said let’s just pick up 4 bibles at the church instead of 2 so that each one would have their own.
We were not allowed to take the boyz for a walk to the nearby lake. We so wanted to be out in God’s nature where we thought self reflection would be enhanced. But as Paul would say about entering a specific country in the scriptures, that the Spirit would not allow us to enter (some might say the enemy didn’t allow it but I don’t think so in this case). So, we understood that we would need to make the most of our time together in a conference room and that the Lord had His own plans and we had to be sensitive to the Spirit. We gave each boy a bible. Marcos explained how to look up verses, the make up of the bible, etc. Then he opened with the above verse and with natural ease shared his testimony as I prayed to myself “Lord, please let his testimony penetrate hearts” and “your Word does not return void” and “Look at Javier, Lord…is he getting it?” Then Carlos started asking some deep questions, some related to end times which surprised me since he seemed to know more than I had thought (don’t we tend to judge our boyz sometimes the wrong way!). His questions opened the door for the others to start asking questions. Julio was counting the cost…asking but what happens when I get back to da hood, how am I suppose to act. Marcos told him not to worry about that for now but to trust in Jesus. Also, I said, “God wants you to come the way you are. He knows that you gangbang, he knows your personality, after all, He created you! You can’t think that you can clean up your act first and then come to God. You can’t do it without God!” (During this time we had an interruption from one of the boys there. Sergio said that was his celly and that he too recently got a bible. We wanted to invite him in but knew we couldn’t.) So from the above verse Marcos went to read all of Romans 10, re-reading verses 14 and 15 to them, telling da boyz that he was sent to bring them the gospel, “the good news”. Then he moved on to Ephesians 2:8-10. So, then Marcos said “I have to do this, the Spirit is prompting me. I need to do an altar call.” He did an altar call with me clarifying that you can’t be “forced” into accepting the Lord as your Savior, it has to come from you and you alone. Also, I mentioned that you truly become God’s son and that even sometimes when I pray, I say, “Dad…”. So after some more discussion, the question was posed again, who wants to accept the Lord and who doesn’t. Four hands went up!! Praise the Lord!!…A celebration in the heavenlies by God’s angels! So we gathered in a circle to pray. Suddenly Julio (what a kid!) starts shedding tears…tears falling cleaning, crisply down ever so gentle to the carpet floor. One tear, then another and another. Shamelessly, crying with tears of a new life…a new life in Christ. Yeah! A new life in Christ! It hit me, God chooses the lowly, the unwise of life to comfound the highly, wise of life. For the first time Julio (some say abandoned by his parents and living with his grandma), handpicked by God feels WANTED, feels LOVE for who he is by a God who treasures his life. Yeah, let the tears flow until the cup overflows!! (Doesn’t the Word say…”my cup overflowth”?)
You know the ULS ministry can be difficult at times but a moment like this takes away all the pain of ministry…kind of like childbirth (apologies to the woman) when the baby is born, like Jesus says, who remembers the pain after the baby is born! A born again birth of four of our boyz! Who remembers the pain of ministering to Carlos when time after time Marcos would want him to turn himself in for a warrant and for Marcos not ever giving up on him. For Sergio’s family who have Santa Muerte statues all over his house. For Javier saying he’s not a good reader can someone else read that verse (unwise to comfound the wise!). And then, Julio, a tough dude, a VIP kid of Marco’s. Did Marcos ever realize 3 years ago when he first met Julio that this day was orchestrated by the Lord but only if he remained faithful? They call Julio “CONAN!” on da streets as he was now crying. A crying, I’ll never forget! A crying that I have relived countless times already since this past Saturday. A crying that will forever be part of my life! Innocence brought back to life for a youth that had lost it and had it stolen by the enemy!
And so as I end , please pray for these four boyz as they prepare to come home in a couple of months. We don’t have any real after care for them. Pray that the Lord will prepare Christians to be sent into their lives that will spiritually mentor them. Pray for a desire for them to read the Word. Pray that they will be spiritual leaders for their generation and the next that follows them. Pray for their peace and safety as attacks are probably happening to them right now. Pray that these four would be the next horsemen of the Lord’s, bring sweeping change to La Villita. Pray for their fruit. Pray for their families. Pray that they will bring others to Christ and be on fire like they were for their gang. Pray against any gang violation they may have to encounter. Pray for their boldness. Pray against ridicule. Pray against falling back into the mix when they return. Finally, pray for ourselves as we come under further attacks.
Man, I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use these boyz for His kingdom work!
Marcos and I are planing to go up there on some Saturdays to possibly do bible study / discipleship with these boyz as kind of a new ministry so to speak, with visions of possibly expanding to other boyz (like for the one who interrupted) so please keep us in prayer on this.
I’ve been contemplating Julio’s question, “Art, but what do I do when I get back to da hood…you know”. The Lord put this verse on my heart when Naaman was healed of his lepracy from Elisha the prophet. We need to reassure our boyz that the Lord knows and understands the struggles they will have when they accept Him as their Lord and Savior. They should be secure and at peace in the Prince of Peace.
2 Kings 5:18-19, “But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.” “Go in peace,” Elisha said.””