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The Radical Ones #3 (Davíd)

The mans name in this post has been changed for his safety

The Gang...

After spending significant time in Central America, I have learned that every country has its gang. Every region has its gang. Every barrio has its gang. Whenever I go into a new place, within a few hours I usually hear a local talk about the local gang that is running the community.

For example...

I was working in a barrio that is considered to be a main "slum" of Costa Rica. This area is known as "The Forgotten Place." Meaning that most people, even locals, in Costa Rica have never been too or heard of the barrio. While I was in this barrio, I asked the local pastor how This Mission could support him. He heard that we had done some clean water projects. He asked if we had a few water filters that he could have for the community.

One thing I noticed when he asked this was that he was not asking for a water filter for his house or for his family, he was asking for one for his community. When working in these "ultra-poverty" areas, I notice how most people have a community mindset. They are not only wanting to take care of their household, they want to take care of the community as a whole.

Our Employee Spencer asked the local pastor if they have access to San Jose water. He asked because San Jose, Costa Rica is known for having clean and safe drinking water. The Local pastor said that, "it was complicated," however the local gang had been having a negative effect on the water source. He went on to explain how a few months prior to us arriving in the barrio, the local gang had murdered multiple people and dropped the dead bodies upstream from the barrios water source. He said that many people in the barrio got very sick from this and that he needed filters for if (more accurately, when...) this happens again. We were able to reach out to some US water filter brands and bring back commercial grade water filters for the church. One of the cool things about this, is if the water in this barrio is tainted in any way, people will come to the church to get clean water. I love the story about the Woman at the Well. Jesus says to her, that he will give her water that will well up to eternal life." We are praying that something as simple as clean water can have an impact on this community.

Back to the main story...

This was an awesome story and could be a post in itself, however, it mainly served as an example of the gangs in Central America, and set the stage for this next story!

One morning we were in this same barrio and in this same church that now has water filters. This small church had asked This Mission to run the Sunday service for them. We have spent a ton of time in this church and know the whole congregation by name. There are about 15-20 families apart of this church and all of them Love Jesus so much! It was such an honor that the pastor asked us to run the service for the weekend.

Our team prepared heavily for this Sunday and I wanted our whole team involved. We planned to worship, share a short word, pray with them, and then spend time listening to the families needs. I had planned a sermon on inheritance. It was a good one:) When I speak at churches I usually will get so nervous that I do not eat the day prior or the day of the service. I have spoken in front of thousands and thousands of people, but sometimes these small churches I get the most nervous for. While I was preaching I kept telling myself just to stick to my notes... but I heard a small tug from the Lord that I should just share the Gospel.

I decided to throw my notes away mid-sermon (always an interesting tactic) and start preaching the Gospel. One of my mentors at ministry school would always say, "if you can't land the plane, crash it." That's what I did. I threw away the notes and went straight to the Gospel message. I went with what I think is the best verse for preaching the Gospel... John 3:16. It did not make sense to me why God was telling me to preach the gospel when the whole church were already Christians. Little did I know that a man was walking outside the church as I started preaching the Gospel. This man had quite the background...

Davíd was released from 13 years in prison the night before. He was a hitman for the local gang and had killed many people. This man had a laundry list of crimes he committed. Davíd was walking by the church and heard the Gospel being preached. He entered the church and stayed in the back corner. One of our long term employees named Gherzon, saw this man and made his way back to him. After the service was over, Gherzon began a conversation with davíd and heard his story. He said that he had never heard the Gospel before and that he felt something in his heart. Gherzon explained salvation to him and ended up asking Davíd if he wanted to give his life to the Lord. He emphatically said yes and prayed that God would forgive him of his sins and he asked God into his heart.

We figured out later that the morning Davíd came to church, he was walking back to the headquarters of the gang to ask them for a job again. His life changed in an instant. He said he did not want to live the "Gang Life" anymore and wanted to serve God. Gherzon followed up with Davíd and our team began going to his house to pray with his family and bring them food.

What I learned

The more ministry we do in the "rough" areas of this world, I have learned that people will risk everything to follow Jesus. I tend to hear stories like this and forget that Davíd becoming a Christian is just the beginning to an even bigger story. Gangs in Central America are not in favor of people leaving the gang and becoming a Christian.

Talking to a different local pastor, he said that over 27 men in his church have been killed in the last 5 years within a week of leaving this same gang and becoming a Christian. Most of the men and women that have left the gang, have completely left this part of Costa Rica because the know they will be killed if they don't.

Davíd is a radical one for this and we are praying for his safety and for the safety of his family.

By having experiences like this, I have learned how radical Christianity really is. That people would risk their lives to know and follow God. That people like Davíd are now in danger because they follow God. But its all worth it!


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