When you meet Eduardo, it’s impossible to imagine this polite, softly-spoken church pastor could ever have been a violent, drug-taking killer. I’ve never met anyone with such a remarkable story; Eduardo’s life was utterly transformed when he met Jesus in the pages of the Bible.
Eduardo was born into a poor family in Guatemala City. This is a violent place, where murder rates, extortion and violent crime are among the worst in the world.
Aged just nine, Eduardo took drugs for the first time – and slipped into gang life. In the so-called zonas rojas, or urban slums, the drug cartels rule and hire kids like Eduardo as couriers, dealers and even as killers. This is a dark, troubled childhood we can barely imagine.
Eduardo tells me about a time a hitman burst into his home, raised a gun to shoot, but the weapon jammed… and he recalls another occasion when he tried to commit suicide. I can’t believe it when I hear Eduardo was convicted for murder when he was a teenager, and spent four years behind bars.
But at the youth detention centre our team met Eduardo, and everything changed. I visited one of these centres, and I was shocked at the living conditions. The cells were overcrowded, packed with teenage boys with shaved heads. Guards were everywhere. I had to take off my tie and watch in case they were snatched and used as weapons.
But our team come every week to this dark place, to distribute Scripture, run Bible studies and share God’s love. And it’s where Eduardo gave his life to Jesus.
From murderer to multiplier
Eduardo became a ‘multiplier’, an inmate who helps lead the Bible programme from within the detention centre. When there are riots, and our teams are not able to visit, the ‘multipliers’ become a vital support to new Christians. Eduardo started running church services, and leading Bible studies.
When he was released, Eduardo trained as a pastor and now leads a church of his own. “I do nothing, it’s God who makes those things possible,” added Eduardo.
Don’t you find his words so moving? These kids are in families that can’t care for them, gangs which abuse them and a society that hates them. But, through the Bible Society ministry, these troubled teens get to start again with Jesus. The team in Guatemala call the programme My Second Chance. Who among us has not wanted a second chance, they said to me. Some of the volunteers are themselves ex-gang members.
Reaching more people
Every week, around 10 of the toughest young criminals in Guatemala give their lives to Christ. Thousands of Bibles are being given out in detention centres. Prison directors want our teams to keep coming, more often. And we have the trust of the two main gangs in Guatemala City. For now, the door is open. This is the time to reach as many young people as we can.
Please join us in prayer for this work:
- For Bible Society staff, that they have faith and discernment as they grow the project
- For our volunteers, for safety and wisdom as they shine God’s light in darkness
- For the teenagers, that they will open their hearts to God’s word and break the chains that are keeping them from the
freedom Jesus offers