*Representative photo used to protect identity
In the 24 years that Open Doors has been working in Mexico, organized crime has not been considered a major source of persecution-until now. In recent months, an alarming number of reports coming from the west coast of the country are indicating that organized crime now contributes heavily to the persecution of local churches. Fortunately, the predominant cartel in this area, the Gulf Cartel headed by the well-known “Chapo” Guzman, is not bloodthirsty toward civil society. In sharp contrast, the Zetas Cartel, based in northern and eastern Mexico, is both bloodthirsty and satanic in its ritual killings.
In late October, Sister Yery (pseudonym), a Mexican missionary sister visited the Open Doors Mexico staff, and shared information gathered during her last visit to the Sinaloa highlands.
“I was assigned to go to Mazatlan’s municipality areas with the task of visiting some missions, because there was a delay in their monthly reports. When I reached them, [I] found that their work was restricted by different criminal cells in various ways.
“One woman pastor has been travelling for the last eight years from Mazatl�n to the rural area called Placeres in order to minister to a 15-member congregation every Sunday. One day, brothers called to tell her that the Cartel would not allow her to carry out the service because a shooting was about to take place. These areas suffered from several territorial fights. A few weeks ago, other cell groups decided to wipe this town off the map due to constant differences among them.
Sister Yery continued, “For the past year, one of our pastors has visited and ministered to a small 10-member church in the town of Maravillas. He reported that the cartels have been recruiting local children and teenagers as, for instance, undercover and informant members. At the beginning, they were lured with gifts and money, and then finally with drugs. Although the pastor has not yet received direct threats, some brothers have stopped going to church, fearing their children might be recruited.”
There are rays of light in these dark times; one pastor�s testimony seemed to have impacted a few people from a local cartel. Yery explained, “One of our pastors in Guam�chil Sinaloa had just moved into his brother-in-law’s house in order to look after it for several months. Days later, gunmen came to take possession of the house, and took the pastor and his family away with great violence and with death threats if they were to report the incident.” But three months later, Yery reports, the pastor was impressed by God to pray for the criminals. “Two days later, the drug traffickers went to see the pastor with the intention to pay for the house they took, plus the equivalent of all furniture and goods they had in the property!”
Yery finished with a sobering thought- “Places where the gospel had been freely preached for years are now restricted and affected by the operations of organized crime. We ask for your prayers that the Lord will continue to give us grace and favor to preach His gospel in the midst of these difficulties.”
Father, thank You for the courage of Your people in these areas of Mexico affected by organized crime. We give thanks knowing that even in the midst of this intensified opposition to Your church, You continue to work, and Your church will continue to be built there. We pray that You will protect the Christians, and as restrictions increase, grant wisdom to the pastors that Your Word might continue to go forth in great power. We pray especially for the children and young people in Maravillas that they would not be lured or pressured into criminal cell groups as recruitment intensifies. The pastors have increasingly difficult challenges in their work, and we pray that Your grace and favor would rest upon them as each new day brings new concerns. In the name of Jesus whose strength in us shines forth even more clearly in the midst of our trials. Amen.