Praying for the Zetas – in Person!

Since our “incident” with the Zetas (those fashionable guys who dress all in black), Kim has had a desire in the back of her mind which most people would consider absolutely crazy. God put on her heart the verse about loving your enemies (Matt. 5:44), and it inspired in her the desire to actually be able to lay hands on and pray for the Zetas. When God first gave her that desire, we couldn’t imagine any way in which it could possibly happen, but in His amazing way God has already made it come true.

The story has to do with a faithful woman from the Vineyard in Tierra Blanca called Lourdes. The problem was that her teenage son, Alfredo, was involved in small-time drug dealing there in the church neighborhood, as are many of the other gang members who hang out in Tierra Blanca. Now you remember that “los Zetas” is a military group associated with the Gulf coast drug mafia here. They want to dominate drug sales and have been working hard since they arrived to control the market in all the local neighborhoods. Their goal is to make sure that nobody sells drugs unless they agree to be affiliated with their particular ring. One day a truck full of the “Zetas” stopped Alfredo and informed him that he would now have to deal drugs in the Tierra Blanca area as part of their network or else they were going to kill him. Not having much choice in the matter, Alfredo consented to do ‘business’ under their direction and to meet them the following day at 9:00 p.m. When he told his mother, Lourdes, who actually lives two doors down from the church and is an increasingly faithful attender, she actually had a nervous breakdown and was taken to the emergency room for a few hours prior to her son’s departure for his ‘appointment’ that evening with the Zeta.

But Lourdes did not stay down for long. Even though her son had gone off to work with a militant terrorist group that evening with no hope or promise of return, she sought refuge in God and was the first person seated for the Wednesday night service the next day. There, we were able to pray with her and give her words of hope and encouragement, and during the ministry time we could see that God worked powerfully in her. He reminded her of a promise He had spoken to her recently, responding to years of heartfelt prayer on her part, that her family would come to Christ, but that they would first have to pass through a valley, and she took hope and comfort in knowing that her crisis situation was probably something God had allowed to happen as part of His divine plan to change her family. We (Larry and Kim) actually offered to spend the night with her that night, and she accepted, since it was her second night without Alfredo and her other son was away on an out-of-town visit. That night we were able to talk with her over dinner, and also with some other members of her family. Then we lied down to sleep, but not before seeing Lourdes sit down to read her Bible for a few minutes by her bedside.

The next morning, we offered to pray for Lourdes again before she went to work, since she was extremely tired, but did not feel she had the luxury of missing another day at the factory where she faithfully labors to support her family. So we sat her down on the bed and began to pray for her to receive strength for her first day back even after the tragedy of the day before. We could see that God was working powerfully once again in her during that prayer time, and so we wound up praying for about half an hour, but the most incredible thing of all was that the very instant she opened her eyes after the prayer we heard someone come through the door and suddenly there was Alfredo, standing right in front of her!

As for Larry and I, we could not believe how immediately God had answered our prayers, and we just stood there in utter shock, sort of feeling like we were imposing as we watched the two of them caught up in an embrace. Lourdes was crying like a baby, since it had been 36 hours since she had last seen her son and she’d had no idea when she was ever going to see him again. After a few minutes of hugging, Alfredo began to explain to his mom that he was going to be coming home days and only working for the Zetas at night. He tried to assure Lourdes that nothing would happen to her or to him as long as he complied with his responsabilities. At this point Larry and I entered back on to the scene, trying to encourage Alfredo to seek God and not to lose hope but to pray that God would provide him with a way out of this dangerous and seemingly hopeless situation. Alfredo said virtually nothing to us the whole time long, because of course he feels like there is no way out for him now and in fact it would technically be risking his life for him to even talk about betraying the Zetas with anybody. But he did consent for us to pray for him in accordance with his mother’s wishes, and when we did so saw the tears begin to flow from his eyes – for just a moment, that is, before he hardened himself once again.

…So our story, though touching, will have to end for now in a prayer request and be continued at some time in the future, whenever God moves powerfully once more, because for now Alfredo is staying home days and working very long nights with the Zetas. He has no human hope of ever getting out of this mafia alive, and probably can’t think about anything other than surviving and keeping his wife and son and the rest of his family from being hurt. But WE know God is big, and that He is bigger than our ‘earthly’ hopes. We know that He answers prayer – He has answered Kim’s prayers (that she would be able to pray for one of the Zetas) and the church’s prayers (for protection over Alfredo and that Lourdes would see him alive and well) and has promised that this whole situation is a part of his answer to Lourdes’s prayers for her family to come to Christ. So we ask YOU to pray with us – for Lourdes, for Alfredo, for his wife (Karla) and two year old son (Carlos). Pray also for the church, which is getting the attention of the neighborhood now that things are happening which truly drive people to seek God. May God move powerfully, may His Kingdom advance against the enemy, and may He be glorified as He deserves!

Here are a few photos:

Lourdes & Lela putting up Bible verse signOn the days following this incident with Alfredo, the Vineyard in Tierra Blanca did a series of “peace marches” through the neighborhood to give hope to the community and to encourage them to seek God. As part of that they put up small posters with Bible verses throughout the neighborhood. Here Lourdes (on the right) and Lela are putting up one of the posters.

Worship & prayer at Lourdes' HouseEach evening after the “peace march” they gathered at Lourdes’ house to worship and pray.

Click on the photos to see them larger at flickr!

A Challenge to Pray…

Hi everyone. Thanks so much for the overwhelming response that we got from you guys after sending out our last newsletter. We just wanted to write you again with another challenge to pray since even though we haven’t been in any further direct danger, another incident did occur last week in that same neighborhood where we minister.

What happened was that at about one o’clock in the morning last Wednesday night members of the drug mafia attacked and broke into the house of a local police officer, killing him and very seriously wounding his wife.

This was another act of terror, because they left the front of the house totally pock-marked with bullet holes in order to provoke fear in everyone else in the neighborhood. There have also been other reports of many other police officers being killed in different parts of the Laguna.

Rather than allowing these events to inspire fear, we would like to take them instead as a challenge to pray. We believe that it is time for the reign of terror to stop, and that God’s people need to cry out for divine protection, especially over the police force. That is the challenge we will be sharing in the Vineyards and with the body of Christ in the Laguna, and that is the challenge we share with all of you who are supporting God’s work here in prayer.

When the darkness is greatest, the light shines the brightest

I guess our point here is that this situation is about much more than just praying for us. We believe that God is at work in this time in a powerful way, and that this time of darkness is only the necessary prelude before the light breaks forth. We believe that an incredible revival has started and will continue to grow in our area. This is part of a general revival which we believe will come to all of Latin America and we feel Mexico is going to be a key player in this movement. For that reason we do not think it’s any coincidence that the administration of current Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been marked by a severe crackdown on the trafficking activities of the formerly dominant drug lords. It is because the drug cartels feel the pressure that they are fighting back, trying to strike terror and to intimidate the government into backing down. Before, the drug related activities were actually more prominent, but they were less visible because they had no opposition.

Anyway, we know that the darkness can not overcome the light, so we are committed to shining God’s light as brightly as we can. One powerful way to do that is by prayer. The Mexican police and army will not be able to stop the violence of the drug lords without God’s help. But by praying for protection over the people who are fighting for what’s right, and for God’s blessing and favor as they seek to capture the enemy, the light will prevail over the darkness.

We thank you so much and we trust in your continual prayers – both for our people, and for all of Mexico and Latin America.

Love to you all,

Larry and Kim

Emergency prayer update: “Oh! That’s nice to hear!”

Hi everyone,

1. Before you read this, sit down.

2. Don’t miss the pictures. (Though you might not open them in front of younger family members.)

3. Kim’s mom does not know about any of this yet, so please don’t mention any of this to her. We will eventually tell her about it, but we want to choose the right timing.

We just wanted to send off an emergency prayer request to you guys – We’ve decided to send a financial update this month instead of our regular newsletter, which should be on it’s way, but we did want to send this message off quick, since a few days ago something happened to us that was rather scary and we wanted to ask for your prayers.

What happened was that while we were driving home through one of the neighborhoods we minister in on Saturday night we suddenly saw a surprise, in the form of man with an automatic rifle, who had jumped out of the sidestreet and pointed his gun directly at us, about three feet away from our front windshield. Being the perceptive people that we are, we immediately understood that this guy was the type who is interested in making a real fashion statement, since he was dressed all in black, with a black cloth over his face. After getting a good look at us, and apparently realizing that we were not the person or persons he had been intending to point his rifle at ( 🙂 !), he started motioning angrily for us to pull over, seeming to want us to get out of the truck. When he saw that we were too shocked, confused, and afraid to comply with his request, he and another man (similarly fashionably dressed) decided to approach the truck from either side, attempting to break the glass of the passenger side and driver’s side windows with the butts of their respective rifles. As we peeled off (since the first offender had courteously stepped out from in front of our vehicle), we heard several loud gunshots from behind (That would be “annoyingly loud,” to be accurate.)

As we ducked down and raced away from the sound of the gunshots the only place we could think to go to was to our friends house, who lived a few blocks away, and whom we had been originally going to visit. By the time we got there we could tell that thankfully the noise from the rifles had died down and that there was no evidence that the men had been following us. All the same, though, we jumped out of the truck and practically banged down the door of our friend, who happened to be just closing up his shop for the evening. He quickly tried to calm us down, and when we were sure that we were in no further immediate danger, he loaned us his phone to call 911 (actually “066” – again, to be perfectly accurate) at which point the operator on the other line responded nonchalantly that she’d see what she could do about things. When we called once more half an hour later, to see if it might be safe for us to leave the neighborhood, she responded that the police units were still “on their way” and that it was not a good idea for us to go anywhere, since guerrilla warfare action between two warring drug lords who were fighting for control of the neighborhood was “at a climax” that evening. (Here you may refer to the ever-witty subtitle of our article… “Oh, that’s nice to hear!”)

A few minutes later the police secretary’s report was seconded by a guy on a bicycle, who, when we attempted to warn him not to go in the direction we had come from, told us that he himself had just heard a shooting a few blocks in the other direction … So since we were feeling quite tuckered out from our adventures for that evening we decided to spend the night there, where we got a (miraculous) two hours of sleep amidst the periodic shouts and cars racing furiously down the outside street.

The next morning we showered, and (since things appeared to have calmed down) groggily made our way to a ten-year anniversary event (of all things 🙂 ! ) for our church, where (you can be sure) we did not miss any opportunity to talk with people about what had happened the night before. And as we discussed things, we learned that the area in which we minister is now being invaded by a coastal drug mafia (now challenging the formerly-dominant Juarez mafia) in response to a police crack-down they felt from the state of Durango, which happens to be the state we cross into to minister. What happened to us that night was that the coastal mafia was looking for a mid-level Juarez “pusher” in that neighborhood, and we just happened to be driving by in a truck very similar to his, neighbors say. Please pray for this man because later on that night they did actually find him and kidnap him. In hindsight we think the men who were looking for him had obviously mistaken us as being family members of his (it was dark, and it looked like we were driving his truck…). We suspect that when they detained us they were trying to kidnap us in order to obtain information on him.

Now with all that said, you might be asking yourself what our motive might be in sharing this, the latest of our adventures, with you. Could it be just a cruel attempt to make your blood pressure rise, or fall, (as the case may be)? No! The purpose of this email is none other than just to keep all you prayer warriors on your toes! That’s right! (You just knew you were doing something important up there on the other side of that border, didn’t you?)

No, seriously though, we don’t want this news to scare any of you or to scare any further groups from coming down, but we did feel it would be irresponsible not to tell you about these kinds of important changes in our ministry situation, since the neighborhood is just blocks away from our church and since in fact we have just started a home group there. Even before this incident we had started to see all sorts of interesting stuff there, like police convoys going in and out, and even a search inside our friend’s house in a scare about an alleged shooting, though we didn’t actually see or hear anything at that time. Anyway, though, apparently the fighting has broken out in full now, because we did in fact find two bullet holes in our truck the next day…

Does this look like a drug dealers truck?Our pickup

“It doesn’t look like a drug dealer’s truck, does it?” Oh, well. Anyway, does anybody want to buy a truck? We need to get at least three thousand dollars out of it to be able to buy another decent vehicle… (Alternatively, we could paint it a different color for around $400), but the real problem is that the windows are tinted glass, which is illegal here, but the tinting is not the peel off kind. We are currently looking in to having the glass in the windows changed…

The hole from the bullet that entered right behind and below the driver seat of our pickupJust above our bumper, and just below the stop lightBullet Holes

From the position of these bullet holes , we can assume that the men were shooting at our tires in order to detain and possibly kidnap us. (You can see from the marks that these were not toy weapons they were shooting with.)

To see a few more photos, see the photo album of our recent adventure

Because of the way they were dressed and the particular drug dealer they were after, we can assume that these men were from the “Zeta” drug cartel faction. Apparently these guys are bona fide terrorists, recruited and trained from youth. The “Zeta” group is actually one of the groups that’s been causing trouble in Nuevo Laredo, and the ones thought to be responsible for the death of the N.L. police chief last year just hours after his inauguration. Recently the “Zetas” have been trying to get attention here in the Laguna because, as we mentioned above, the Durangan police have made them “mad.” (Here you may refer again to the subtitle of the article.)

Anyway, the reason we’re telling you all this is simply to emphasize that there is no explanation for how two highly trained gunmen could have missed taking out our tires with their automatic rifles from a mere three feet away. No explanation that is, other than the grace of God. It’s important to understand that the Zeta group takes no prisoners. The fact that they were trying to shoot at our tires that night does not mean that they were trying to avoid hurting us, but rather that they were trying to keep us alive long enough to get information about the person whose truck they thought we were driving. We tell you this not to scare you, but to honor and glorify God’s name, since we don’t know of any other precedents of people coming out of this type of encounter alive.

But God was with us that night, and we really want to give Him all the glory for His protection. Just the other day God had Kim turn in her Bible to Psalm 3 — She couldn’t remember exactly what the psalm said, until her eyes popped out as she read “But you are a shield about me oh Lord; / You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” (v. 3) Psalm 10 is another really appropriate psalm.

So… Please pray. As we mentioned above we had already seen the signs that a situation was brewing here but did not know how to read them well enough. Apparently recently there have been quite a few people found dead, even decapitated, or missing, and there have been other sorts of threats like bomb scares and shootings, even in some of the nice residential neighborhoods. Many of the nightclubs here stayed closed last weekend and there has been talk of implementing martial law in some of the dangerous areas.

In response to this we have already adjusted our schedules, and (as we mentioned above) we’re currently working on trying to change the look of our truck in order to avoid any further “confusion” ( 🙂 ) between us and the people who might be targets of drug terrorist groups. We feel that both of these things are pretty important factors, since most people say it’s still safe to be in conflict areas in the day and early evening, and that the drug cartels don’t typically target civilians, unless they’re relatives of drug cartel members or just happen to get caught in the crossfire.

Anyway, though, we do ask you and thank you for your continual and faithful prayers. Pray for the men who detained us, that God would touch their hearts. Pray for God to provide the finances for us to paint or sell the truck. Pray for the government here, which for the first time in Mexican history is refusing to bow down to the drug lords. And pray for us, since even now God is giving us the opportunity to minister to the families of people who are heavily involved in the drug movement.

Above all, praise God with us, who by means of this incident has clearly demonstrated that nothing can happen to us which doesn’t pass through His hand…


Larry and Kim

P.S. If you’d like to know more about the “Zetas,” here’s some info from Wikipedia: “Los Zetas”