Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Violence Hits Closer to Home!



Guatemala is a beautiful country filled with lovely and friendly people.  It is also considered one of the most Christian countries in Latin America boasting an evangelical population of around 30-50% who attend one of the almost 20,000 churches present here. At the same time it is also one of the most violent and unsafe countries in the world with anywhere from 17-20 murder per day. Gangs and drug cartels have overtaken large parts of the country and neighborhoods. There are parts of Guatemala City where even the police can not go into.  To make matters worse often the police and other government authorities can not be trusted and many have links to criminal organizations.  The slogan is more or less "if you can't fight them, join them".  The ones that can be trusted and want to make a difference often have their hands tied because of human rights laws protecting civilians and in a way criminals. To cap all of this off, the decades of civil war has created huge slums and settlements filled with people who are full of resentment. Resentment because of what happened to them during the civil war (being misplaced, losing their possessions and land, and seeing family members get killed or disappear) and resentment because of the lack of opportunities and services available to people living in slums. For many people their future appears bleak.  They do not have a vision for the future, because they can not see past their needs for today. This lack of vision and hopelessness become the arteries that feed the criminal organizations since they offer "opportunities" and short term solutions and hope to the desperate. Stories of extortion, gang violence, drug turf wars, murder, rape, femicide, etc are what fills the newspapers and airwaves each and every day. And while much of the violence is targeted innocent people often become victims. Missionaries also are not exempt because of the work we are doing here. It is not that God always spares us from the violence. Yesterday this became alarmingly clear as we heard of the shooting of a fellow missionary who lives in our neighborhood. While this missionary is in critical condition and we are praying that God will spare his life, we were all reminded again of the fact that this could happen to anyone of us. It hit very close to home and many of us felt a certain sense of fear. It is one of the realities of living in this country. Death constantly stares us in the face. All of us have seen more murders than we would care to recount. Some might ask, "why don't you leave?  Go back to North America where it is relatively safe"! The reason why we do not leave is because we feel we have the unique answer to many of the problems and that what we are doing is making a difference. Thankfully the answer and the making a difference is not from us since we are all failures in our own way. The answers lies in Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead. This means that we must willing to give our life so that others may live. For this reason the Apostle Paul referring to striving to reach the lost and broken writes......
   
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man (body) is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" 
(2 Corinthian 4:16-18).

This is of course not an easy thing to do, and it is something we often struggle with. God created us to live and as human beings we cling to life. It is only by the grace of God that we are able to give our life so that others may live. Please pray for the safety of the missionaries in Guatemala and for them to be bold and courageous and not live in fear. Also pray for this missionary that God will not only spare his life, but heal him completely.

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