Then in early July three more men were brutally murdered within a week. One of these men was Teodoro, a friend who first hosted TN’s agricultural meetings and eventual Bible studies in the corridor of his house in Mal Paso in 1984. Teodoro, David’s cousin and next-door neighbor, was shot to death right there in the corridor where TN first began.
David has been right at the scene of all these killings, attending to the massacred bodies of men he’s grown up with. He has accompanied the families to bury and mourn their dead and has been deeply shaken. All of these men were people he and our ministry has sought to draw into friendship with Jesus, friend of sinners. But it looks like’s the ruler of this world is winning on this beloved front—and this deeply troubles David and me.
There are no police investigations or effective law-enforcement in the region. The closest police post has young officers without transportation. They themselves fear for their lives in this wild-west-like region that is increasingly home to bands of heavily-armed young gangsters often composed of deportees fresh from prison sentences in the US.
The very people who are doing the killings are men who we at Tierra Nueva refuse to give up on! And yet we feel quite impotent with our naked gospel and prayers. We long for miracles, for Jesus’ way to be more attractive than the dominant approach, the “realistic” killing of enemies that alleges to bring security.
These recent deaths have been especially hard for David. David sees his neighbors arming themselves and living in the terror of the ambush, which involves incessant rehearsing shooting to kill first or be killed.
“I refuse to do this Roberto,” says David—who continues to be won over by Jesus’ call to love and bless enemies.
In all of my years of ministry I have never met such a grace-filled man of peace as David. He has poured himself out for his community, and together we have sought after these very men on the margins who now are dying. Last week another young man was shot to death on the road out of town to the fields that I’ve visited hundreds of times, and rumors are flying that others we know are on the list.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21) is a beloved Scripture that we read and seek to practice. But how do we overcome evil with good?
David has given his life in love for this village and we’ve backed him up for over 27 years. We’ve helped the village install gravity-flow potable water and irrigation systems, establish agricultural committees, purchase land for landless farmers, implement re-forestation projects, begin an adult education program “Educatodos” (Educate Everyone) that is helping many who have only completed third grade continue their education.
TN has conducted group Bible studies in Mal Paso for years, drawing growing numbers of people. We have continued a more personal house-to-house visitation and prayer ministry for individuals and families. We’ve organized village fiestas and healing services where we’ve seen many people healed in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Spirit. I’ve brought teachers and spiritual leaders to Mal Paso from all over the world. David has organized a weekly worshiping community, and we established a number of house churches in this town.
We seek to overcome evil with good in every way we know how—but it seems we are not succeeding. I have even made contact with a Honduran General who is a Christian, asking him to help get a police post in this village at the request of the villagers. After an initial phone conversation and a number of emails, I'm not hearing anything back.
A number of families most affected by the violence have now moved away, including David, who has moved to the nearby municipal capital where TN is officially based. Others who are hearing of alleged threats via rumor are trying to move. The woman in charge of TN’s Educatodos has just told us her family is likely to move soon, taking another one of TN's key leaders out of the area.
I'm in conversation with our Honduran leader, David on an every-other-day basis by phone. We’ve been grieving together, praying for each other and trying to move forward. We see that we are at risk of losing hope, of adjusting our expectations of Jesus’ reign to the reality of Mal Paso’s violence.
Jesus’ warnings to his disciples in Jerusalem just before his arrest and crucifixion are both sobering and encouraging. They describe what we are now seeing.
At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt 24:9-14)
Please pray for David, for Gracie and me, and for TN’s Honduran faith community members:
- that Jesus would keep our hearts soft and that we would endure to the end in our announcing of the gospel of the kingdom.
- for wisdom for David and for me as I advise him.
- for protection for David and his family, and also for Jorge, Arturo, Beto and others who remain in the village.
- for those who are plotting more violence—that they would have encounters with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
- for an end to the violence in Mal Paso and a growing movement of forgiveness and reconciliation.
- for Mal Paso's leaders and members of "hogares en tranformacion" (households in transformation)-- that they would experience Christ's peace and protection and be bright shining lights and agents of peace.