‘Choosing Between God and The Gang’: El Salvador Ministry Run By Ex-Hitman Freeing Men From Lives of Violence By Will Maule for Faith Wire
On the streets of La Dina, El Salvador, extortion, robbery and murder are a way of life. The area has been decimated by gang culture, with MS-13 and Bario 18 tearing the streets apart. Simply put, if you are a young man growing up in La Dina, your life expectancy is going to be devastatingly low.
As such, the rate of incarceration is stratospheric. But while it may be staggeringly easy to get swept up in the gang culture at a young age, it is notoriously difficult to leave, even after coming out of prison.
Indeed, for many of these men, there is only one way to cut free from the snares of the deathly culture — and this freedom and refuge is found in an unlikely place: church.
Eben-ezer is an inner-city church that doubles up as a rehabilitation center for ex-gang members — it is also run by a former criminal, Will Gomez. Pastor Will spent years embroiled in gang activity and was a contracted hitman, executing targets for a cash fee. Now, he has committed his life to personally leading young men out from the dark paths of drug dealing and murder and towards a new hope in relationship with Jesus.
“I’m a walking testimony, I believe, of God’s power to change people,” Gomez told the BBC, admitting that he took “countless lives” when he was an active gang member.
But while he is no longer wielding a firearm, Gomez is still involved in dangerous work. Often times, the gangs are irritated that their recruits head straight for the church instead of getting back out on the streets and hustling. At all times, the work of Eben-ezer is being closely monitored.
Gomez, however, has developed a way of dealing with the criminals effectively.
“We have traced the line.. a line of respect. This is God’s Kingdom — don’t mess with God,” he tells the gangs who threaten to disrupt the rehabilitation work. “We don’t get involved in your business, don’t get involved in ours.”