What I am about to report is unbelievable, humanly speaking.
Only after factoring in God’s grace and power can it become believable. I am in Ciudad Juarez (the former murder capital of the world) with Poncho Murguia, getting first-hand exposure to God’s amazing grace being bestowed on extraordinary systemic evil to see a city, and eventually a nation, transformed.
God’s amazing grace transforming a major drug trafficker’s right-hand man!
Today we had lunch with a six-month-old new believer who used to be the right hand man of Caro Quintero, the alpha narcotics trafficker in Mexico who in the 1980’s employed over 10,000 people to cultivate thousands of hectares in central Mexico that provided 60% of the marijuana consumed in the USA.
His lieutenants split his empire and gave birth to Cartels covering the entire country.
To supply his work force he basically took over the town of Camargo, in the Chihuahua state, and with the acquiescence (or consent, or partnership depending on your point of view) of the president, the governor, and the head of the Army, ran a most audacious and lucrative drug enterprise.
Kiki Camarena was the DEA agent who infiltrated this organization and it was his work that led to its disbanding. When the dismembering occurred, Caro Quintero fled to Costa Rica, but his lieutenants split his empire and gave birth to Cartels covering the entire country.
Kiki Camarena was the DEA agent who infiltrated this organization and it was his work that led to its disbanding.
In the 1980’s, the CIA needed to channel funds and weapons to the Contra rebels of Nicaragua who were fighting against its socialist Sandanista government. Thus, an “off the books” partnership was established between the CIA and these “freedom fighters” that gave a massive jolt to the introduction of drugs into the USA, greatly aided by the launching of the North America Trade Agreement (NAFTA), making Ciudad Juarez the most active commercial border crossing and the prime target for the Cartels.
This new believer, when he was still in darkness, moved to Juarez after the dismantling of the operations in Camargo, took over supplying the cartel, and eventually was approached by, and brokered a partnership with, Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug lord who sent him a plane of cocaine (640 pounds each) a day which he moved through the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso NAFTA gateway.
When the Mexican President sent thousands of soldiers to retake Juarez due to the massive number of daily murders, he effectively disappeared.
For this he collected $1M for each plane from Pablo Escobar and paid $50K per truck to complicit drug agents in exchange for safe passage of the drugs into the U.S. Eventually he was apprehended in El Paso and extradited to Mexico to serve jail time, which he did, until he bought his freedom for $1M a few months later.
When the Mexican President sent thousands of soldiers to retake Juarez due to the massive number of daily murders, he effectively disappeared, closing operations and moving to a small town in another state where he ran bars and restaurants. But a few months ago he “happened” to visit Poncho’s church and God took hold of him and he invited Jesus into his heart. It was a perfect divine ambush because he had gone to church that morning with an ignoble purpose, but no one is able to overcome a divine ambush. He dedicated his life to the Lord and now is one of Poncho’s disciples.
Transformation’s impact on a corrupt sphere of influence
The first thing he did was to clean up his newest business project – a “private” club for top level VIPs. To give you an idea how private it is intended to be, customers can only gain access through thumb print or iris validation by scanners guarded by security personnel. Apparently there is a deeply felt need for a safe place like this in Juarez for high level influencers to relax and conduct business. Originally he had planned to employ Hooters style waitresses, but now he is hiring only ladies of good repute, normally college students or single moms, and he pays them in one day what they would normally make in one week on an assembly line.
He is also eager to provide prayer and ministry to the myriad of Mexican Zaccheuses like himself who he knows from the old days. In fact, one of them was a drug dealer that had a tigress as a pet, and when he was incarcerated he took it to jail with him. Another ran go kart races in the prison backyard, and still another an extortion racket. This all went on before Poncho was led to take over the prison for the mayor and clean it up. See this link for that back-story.
Holiness is not a picture but a movie.
Those old friends of his are still around and he is reaching out to them with love, prayer and mercy to bring them into the Kingdom. I realize you may have a million questions as to why and how this is possible and let me tell you, “Join the club!” because as I heard this most fascinating story, I was torn between the disgust at the raw evil sins reported, and amazed at the grace of God relentlessly being poured out on them while watching this new believer break down in rivers of tears as he acknowledged time and again the beauty and the power of God’s unmerited favor.
As you can see, there is a wide open door of opportunity here, but many are the adversaries. In fact, I felt what the elders in Jerusalem may have experienced when they heard that Saul of Tarsus was now a believer. I’m sure they wondered, “What about his crimes? How can he get in so easily?” Or, Jesus visiting with a major sinner in Jericho – Zaccheus – with the disapproval of the religious leaders.
However, I remembered that holiness is not a picture but a movie. The journey has just begun. Saul of Tarsus eventually became Paul of Antioch, and Zaccheus the predator became the restorer. We need to let the movie play on while providing teaching the way Barnabas did when he inspected the cluster of new believers in Antioch and after seeing the extraordinary grace poured on the equally extraordinary amount of sin, he encouraged them to persevere in the grace of God.
Juarez could be the “Resistencia” of marketplace transformation.
Juarez could well be the Resistencia of marketplace transformation. In the same fashion that the latter showed how the entire population of a city can be covered in prayer and everybody presented with the kingdom of God, Juarez could be the place where sin has abounded so much that extraordinary grace will be poured out on it to overflowing.
The slogan for this week’s meetings is Thrive without Bribes
I told you the story of this new believer to give you a glimpse of how depraved things have been, not only on the Mexican side but also on the Central American and U.S. sides. Even though sin abounds, grace is ready to overflow. I am now off to a meeting where Poncho, Allen Kagina and I will be challenging influencers, most of them not believers yet, with the message of transformation. The slogan for this week’s meetings – in Spanish – is Avanza sin Tranza which means Thrive without Bribes which is the opposite of the pervading attitude that in order to thrive you have to bribe.
I’ll soon post part two of my report from Juarez. In the meantime, please keep our team in your prayers as we battle on the front lines like Paul did in Corinth and Ephesus until God gives the victory!
Read the rest of the story!