(Cover photo by Pepe Rivera) Victims of drug cartels. (Story photo footage from Spanish American Mission) Typical church construction (similar stage to current project).
Mexico (MNN) ― Five heads were found by Mexican police in the city of Torreon over the weekend.
Delivered with the heads were threatening messages that led authorities to believe this was yet another outbreak of drug gang violence. The grisly findings suggest a feud between local gangs, which could increase the scope of the violence.
Since 2007, when President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on the cartels, more than 46,000 people have died. Spanish American Mission President Doug Bytwerk says the upheaval had an initial impact four years ago. "We slowed up our efforts in sending crews from the United States to build [in Mexico]. We have church planters that continue to do the work of leading people to Christ, planting churches in homes, and then, as those churches get up to a critical mass, we'll send a crew down there to build a building for them."
On January 6, Spanish American Mission sent a team of five to the area to help finish the 600-seat Ministry Center in Gomez Palacio, not far from Torreon. Bytwerk quickly added that the killings did not involve anyone on their team. Everyone is safe.
The war doesn't involve their team because "this is the drug world. It doesn't mean it's safe," Bytwerk points out, "but it does mean that if you're staying away from that part of the city, you're staying away from those people, and if you're not involved in the drug world, you're fairly safe."
However, "There are those who have been killed who have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pray that our guys are not there at the wrong place when that type of thing breaks out. Pray that God protects them, that they're able to continue on with their project."
Tony Gomez, SAM's field chairman, noted a recent incident that hit close to home. In his most recent communication he shared:
"There was a recent shooting around the Gomez church, and the bad guys left their guns in a church van, knowing that the police would not look there. The church people knew not to touch the guns. The bad guys came back for the guns and did no harm to the church or to the church people."
There's an interesting twist to the story: the work of the evangelists, church leaders, and church planters has earned believers a reputation in the area. Bytwerk explains, "The cartel people know our mission; they know what we're doing. They know Tony Gomez, who is our field chairman down there. They respect him, (so) pray that they continue to respect him and leave him alone."
At this point, the concrete block walls of the Ministry Center have been completed by the Mexicans. Twelve feet high, these block walls will form the lower portion of the sheet steel walls of the sanctuary that, in total, will be 30 feet high. The team there now will be erecting steel walls to completely enclose the building.
Given the tremors threatening to erupt into a blood bath, Bytwerk says, "Pray that they'll continue to see us as a group that is not interested in what they're doing. We're interested in the proclamation of the Gospel, the building of churches. We're not into politics, we're not into government issues in any way, and we're not into the drug world."