Mexico (MNN) — Ciudad Juárez is responsible for 50% of Mexico's murders and has been dubbed by many as the second most-dangerous city in the world.
Despite the recent capture of senior crime boss Marco Guzman (known by an alias of "El Brad Pitt"), drug-related violence continues to grip Juárez. Homicides have risen from 300 in 2007 to 3,000 in 2010, and although numbers lulled slightly this spring, cartel violence is all too frequent. As of early 2011, the city averaged eight homicides a day.
Although conditions are extreme, journalists are reluctant to report on the violence. Their own lives are at risk with each report concerning a drug cartel.
Amid gunshots, protests, and threats, a seminary in Juárez stands strong for Christ. The seminary is a partner of Crossroad Bible Institute, a prison ministry with satellite campuses in 13 different countries on six continents.
When CBI's Cynthia Williams was in Juárez last year, "She could hear gunshots and explosions from the seminary where she was visiting. Everyone from that seminary–students, staff. professors–knows someone who's been directly affected by this very dangerous situation," says CBI president Dr. David Schuringa.
The violence hasn't kept the seminary students from getting involved in ministry. It's a requirement that students participate in prison ministry by correcting prisoners' Bible lessons from inmates inside the U.S.
Thanks to a recent graduate's initiative, however, that ministry is about to get a lot more serious. CBI is finally opening a satellite campus right in Juárez, and seminary students will be doing much more than just correcting lessons.
"Along with the lessons, they have to also bring things like food, clothing, blankets and medical help. It's very clearly a 'word and deed' ministry. It looks very, very different there [than in the U.S.]," says Schuringa, who says Juárez prisons look more like those found in third world countries than in the West. Since even basic needs aren't covered, instructors need to hand-deliver lessons and necessities.
Instructors from the seminary and elsewhere will be placing themselves at significant risk for the sake of the Gospel. Violence in Juárez does not end on the streets but continues into the prisons. The direct contact instructors have with their students puts them in harm's way.
This ministry will take courage, but the end result could be pivotal to the city's transformation. Inmates who grab hold of the Gospel will be lights when they reenter the city, but Juárez will also be changed as families watch their imprisoned loved-ones change.
"We constantly will see tremendous differences in the families and the associates of people (who are not in prison but they know the people who are in prison) when they see someone who has been changed," says Schuringa.
Even more exciting is the historical relationship between prison ministry and all-out revival, adds Schuringa.
Juárez is a terrifying place to be right now, but God is breaking through. Pray that His love would shine clearly to prisoners in Juárez through the efforts of those involved in this ministry. Pray that the entire city would be turned upside down by God's grace.