This is an eye-opening adventure into forbidden territory, and sheds light into why so many children become part of a different family than the one they were born into. Basically, their lives lack love and respect. As the article indicates, they need someone to listen to them and to respect them. Coming from homes where violence, drug & alcohol addiction and an absent parent (or two), children as young as eleven years old – sometimes younger – are taken under the wing of a gang where the child then finds the security and validation – and protection they weren’t getting in their home.
When the article tells about two teens who accepted Jesus Christ, this is referred to as “A small victory for Pastor Arias”. Relatively speaking, yes, it is a small victory considering the amount of children who are the “easiest prey for the devil”, being drawn to gangs, but I see it as an enormous victory for God.
When I finished reading this I was compelled to follow the links within the article to read more and more about the gangs and the hellish lives they live. I have a newfound hope for little ones who are born into a life that seemingly has a destiny already laid out with no variation. There is hope, there are choices they can make that will give them a good life and people like Pastor Arias and other converted gang members who will be there for them, have their backs, and help them live a life that is joyous, productive, and full of Love.
Danny Gold | Longreads | December 2018 | 23 minutes (6,393 words)
This article was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
We meet the Pastor* in a Pollo Campero, the famous Central American fried chicken restaurant. It is necessary to negotiate with him to enter the neighborhood, a notorious MS-13 stronghold, and then it is necessary for him to negotiate with the gang leaders to bring us in. In El Salvador’s poor neighborhoods, unofficial borderlines are everywhere. Navigating them takes a certain level of finesse.
It is tempting to think you can just drive through a neighborhood without a problem, that you can get in and out without alarms being raised. But this is not the case. The gangs see everything, and anyone on the street can be an informer. The penalty for trespassing can be death.
The neighborhood we are planning to enter…
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