Addressing Gang Violence

by: Kenton MoodyJan 31, 2018comments

This is a Jan. 31 post from a WCIU student’s Facebook page with an update from Feb. 16.

As I started to get out of the truck, Eunice said, “Please don’t.” But I had to—I had to apologize. The four gang members were there at the corner where our Hosanna School students have to cross. One of our students, who we bring in from an opposing gang area, had supposedly flashed the opposing gang sign. That is enough to get someone killed in El Salvador, the country where we live. Eunice’s brother had been killed by gang members in a senseless act of revenge on a co-worker of his last July. His only crime was to be in the same truck at the time. Gangs, violence, death, is normal here unfortunately. It’s every family’s nightmare.

I went over to the gang members and shook hands. I told them I was there to apologize for the lack of respect that one of our students had supposedly shown and to please forgive us. “We know everything you’ve done here in our area and we respect the church,” they said with plenty of expletives thrown in. “We have nothing against you and apologize for our language.”

In the afternoon, I went to another community where we’ve worked for three years to talk with the “tattooed one.” I had to talk with him about his gang members who had come out into the street armed with a weapon while we were transporting children through their community. God has given us great favor. The “Manchado” shook my hand as two other gang members hung close. I shared my concerns, he promised me it was just a joke, and assured me they “like” me and would do nothing to harm what we’re doing. 

I pray every day we can continue to make a difference, but not just a little difference. I want to see the impossible—gang lives transformed by God’s power, conviction, and love. Pray with me!

On Friday late afternoon, Feb. 16th, I was driving through the local community where I live (dirt roads, shanties) to pick up people for church. One of the gang members who lives there stopped us on a deserted stretch of the road. He held out his phone and said, “Someone wants to talk with you.” I knew immediately what that meant. It was his leader. He was calling me to preserve his identity. A multitude of thoughts ran through my mind in the few seconds I had to respond.

“What did they want? What if? How should I respond?” I breathed a quick prayer and answered the phone. The phone ID said “Tia” (Aunt), but I knew it wasn’t his aunt that I was speaking to.

“Hermano, I want to know if you would build me a house?” I wasn’t expecting that. We have built more than 400 simple wooden homes in the area in the last 8+ years of ministry in Santa Ana, most recently in Britania, our neighborhood. Many people live in shanties made out of tin, plastic, and wood with a dirt floor.The leader knew what we were doing and wanted to be included.

I told him that “Yes” we could build a home, we just need additional information and told him how he could qualify. I handed the phone back and continued on to church—thanking God for his protection, his favor, and for giving me the opportunity to be a reflection of his love.

Kenton Moody

Kenton Moody has worked amongst the poor in Santa Ana, El Salvador for the past six years. His focus has been in areas of extreme poverty and gang conflict helping children and youth at risk through education, social intervention, and spiritual transformation. He has founded the Open Door Church, Hosanna School, and the Center of Hope, all operating in Santa Ana.