Our soccer game was about to start: cartel criminals vs our international group of saints. Sacrificially, I traded my tennis shoes for flip-flops so my Swiss-Italian friend could play. I suppose he’d have preferred to be in on the ministry time, but I just couldn’t see our best player sidelined. He’s one of those guys who’s toes just naturally bounces the ball without even engaging the brain. So the game was on, and the clock was ticking, as the end of the game would also end our time with the prisoners.
Turning from the game, Josue and I looked around to see who we could talk with. This outing was Josue’s chance to experience a wildly Spirit-filled group, from a wildly spirit-filled church, in a wildly extreme and potentially explosive situation. His translation was nimble, as he side-stepped my bits in Spanish, and came in with much needed help when I reverted to English. My Spanish is just enough to get me in trouble, as I fill in the voids in Italian. I had just found out that when I told a little boy in the hospital that I would pray for him, I had actually said that I would beat him up. When the boy asked my indigenous partner why I was going to beat him, she quickly explained, he’s not going to beat you up, he’s going to beat up the devil!” Well, you can see the language mine field I operate in.
To the best of my recollection, a soccer game would last an hour and a half, and that time had barely started that we found ourselves, along with one of my room mates, Drew, talking with four of the inmates. Our ministry times on the street and at the hospital had shown us that Mexicans, or at least Tepicans, are all too ready to just jump into talking about God, and even Jesus. And these four were no different. In retrospect, I think they were looking for us and not the other way around. So it wasn’t long before we prayed with them to receive Christ into their hearts, and hands were laid on for a filling of the Holy Spirit. Others from the team were talking and praying in clumps around the huge walled-in yard.
Off to the side, we saw another young man looking like he wanted to join in, but some invisible force was keeping him away. He was built light welterweight, like most of the boys in the jail. Although none exceeded 17 years of age, the Mexican authorities don’t think of them as boys. In fact they just think of them as hardened, conniving criminals with no hope for rehabilitation or redemption. Most of them stood not much more than 5′, thin, wiry, with buzzed hair about 3/8″ long. They all seemed like boys, or rather sons, to me. That’s what I love about getting older, you are the most precious commodity on earth: a father. Sure there is no lack of sperm donors on earth, but real fathers are rare as hen’s teeth. How easy it is to give love to the love-starved masses! So it was that I wondered on over to this young man. Not only was I confident of the love I personally felt, but I had the astounding confidence of knowing that where I went, the presence, love, and power of the creator of the universe went with me! How amusing to be at once humbled and have that kind of confidence rolled into one relationship.To be continued…