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Violent El Salvador Gang Members are Getting Saved and Leaving Their Past Behind

Lindsay Elizabeth : Jul 10, 2018 : Faithwire.com

Bizarrely enough, gang leaders actively check in on the [Christian] ex-members to make sure that they are attending services regularly, and not participating in any of their past behaviors ... As long as these men remain true to their newfound faith, they will be viewed as non-threats to gangs.

(El Salvador)— [Faithwire.com] The Central American country of El Salvador has become so dangerous that in the capital, San Salvador, people do not drive with their windows down out of fear of being robbed. (Photo: The Rev. Nelson Moz, churchgoers and ex-gang members pray together at Eben-ezer in San Salvador/Credit: Alicia Vera/NPR.org)

But this closed-window policy changes the second one enters a neighborhood that is controlled by the region's notorious gangs. In these parts, the norm is for people to drive through with the windows down, showing their faces in order to prove that they are no threat to the community, or to clarify that they are not "the enemy."

Right smack dab in the middle of one of these gang-ruled neighborhoods called La Dina, there stands a beacon on a hill: a small Baptist church that sits amongst the chaos, untouched by the violence that overtakes the streets.

El Salvador is a historically Roman Catholic country, but in recent years, evangelicalism has been on the rise, even among the gang members themselves.

Even more surprising is the unification evangelical Christianity is bringing to gangs like Barrio 18 and MS-13, both rival groups that are known for their ruthless tactics.

In areas controlled by these gangs, young boys and men are frequently forced to join to ensure their own safety. But due to the recent growth in evangelicalism, there has been an interestingly surprising shift in the culture of young men, according to NPR. In recent years, the church has emerged as a welcomed alternative to gang life.

Despite its small congregation, Ebenezer Baptist church boasts around 10 former gang members who have abandoned a life of crime and violence to worship Jesus with all their heart.

The former gang members are easy to identify in such a little church, as they are covered in tattoos from head to toe.

The newest member of Ebenezer, 24-year-old José Rolando Arévalo, is one of such congregants. A tattoo on his chin gives away his former membership to the Barrio 18 gang...

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