The night was dark, but the patio was filled with light as a Christian Reformed missionary met with people in a slum in Guadalajara, Mexico, for a weekly outdoor worship service.
Two 40-watt lightbulbs produced enough light for people to gather, read the Word of God, and sing praises.
Not far from the circle of light, prayer, and song were threats of violence, people without work, people suffering from dengue fever, and a general sense of hopelessness. But inside there was joy, peace, love, and hope.
The atmosphere of warmth may have drawn Rodrigo, a tall young man who was unemployed, living with his mother, and bitter at life. Rodrigo had been seen in the community, walking along angrily, head down, shunning people.
“At first, he remained in the shadows by a broken-down gate,” says Rev. Wayne De-Young, a CRWM missionary working in Mexico.
The service was nearly over when Pastor Melquiades, one of those conducting the service, walked over to Rodrigo and invited him to come closer for prayer. Rodrigo left the shadows and stepped into the light.
Normally prayers are low-key, but this time was different as worshipers laid hands on Rodrigo. He came alive when the hands touched him. Sounds of pain and wailing erupted from him and he fell writhing to the ground.
From the ground, Rodrigo reached out to the feet of those who were surrounding him in prayer, as if seeking something or someone solid to hold on to.
“I began to wonder if we had taken on more in this prayer than we could handle,” says DeYoung. “But the brothers and sisters just calmly gathered around him and prayed more fervently.”
Soon, Rodrigo grew quiet, even serene. He got up, dusted himself off, and acted as normal. “I wondered if the prayer had led to a change; if Rodrigo had been touched by the Spirit of God,” says DeYoung.
The next week Rodrigo was back for the outdoor worship service. And he returned to almost every service after that, looking happy. “I began to think that possibly some major change had taken place that dark night,” says DeYoung.
A few days after a recent service, DeYoung attended his first March for Jesus in downtown Guadalajara. He brought tracts to hand out at the rally.
A large crowd was on hand, both moving along in a parade and lining the street. In the midst of the parade, DeYoung spotted Rodrigo marching along. He was grinning from ear to ear, clearly excited and pleased to be part of this joyful event.
DeYoung decided to approach Rodrigo and ask if he would be willing to hand out tracts to people lining the streets.
“Rodrigo gladly complied and off we went, handing out the tracts,” says DeYoung. “As we were we marching along, I knew that the darkness was gone and light had broken through in Rodrigo’s life.”