by Jose Carlos Gutiérrez, Americas Area Director

“Esteban” played bass in the church band. He never finished elementary school but somehow he was involved in church and had lots of gifts and talents. His dad left the family when he was young, but that’s not unusual and I would still see him very frequently at church. For some reason he got disconnected and we lost touch. I assumed it was just like a lot of teens: as new things came up, church took a back seat to other interests, and he would be back.

But he didn’t come back. Esteban was killed by the cartels. It turns out he was a sicario (gunman) for one of the cartels, and in the wars that you frequently hear about on the news, he was shot and killed. This rocked me, because I thought, “He knows who Jesus is, why did he go and become a sicario?! That is not how Jesus shows love. He knew better. Doesn’t he know there is more to life?” I am still struggling with this and I am asking deep meaningful questions to myself, and also to the other young people. I ask myself, “Did I need to press in more?”

The hard part for me to reconcile was if I had done enough. Should I have helped disciple him more? Knowing who Jesus is simply is not enough, that is just the beginning. Coming from a kind family is not enough. There are life skills and other developments that we all need as we grow into adults ready for the world, but there is also spiritual development, which is key.

When the spiritual development is missing, things like Esteban’s story can happen. Just this possibility is what motivates me to help reach every young person in the world not only with the gospel, but the questions, discipleship and mentorship that come after, so they know there is more to life than just the current opportunity.

And so I am starting at home in Juárez, then the entire country of Mexico, then all of Latin America. I often dream what would it be like if Mexico was known for how much they lived like Jesus as opposed to the news we see today.

Finding more “Estebans” and giving them the opportunity to learn more about our Lord and Savior, and what he did for us and how we should respond, is the best way I can see that dream coming to life.