Magazine article The Christian Century

Hector Mauricio Rodriguez Lainez

Magazine article The Christian Century

Hector Mauricio Rodriguez Lainez

Article excerpt

Hector Mauricio Rodriguez Lainez, pastor at Aposento Alto United Methodist Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, often goes walking around his neighborhood. If he sees young girls and boys, he stops and prays with them.

Prayers are especially needed in Fuerzas Unidas, an 11-block neighborhood controlled by gangs, called maras, who target children for sex and to sell drugs.

"If someone refuses to join the maras, they are given 48 hours to get out of the country or they will be killed," Rodriguez said. "But really, they usually don't get 48 hours."

Honduras is one of the most violent places in the world. Tens of thousands of people, many of them unaccompanied minors, flee across borders to escape death, rape, and extortion at the hands of the maras.

Rodriguez, 23, serves a congregation of 230 that is mostly children and young people.

"The church is trying to attract gang members' families," he said. "Most of the kids who go to our church are children of gang members."

Rodriguez said the gangs are always watching who comes in and out of the neighborhood. He believes the gang members can relate to him because he is young.

One of the gang members called out to him one day, calling him pastor. …

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