JUAREZ, Mexico - One of the biggest issues that sparked the Arizona immigration law was the growing crime and violence along the border from drug gangs.
The violent cartels have been blamed for robberies and even murders.
Yet despite the risk, pastors are taking the gospel to the streets to lift up their communities.
In the world's most violent city of Juarez, Mexico, a battle between the government and drug cartels has no end in sight. A military surge of 10,000 soldiers did nothing to curb the violence. Juarez is across the border from El Paso, Texas, and has seen more than 5,000 people executed in less than three years.
"Everybody trusted that when the Army came to the city the problems were going to be resolved, and they didn't," pastor Poncho Murguia explained. "Now we have the federal police and it's not getting better."
Now, a new kind of surge is taking place.
Murguia is the head of an evangelical pastors alliance that is working to take back the city of Juarez one family and home a time.
"We're going to go into the streets and into the homes and who knows who we are going to meet," Murguia said. "We are going to meet good people. We are going to get bad people, but the gospel is powerful to change lives."
Thousands of volunteers from 120 churches throughout Juarez are taking part in outreach over three weekends. And in a city where dozens of people die everyday, the work they are doing is very dangerous.
"[A pastor told me] that one of his teenagers.... stopped a car and [asked] 'can we pray for you?' And the guys who were inside of the car said, 'no I don't think you can pray for our business.' And when this young lady looked into the car she saw five men with guns, but [still] started praying," Murguia shared. "And all of a sudden these people got silent and they closed their eyes, they bowed their heads and they prayed... and she blessed them and they left."
Help from 'Above'
The group of pastors aren't acting on their own. For the first time in Mexico's history, the government is working with the evangelicals.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made three trips to Juarez this year and met with Murguia each time.
"When we finished the meeting I had the opportunity to talk to him face-to-face and he told me personally, 'you know what, you are right. The only thing that can help us to get out of this is by having faith in God,'" Murguia recalled. "So that brings hope to my heart and joy to my ears thinking that -- knowing that the president is thinking about God and about faith and thinking about God as a solution."
Now, church leaders find themselves on the front lines of what God is doing in Juarez, not only to bring help to the current situation, but to bring a real change the country of Mexico.
"Where sin abounded -- and then there is a 'comma'-- then grace over abounded. We are in the comma right now," Murgui said. "We are on the bridge of jumping to the over abundance of grace and that is what we are expecting. We are excited about it. We have faith. We have hope. We serve the Lord Jesus Christ."
*Originally published July 15, 2010.