When Jesus emptied Himself and “made His dwelling place among us.” The love of God took on flesh and blood and lived among us. Jesus’ example inspires us to “make our dwelling place” among people as well.
A couple of weeks ago, Joe Hugarte crossed the border to do ministry in the Cereso prison in Juarez as usual. However, this day would not be business as usual. While Joe ministered to a group of inmates gunfire broke out in the prison. Apparently a gang had smuggled into the prison assault rifles and slaughtered a large group from a rival gang. When the gun fire ceased seventeen laid dead, and seventy-two others wounded. Video footage of the attack showed gunmen opening fire on defenseless inmates with assault weapons the police collected over 700 shell casings at the scene.
When the prison erupted in violence a prison guard mistakenly ordered Joe into a cell block with the inmates instead of out of the prison to safety. In the confusion and panic Joe also lost his ID. This poses a major problem since the inmates don’t wear prison uniforms Joe blended in with the rest of the inmates–he look just like another inmate.
Once the crisis had passed, the inmates tried to convince the guards that Joe was a religious worker and that he should be released, but they would not listen so Joe spent the night in prison. In the overcrowded cell, he found a place up against the wall and tried to sleep sitting up.
About two in the morning the guards came in shouting and ordering the inmates out into the yard. The guard ordered them to strip down to their underwear and lay down in the yard with their faces in the dirt. Following orders Joe stripped down and took his place in the yard with all the other inmates. He laid there for four hours as the guards searched the prison looking for the stash of weapons used in the massacre.
Finally, Joe’s long night ended when the warden of the prison recognized him and granted him his freedom. (Just for record, Joe went back to the prison the next week to do ministry).
That long night, Joe embodied the “presence of Jesus” to those men. In their moment of crisis, Joe did not simply pray for them–he shared the danger with them. I can only imagine how his presence among the inmates powerfully proclaimed the gospel of our Lord. Just like Jesus, Joe pitched his tent among the people. He left the safety of his home to live the danger of those he loved.
The gospel we preach takes on real meaning and power when we live out its message by our very lives. Joe’s example inspires me to be more fully engaged in my world than ever before.
Thank you Joe!