The first time I met Miguel*, he was a bloody mess. He had gotten into a fight with some other drug dealers, and they had dragged him behind a pick-up truck in an attempt to kill him. He escaped, but his neck, shoulder, and torso were a mass of ugly cuts, bruises, and scraped-off skin. He was not a pleasant sight. Unfortunately, it is something that I saw regularly in my work with drug addicts in La Paz, Mexico.
Miguel quickly found a home among the people of the La Paz de Cristo church. People loved him, talked to him, helped him, and gave him little tasks to do at the church. His first job was to help set up chairs in preparation for the Sunday activities. As he became increasingly involved with his new Christian friends, he slowly began turning his life around. Miguel soon came to know the Lord.
This all happened about three and half years ago. Now that I work stateside, I lost touch with Miguel and didn’t know how he was doing. So what a surprise it was to see him when I was visiting La Paz recently. Miguel is healthy, happy, drug free, and working. Plus, according to his boss, he can quote long passages of the Bible from memory.
As we shared a meal together, Miguel told me about a time I had taken him with me to visit another drug addict named Andres*. It was part of my effort to help Miguel kick his addictions. I have a vague recollection of the incident, but it was just a fuzzy fading memory for me. To Miguel, it was a turning point. I had trusted him. I had asked for his help. And I had valued him as a person.
As Miguel and I visited with Andres, we realized that Andres couldn’t, wouldn’t, and had no desire to leave his addictions, and he has suffered the consequences over the years. However, recently I heard from missionaries in LaPaz who told me that Andres has just gotten out of rehab and looks great. He has moved to another part of town to avoid the temptations from his “friends.”
Working with drug addicts is a hard, tiresome, and often disappointing endeavor, but seeing how Miguel and Andres have turned their lives around makes the effort worthwhile. I would do it all over again, gladly.
-Written by Steve Dresselhaus, TEAM Senior Director for Latin America
-Photo provided by Steve Dresselhaus
*not his real name