Mexico City Mission Trip Part 3: Tepito

Our Wednesday visit to the Mexico City community of Tepito was by far was one of the spiritually trying days of my life. I have never been to a place where I felt so much evil, darkness and spiritual warfare has I did in Tepito.

Tepito is a small community in Mexico city (just 72 square blocks) that has a population of over 120,000 people. It's home to Mexico's most notorious drug cartel and the Mexican mafia. It's also boast the Mexican black market with over 50,000 vendors covering just about every street in tarp shops that sell stolen goods such as ipods, LCD TVs, Xbox 360's and Nintendo Wii's. You can also purchase bootleg DVD's, CD's, and any type of clothing you want. A typical DVD sells for $6 pesos (or .60 American) As soon as a movie is released in the theaters it's in the Mexican black market on DVD the same day. For every street that is jammed full of stolen merchandise you can find another street full of pornography and every type of sexual merchandise you could imagine. Tepito has become world famous as the most dangerous part of Mexico City. The place is loaded with drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, rapist, and murderers. Most of the Mexicans we ran into said they wouldn't even go to Tepito.

In the midst of all the darkness are a few beams of light. One such place is a small church pastored by a former crooked cop named Felipe that once had ties to the Mexican Mafia. He was saved 20 years ago and has spent every day since trying his best to lead the people of Tepito to Christ. Because of the respect the Mafia still has for him, they look after him and his church so
nothing will happen.

When our group exited the metro and stepped into the center of Tepito the smells, sounds, and sights are something I'll never forget. Imagine the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest place you have ever been and multiply it by 100. That is the start of what this place was like. We cautiously made our way to the church to connect with Felipe and his congregation. The church fit in with every other graffiti covered building so much so that even our guides had trouble finding it at first. Once inside we were greeted with smiles, hugs, and kisses from Felipe and his friends.
Felipe then told us of the hope he has in God to restore his city. As Felipe spoke with such faith and conviction you couldn't help but believe God was up to big things in Tepito. We divided our group into three teams and then teamed with someone from the church. We stocked our backpacks full of hundreds of tracts and headed out share the light of Christ in one of the darkest places on earth. Before we left, Felipe prayed for us. As he prayed the power of the Holy Spirit removed any fears we may of had and replaced it with faith and confidence in Jesus. Felipe also prayed for God to shield our eyes and minds from the numerous sexual images we were sure to come in contact with while walking through the markets.

My group was led by a man named Nacho, a younger guy with a passion to see people come to know Jesus. There wasn't one person we passed that he didn't stop and invite to church or ask if they knew about Jesus. Just being with him was inspiring. Kipp and I would walk ahead, pass out tracts and if the person seemed interested since neither of us were fluent in Spanish we'd grab Nacho to share about Jesus and his church.
One of the most amazing things that has ever happened in my life was the vision (or lack there of) that God gave me. As we walked through the market we would pass numerous porn shops. I walked into every one and passed out tracts to the shop owners and the customers. As I entered each shop the only thing I saw were the faces of the people in there. All the smut and pornographic images were blurred. I know it sounds crazy but I don't recall seeing one picture of pornography even though it was all around me. God had shielded my eyes just as Felipe had prayed for Him to.

After a couple of hours walking the market and witnessing we headed back to the church. Once everyone was there we went to see the "Saint Death" festival. La Santa Muerte or Saint Death is the patron saint of all things evil. Locals believe that by praying and offering a sacrifice to her that they will receive protection and luck in all their dealings. If they have sex, then they won't catch a disease. If they steal then they won't get caught, and so on. On the first day of each month an entire block is dedicated to her worship. Statues of her and alters line the street. Most people carry around some form of the idol with them along with flowers to give as an offering. As if this wasn't disturbing enough, children as young as 2 and 3 years old were offering candy to these grim reaper like idols. As dark and evil as the rest of Tepito was, this place made everything else seem like Disney World.
As we arrived back to the church we were all at a loss for words. How could one man and one church (one of only eight in the entire Tepito area) find hope in such horrific conditions? The only way is through Jesus Christ. Before we left Felipe had us all gather and hold hands as he prayed for us. I have no idea what he said (as it was all in Spanish) but almost everyone there was brought to tears has he prayed with power for God to move in his community and in the lives of it's residents.

As scared as we all were to visit Tepito, none of us wanted to leave. We had fallen in love with the people of Tepito. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. There is so much work still to be done there that I'm sure it's a place we'll serve each and every time we go back to Mexico City. Please keep Felipe, his church, and the people of Tepito in your prayers.
** Note: The above pictures are from Yahoo Images. We were advised not to have anything of value on us including cameras, rings, watches, and money. We were also asked not to bring any more then 20 pesos ($2.00 us dollars) with us because the chances of our stuff being stolen was greater then it not being stolen.

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