|PASTOR MARTIN AND HIS WIFE LETY...AUGUST 2017|
I have been serving as a missionary in Juarez, Mexico for 5 years. I came here from Searcy, Arkansas. For several years the City of Juarez, Mexico was infamous for being the most dangerous city on the planet. About 4 years ago I was in bed trying to sleep through the outside noise. A few times I found myself hitting the floor when I would hear bullets rocketing by just outside my bedroom window. This particular sleepless night I decided to turn on the television set hoping that I would eventually fall asleep. It was almost 1 am. But something on the TV set caught my attention. It was the story of a man who had lived a horrible life of drugs and crime, but now he serves the Lord as a Pastor. I only caught the last few minutes of the story but it was the most amazing story I had ever heard. But I did not get the man's name in the story. I also did not know in what Spanish country this story had taken place. For all I knew he was in Argentina, or maybe Spain. But right there and then I uttered a serious prayer: "Lord, I don't know who that man was or where he's at, but someday I would love to meet him." The next day I went to get a haircut. I was still very moved and impressed by the fragment of the story I had heard and I started to share it with those sitting around the barber shop. Immediately one of the men waiting for a haircut said to me, "That man is my pastor. His name is Martin Nuñez." I was shocked. I said, "You mean to tell me that he lives here...here in Juarez?" He responded, "Yes, just a few blocks away, I'll take you there." Incredible! Soon after that I met Pastor Martin Nuñez (who lives about 10 blocks from my rental house), his wife Lety, his church, and the children and youngsters living with him. Answered prayer! And I also heard his full testimony. Since that day Pastor Martin has been one of my dearest friends and a man that I love and admire as my own brother. As amazing as his story is it only keeps growing. Here is just part of the story from his own lips, as I translated for a team from the U.S. that visited here (his whole life story would take several books):
My life used to be practically a nightmare. Something like a horror movie. But it has a beautiful ending. When I was 2 years old my mother was a drug addict, as well as my father. And one day something went wrong in my family and my 16 year old mother stabbed my father to death. My mother was put in prison and she took me with her. At the time there was a generational curse of drug abuse and prostitution in my family. All my grandparents were drug addicts. My uncles were in prison at the time and my mother and I joined them there. My uncles sold drugs in prison while they were inmates. My mother continued to use drugs while in prison. The guards would sell my mother to other inmates and eventually I had three more brothers born in prison, all from unknown fathers. As a toddler I would watch my mom as she used rags with glue to get high. At the age of 7 or 8 years old I started doing the same thing out of curiosity (after my mother would pass out from sniffing). When she carelessly left pills around I would also consume them. I had the run of the prison since I was so small and as a result my uncles and grandfather used me as a drug runner, selling drugs from cell to cell and returning with the money. I became know as "El Gatito" (the kitten) throughout the prison. I would look at the walls and the bars and ask my mother if we will ever get out. She reassured me that we would. When we were released I was 11 years old. We were a dysfunctional family, delinquents, and we had no schooling. At 11 years old I did not know how to read or write. I had no one to show me the right way, no one to look up to. Immediately after being released my mother took us to our grandmother's house, dropped us of, and abandoned us to continue her life of drugs. Poverty gave us no other choice but to hit the streets and survive through robbery and burglary. Our grandmother, also on drugs, was pleased when we boys brought back stolen goods. By the time I was 16 I had been back to juvenile detention about 16 to 17 times. At the age of 16, after being charged with car theft, a judge sentenced me as an adult because of my many crimes. So I went to prison as an adult. When I entered the prison I felt right at home. This was where my brothers were born and this was where I was raised. I began using more drugs in prison.
After I met with the judge again she asked me if I had learned my lesson. I told her that she didn't realized what she had done. She had opened me to a bigger world of drugs and crime while at the adult prison system. I was released but I really wanted to stay because that was home for me. I was back in prison a few more times. At the age of 19 I'm headed back to jail but this time it was for the stabbing murder of another young man. It was my first murder. I almost decapitated the young man with a knife. Now I was an adult and I started another phase of my nightmare. This time I went to Federal Prison. The maximum sentence for my crime was 39 to 40 years. The night of the murder I came home and to my surprise my mother had returned. She asked me not to leave the house and to stay in bed. When she fell asleep I left anyway and just a half a block away I killed a young man. When the police caught up to me I remembered what my mom had told me - to stay home. Had I obeyed her the crime would not have been committed. In prison all my gang members were there and we started to tattoo our bodies.
My life was empty and meaningless. I was 20 years old and I was tired of life. My father was dead and there was no hope for me in life anymore. The emptiness was more that I could bear. The emptiness led me to stab others in hopes that they would kill me first. I wanted to die; I sought death. I once was stabbed to the point where I had to use a bed pan for six months and was left practically paralyzed. I wanted to escape life. Eventually I was able to walk again using crutches. I attempted suicide several other times. But I couldn't even do that right. The doctors would always fix me up. Even cutting my veins did not work. Cutting my jugular veins did not work either. The doctors brought me back to life over and over again. Eventually they tied me up so that I could not attempt suicide anymore.
One day when when I was leaving the infirmary a man call out to me and said, "Gatito, Jesus loves you and He wants to change your life." I got real angry when I heard that. I thought how can anyone love me after the life I've had. Later after that some family members came to inform me that my mother was dead due to a drug overdose. I remembered my father, my life, and now my mom...how can I be loved. That's impossible, I said. I told that man in a rage of anger to live his own life and I'll live mine. I basically told him to get lost. Later I found out that he was a minister. I was given permission to leave prison to attend my mother's funeral. When we went to the funeral I was escorted by a security officer. I was handcuffed to him and he kept warning me not to try anything as he kept the other hand on his revolver. I remember doing drugs together with my mother while in jail, and how she brought me drugs when I was in jail, and now it was hard to believe that she was dead and inside a box. I hugged the box and the impact of the sight brought out some rare tears. Right there I promised her that I would change, though I knew that she could not hear me. My younger brothers were there and they hugged me. They were present when she died of an overdose. We cried together for the first time. Life was worse in prison now. I wanted to die even more. Life meant nothing to me. Death was better.
I was taken back to prison and once again tried suicide. But the words I had heard from that man that Jesus loved me and that I had hope kept echoing in my head. I would try to silence that voice by covering my head and ears with my pillow but the words still penetrated through. Over and over and over again those words haunted me. My next attempt at suicide was to hang myself. I had part of the sheets tied to a pipe above the sink in the cell. I climbed up on the sink and stood on it. But those words would not leave me alone. I stepped back down and asked permission to be taken to the patio. And I wanted to talk to the man who told me that Jesus loved me; I wanted to ask forgiveness for having been so rude to him.
He was brought to me and I asked him for forgiveness. He graciously took me into a cell and before long I was on my knees receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I felt so filthy that I had to go immediately and take a shower. In the shower I had a supernatural encounter with Jesus and I have never been the same. The old me went down the drain with the filth. That was 18 years ago. My life was changed forever. I met men and women in jail who loved the Lord. And they also loved ME!!! I only went through 8 days of withdrawals after a whole life of drugs. My miracle was so deep that within three months I was preaching the gospel.
NOTE: And so ends the story from Pastor Martin's lips. I had recorded this testimony as I was translating for him. For lack of time he cut out many things from his testimony. But I want to fill in some of those things that he left out that to me are very important, impressive, and miraculous. Pastor Martin's life changed so much that he started a church in the jail and he became the pastor. His church would blossom to over 500 inmates. It was during this time that he learned how to read and write. He also got permission from the authorities to erect the church building inside the prison from funds he received from the outside. That church still stands today and I've had the pleasure to speak there. It was an unforgettable experience. It was at this church that he met his wife, Lety, who was also serving time for selling drugs. She operated what is called a "picadero" (where addicts come to buy drugs, but are also given a small room to spend the night). He asked for permission and they were married in his church at the prison. He was also pardoned from the remainder his 40 year sentence. Martin and Lety were released and they returned to Lety's "picadero", only this time to start a church there. And they also started picking up children from the streets of Juarez. These children had been abandoned and were on drugs and/or alcohol. Luis was one of the first ones picked up. Luis was just a little over 7 years old and on cocaine. He had been thrown out like yesterday's garbage by his family. Today Luis is almost 22. He is an outstanding preacher and musician and he is attending law school, specializing in juvenile law because he wants to help children going through what he went through. Sarita is 4 years old now. She was dropped off by her mom, who was a cocaine addict. She left Sarita two years ago and never returned. The most recent member of the family is Emanuel, who is now 3 months old. He was dropped off a month ago. Pastor Martin and his wife Lety are now the legal parents of Luis, Sarita, Emanuel, and 19 others. Their children are the musicians and worship leaders at their church sevices.
When Pastor Martin was sharing the above testimony his wife Lety was sitting in the front row. I noticed that she cried more than anyone else in the room. I knew that she had heard that story a multitude of times. But she cried because she can't forget and doesn't want to forget where God has brought them from and how their lives were changed by a simple "Jesus loves you..."
Now back to August 2017:
Last week Pastor Martin and a group of his many ex-prisoners along with myself drove several hours to visit another troubled city in Mexico. We ministered at re-hab centers and also the city jail. That story will be on the next blog entry. After returning to Juarez, Mexico I visited Pastor Martin the very next day. He said to me very proudly and with a huge smile, "Come here, I have something to show you." He proceeded to introduce me to a 7 year old boy, a 9 year old girl, and another 11 year old girl. They were siblings and they had just joined the Martin family. The 11 year old girl was already sexually abused by her father. They were out in the streets with all their belongings inside backpacks. As terrible as it sounds it's a good thing that they arrived at a place where hope and love thrives. Where there's real love, there's great hope.
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Please send me your comments below or at the information above. And please share this story because others need to read it. Thanks for all your prayers for this ministry.