Sometimes, all you need is a message from an angel to turn your life around. And it doesn’t really matter if that angel actually happens to be a human being; it’s the timing that really counts. Perhaps no one realizes this fact better than a group of 15 to 22-year-olds in Mexico, who are risking their lives by going out into the streets as angels, in an attempt to change their society. The ‘Messenger Angels’, as they call themselves, are young evangelical Christians who take a message of peace to public places in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s most violent city.
The messenger angels are all dressed the same – hair combed back, white make up, white robes and white wings. They stand at busy intersections and places where crimes usually take place, holding up signs that display messages of peace – like ‘Looking for God’s Forgiveness’. “We get people’s attention because instead of doing bad things, like other young people, we are doing this because we want Juarez to change,” said Cynthia Gutierrez, one of the angels. The city has a population of 1.3 million and over 9,000 murders in the past three and a half years. One of the boy angels said: “In society, they’ve separated us a lot. As well as in our families. That’s why we try to share a message to drug dealers, hitmen, raiders.”
“Well, some people think we are right, others think we are wrong. I think this is right, to create more consciousness in every person that’s going down the wrong path,” added another angel. He was holding up a sign that read: ‘Chapo Guzman, Time is Short, Repent’. Some of the other signs say: ‘Police-killer: Stop it! From: Jesus Christ’, ‘Corrupt Police Officer: Seek God’ and ‘Authorities: nothing can be done without Christ’. I suppose messages from God don’t really get more direct than this.
All of the angels attend the same church – the Psalm 100 in Juarez’s Tierra Nueva neighborhood – an economically challenged area filled with violence and crime. According to Carlos Mayorga, a preacher and youth minister at the church, the idea came up during a meeting a few years ago. “The kids chose 25 strategic locations throughout the city that they wanted to target,” he said. “We do not share information about our church because we want the message of peace to be universal.”
“We go to the main cross streets, the international bridges, we stand outside of police stations. And also in crime scenes.” said Mayorga. “We give a direct message. We talk to Chapo Guzman, to the Zetas, to the Juarez Cartel. We tell the corrupted police to not abet organized crime, nor the groups that have pretty much destroyed our society.”
The 25 messenger angels always do their work on weekends, their days off from school. Among them is 19-year-old Daniel Diaz who used to steal money for drugs. His faith in Christ, however, has changed his life. “When I told my friends about my change, they wouldn’t believe me. They thought I was joking. They told me I was crazy because no one can change overnight. But when you set your mind to change, it can happen,” he said.
Some of these events are organized by Mayorga himself, while others are done by coordinators, like Juan Manuel Olguin. The group meets up at the church first, starting with a short prayer: “I beg you to bless these young kids with strength and energy. God bless them through your Holy Spirit. And we will be here next time, ready and willing to give our lives if it’s necessary to do it, for the holy bible.” The prayer ends with a round of applause to Jesus Christ.
The angels don’t hesitate to go out to do their work at night. They even go to some of the most dangerous neighborhoods controlled by violent gangs. Thankfully, none of them have been attacked so far. But they did have a bit of a run in with the police recently. The youth minister and one of the messengers were detained. “They realized that we were only trying to send a message of peace in a public place and exercising our free speech rights,” said Mayorga. “They released us shortly after our conversation.”
Naturally, the parents of some of the youth objected to this bold and dangerous enterprise. But they managed to convince the adults with powerful arguments. “God is with us,” said Mayorga. “After a period of prayer and fasting, we decided to move ahead with our plan.” And they have slowly started receiving positive reactions for all their efforts. Nora Ramos, a resident of Juarez, said: “I was passing by and I thought it was beautiful to see young people with a positive message. They’re doing something to change all of the bad things happening here in Juarez.”
It’s inspiring to see people have not lost their faith and are risking their lives for peace in the face of such horrific violence, but whether they will prevail against the numerous criminals that have made Juarez their home remains to be seen.