Full of excitement to serve God as a missionary, Diego Galvan woke up on his first morning in Tijuana to a freshly decapitated head of a woman left in the street.
The grisly murder was a sign of what was to come for the fearless missionary who tried to avoid angering the wrong people but found himself entangled in a nation and city overrun with rampant corruption and cartels.
“If I die, I’d rather die doing the will of God than live as a coward seeking money and pleasure,” determined Diego, who was born in Uruguay but raised in America just across the border in San Diego and had never known the dark and dangerous world of drug cartels.
Diego Galvan’s father got his family out of Uruguay through some first-class shenanigans. Being a bodyguard for U.S. diplomats, he divorced Diego’s mother, married a lady diplomat, moved to the United States, got U.S. citizenship, divorced the diplomat, returned to Uruguay and brought his family to America.
Diego grew up in the world of guns. His father got into gunfights with terrorists of the likes of Che Guevara.
Diego was saved at a young age and stayed faithful in the church. As he grew up, he got married, got a great job at the Acura-Jaguar dealership and bought a house in San Diego. He had pioneered a church and was currently serving as assistant pastor in the border city when God interrupted his fairytale life with a call to leave luxury and throw himself into the godless land of Tijuana. He would do his best to stay out of harm’s way.
“What you do with the cartel is you ignore it,” Diego says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “They were there before you and they’ll be there after you. You don’t be nosy. You’re just there for souls.”
Diego took over a church in Tijuana established by his brother, who moved on to another ministry. In the yard of his first house, a man was killed by revenge-seekers from the cartels. So he decided to move.
At his second house, a man who had been committing adultery with a drug trafficker was killed on Diego’s doorstep. He moved again.
Unwittingly, he fell out of the frying pan and into the fire. His next-door neighbor was a drug lord. What happens when the drug lord faces off with the Lord God?
The drug lord’s henchmen were annoying, parking in front of Diego’s driveway. When he got home from church, he couldn’t park in his driveway. He asked them to move their cars; they ignored him. They were drinking and partying.
Realizing he was never going to get away from the cartel, Diego decided to send his wife with food to evangelize the dealer’s wife. “My wife can cook some good food,” Diego explains.
“You try to avoid the cartel,” he adds. “But the problem is that as you preach, you begin to mingle in their world.”
It wasn’t the first time he directly evangelized them. Out on the streets passing out handbills for the church, he would run up to their SUVs with darkened windows and pass out flyers to occupants of the cars that only the drug traffickers drove. As a general rule, the cartel members received flyers and were respectful.
One even opened his heart: “God could never forgive me.”
“That’s a lie,” Diego countered.
“I’m in so deep,” the man mused.
But it was his interaction with the drug lord next door that pulled him into a full-blown war with the cartel. The wife got saved, and the drug lord didn’t like it. She showed up to church with black eyes and had clearly been beaten.
For some days, Diego remained quiet about the physical abuse he was witnessing. But eventually, his outrage got the better of him, and he went over to talk to the drug lord. He knocked. Mr. trafficker opened the door.
“Hi, I’m your neighbor. I’m the pastor,” he started. “I see what you’re doing to your wife. Men who beat their wives are cowards. One day you’re going to stand before the living God, and you’re going to give an account for all the mess you’re doing.”
The drug lord didn’t respond a word.
“This man is dead,” he thought (he admitted later).
The drug lord’s four-year-old daughter scampered out. Diego saw her. “This is your daughter, right? Do you want men to treat your daughter the way you are treating your wife?
“Listen, I have the real deal,” he continued. “It’s Christ. If you call upon him, he will save your soul. But you must get right.”
Still the drug lord said nothing. So Diego went home.
A few days later, the drug lord’s wife came over panicked. Diego had been out of town preaching for another church. The wife implored Diego to come over; her husband had been locked up in his room and hadn’t spoken to anyone. He was out of his normal mind.
Diego decided to go and visit. Diego’s wife tried to dissuade him. “It’s a trap,” she cautioned. “He’s going to kill you.”
Diego remained firm in his resolve. He knocked on the neighbor’s door.
“You wanted to see me?” he asked. “Here I am.”
The drug lord’s eyes said it all.
“When I saw his eyes, I knew something had happened for the positive,” Diego tells.
“You know what you told me a few days ago?” the drug lord told him. “That’s real, dude.”
He no longer consumed or wanted to consume drugs. He was going through withdrawals. Diego led him in a sinner’s prayer. It was Friday night. On Saturday morning the former drug lord who had met the Earth’s Lord participated in outreach. He was handing out handbills and testifying to people about the wonders of Christ.
He was filled with wonder and joy and thrilled with the reality of Jesus.
On Sunday morning, Pastor Diego preached about repentance. Unbeknownst to Diego, the ex-drug lord just happened to be carrying 2 kilos of pure cocaine left over from his just-ended trafficking career. In a flourish of enthusiasm, the ex-drug lord flushed them down the toilet after the sermon.
Had Diego known, he probably would have counseled his new convert to give the drugs back to the cartel – and to negotiate an exit from the cartel.
You don’t run off with the cartel’s drugs. You either give them the money or the drugs.
Sure enough, the higher ups showed up. Where’s the money?
I don’t have it. I threw it down the toilet.
Curse words. Threats.
The new convert’s days were numbered.
Sure enough, the hitmen showed up.
It was Sunday after church. Pastor Diego was napping and woke up to the blood-curdling screams of the new convert’s wife. From his second story room, he looked over the wall and saw the screaming wife.
“Help us,” she pleaded. “They’re going to kill us all.” They had four kids.
Diego sprang into action. Once again, his wife warned him not to get involved. “You’ll die,” she said.
“Then I’ll die,” he responded and went out the door.
When he entered his new convert’s house, he distracted the gang of hitmen, so that the new convert grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed one through the heart.
It was the capo’s brother. The capo was a woman.
The hitmen didn’t think. They panicked and packed up the brother and rushed him to the hospital.
Pastor Diego called the Mexican police. Eighteen SWAT-like cops showed up with masks and “AK-47s and AR-15s. Diego explained to them the situation.
Sure enough, the cartel showed up in their bulletproof Suburbans with darkened windows. When the cops saw the high-ranking cartel members, they panicked. Read the rest: Pastor 007 takes on Mexican cartel and wins.