Tag Archives: Civil War

Fleeing a death squad

immigrants-family-Christian-school-los-angeles

Ivan Arango never liked the party because, as he repeated, they always ended with fights, hatred and vows of revenge. But his close friend, Antonio, prevailed on him to go to his high school graduation’s celebration in Guatemala – in the cantina.

Sure enough, a fight broke out over some stolen beers, and Ivan and Antonio found themselves fleeing a death squad in the City of Quetzaltenango in the Western side of Guatemala.

Formed to efficiently kill dangerous targets outside of the proper channels of justice during Guatemala’s dirty civil war, clandestine death squads were paramilitary groups that devolved into despotic gangs answerable to no one.

death squads honduras

A death squad in Honduras

A death squad member had stolen Antonio’s beer, and he had punched him, not knowing he was a paramilitary.

Out of his devotion to his best friend, Ivan had planned to accompany the graduation festivities in the cantina for only 30 minutes. In the next moment, he was fleeing for his life.

“Are they going to kill us?” he worried.

Ivan and his friend hid in a room in the back of the cantina, and a friendly lady locked it with a padlock on the outside. Sure enough, the death squad came to to that room, pounded and kicked the door and fired bullets.

Terrified, Ivan remembered his brother, Diego, who was first of the family to become a born-again Christian.

In his heart, he cried out to God. “Lord, forgive me. If you can get me out of this trial, save me. Don’t let these men kill me here.”

The paramilitaries busted down the door. They shoved a .44-Magnum in Ivan’s mouth, but it jammed.

“I couldn’t say anything,” he said. “I didn’t argue. He insulted me like a demon.”
death squads honduras

This picture from a Google search is believed to show a Honduran death squad in action.

Responding to disturbances in the neighborhood, the military police showed up. The paramilitaries stood down and left.

The streets were silent like a cemetery. Ivan asked the cantina owner if he should go home.

“They’re waiting for you to come out to torture and kill you,” he said. Read the rest of the story refugee students.

This is the story of how a Guatemala survived the ravages of war in Guatemala and immigrated to the United States where he married and enrolled his daughters in our Christian school in Los Angeles.

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‘I married the guerilla’

I married the guerilla

With an old student at the Door Christian School in Guatemala City.

When the funeral hearse pulled up at 5:00 a.m., Gladys Barrios knew what it meant. She was a Christian teacher in Guatemala, but her husband fought for the guerrillas. He espoused atheistic communism.

“I lived constantly with the possibility that someone would come and tell me, ‘I’m sorry, but they just killed your husband,’” she said. “When I saw the hearse, I thought, ‘Well, that’s it. He’s dead.’”

Guatemala’s civil war lasted from 1960 to 1996. Just like America’s Civil War, it divided families. It was a bloody conflict of betrayal and treachery as the CIA and the former Soviet Union resorted to dirty tricks and massacres in their attempt to wrest control.

While the communists fought to win the hearts of the people, evangelical Christians made huge gains as people, fearful of death on all sides, considered their eternal state. Today, the country is one-third evangelical, according to some estimates.

For Gladys, the clash of ideologies took place in her household – but with a peculiar pre-marital agreement. “I knew he was in the guerrilla before we married,” she said. “So we agreed that I wouldn’t interfere in his activities, and he would let me go to church and raise the children Christian.

It turned out that the night the hearse arrived did NOT coincide with her husband’s death. Her husband, Luis Ernesto Donado, had been drinking with other high-ranking revolutionaries, and they had crashed due to intoxication. A friend died, and they asked Gladys to visit the morgue, identify the cadaver, and advise the wife who had just become a widow. Read the rest of her incredible story.

How do I pray? Keep the house united

Civil War ReenactmentsHow do I pray? The importance of unity.

I saw a Civil War battle reenactment in Genesee Country Village and Country Museum near Rochester, New York. Being from the West Coast, I had never seen anything so astounding.

Genesee Village and Country MuseumThe Union troops dislodged the invading Confederates from the village and then re-engaged in the afternoon on the open field. Canons thundered. Plumes of white smoke squirted six feet out of muskets. Soldiers died writhing in acted pain. In the village, there was even a surgeon’s tent where they explained the horrors of a five-minute amputation, necessary to save lives with the bone-shattering musket balls.

Civil War amputations

A reenactor explains tying off blood vessels.

The Civil War was a horror. More American lives died there than in World Wars 1 & 2, Korea, and Vietnam combined. In it, brother killed brother.

Spectators at Civll War reenactment

My daughter, Rebekah, and I, after the battle.

Rightly, Jesus warned against a house divided against itself. Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift — Matt. 5:24 NIV. The need is so pressing to conserve unity that you should interrupt your prayer time to restore fellowship. Disunity blunts prayer’s power. Let not your church become a Civil War. The church is supposed to horrorize Hell’s henchmen. But when we turn on rifles on each other, we become a laughingstock for demons’ delight.

Civil War muskets

My sons, Robert and Hosea, hold Union muskets

Conflict occurs because people wrongly think they must compete against other members of the church for preeminence. It’s a worldly concept of dog-eat-dog, put-others-down-so-I-can-climb-on-top, that should be left in the world.

How do I pray? Keep the house unitedStriving for unity pleases God — and blesses your prayer. You can’t control what people do to you, but you can control how you respond. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace — Eph.4:3 NASB. Do all YOU can to preserve oneness.

The Civil War ravaged our nation. May our churches be spared of division. How do I pray? Keep unity.

We’ll lick ’em tomorrow

Confederate troops surprise-attacked Gen. Grant´s forces along the Tennessee River on April 6, 1862 with hopes to driving them into the swamps to finish them off and thwart Northern incursions. After inflicting 1,000s of deaths and driving Union forces back, Gen. Beauregard had reason to telegraph Confederacy President Jefferson Davis: “A COMPLETE  VICTORY.” However, Beauregard didn´t know that Grant was receiving 15,000 reinforcements at Pittsburg Landing that night.

Grant was puffing a cigar, sheltered from rain under a tree that night after musketry ceased. Gen. Sherman told him: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” Grant replied, pausing to draw on his cigar. “We´ll lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

Beauregard thought that on Day 2 he would drive Grant into the river. But this time it was HE who was surprised when Grant counter-attacked with fresh troops.

There´s always a turnaround. Things are going bad for you in ministry — maybe real bad. But God is going to deploy strategic resources, and today´s losses will convert in tomorrow´s victories. That´s why we pray as Christians — for the turnaround. Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” — Matt. 26:53 NIV That´s the power available for us too! Just pray and help is on its way!