As I speak to Gomez, the former gang members are doing errands around the church’s common spaces, sweeping and mopping up the floors, cooking for one another, and getting ready for church services. It has the feel of a frat house, albeit one filled with well-behaved frat boys. Some are retiling the floor, others painting some of the walls. As the church service start draws near, those with more egregious tattoos apply makeup to cover their faces while others take out their nicest button-down shirts and iron them, stopping to apply cologne.
With the men joking around and laughing as they clean and get ready for the day, it’s hard to reconcile the scene with the knowledge of their crimes. What to make of the men here, or the converts in general? Some of whom have killed, not just killed in a war or for profit or shot a man in the head, but tortured, butchered, chopped up men into little pieces, and now tell you that he found love in Jesus and is a changed man? Men with 666 tattoos on their foreheads basting pastries, mopping floors, and smiling as they bring you coffee and ice cream cake to celebrate a roommate’s birthday? Is redemption even possible?
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org