Festival de Esperanza Offers Hope to L.A. Gangs

By   •   June 1, 2011

Danny Garza remembers the day vividly.

The youth pastor at Templo Calvario, Garza recalls the day where several gang members came into the youth service.

Had they stayed and listened, the story may have had a happy ending.

But instead, they grabbed one of the guys from the youth service and, according to Garza, “took him to the restroom and beat him.”

“Thank God we got there in time and we were able to help him,” Garza said. “It’s all over the place. Even in the church.”

The gang presence is just one of many subcultures that makes the upcoming Festival de Esperanza on June 25-26 that much more critical. For the first time, Franklin Graham will proclaim the gospel specifically to the Hispanic community on United States soil.

Over 1,000 Gangs

In Arturo Fierros’ mind, it wasn’t that long ago.

OK, maybe it’s been a few decades, but when he was growing up in Los Angeles, sure there was a gang problem. But not anything like today.

“In my days, there was only like about 40, 50 gangs in Los Angeles,” said Fierros, who grew up in the 1970s. “But now they’re saying there’s like a little over a thousand, maybe more.”

The most recent number is 1,108 gangs and counting, a staggering number even for a city with the scope of L.A.

“The gang life is not what it used to be,” Fierros said. “It’s an entirely different thing. An entirely different world.”

And an entirely different kind of Festival.

“It’s a very important crusade that’s being brought here,” Fierros said. “Because there’s a lot of Latinos who do not have the slightest idea that Jesus is the answer.”

The Missing Father

Pinpointing the root cause of the growing gang presence is about as easy as making out what some of the graffiti-riddled walls are saying.

But one factor that can not be overestimated is the lack of a true role model.

Specifically, where are all the dads?

“There’s no role models for ‘em and they get into using drugs because they wanna be accepted,” said Ryan Ries, member of a youth movement to spread the Gospel called The Whosoevers. “That why there’s so many gangs in L.A. because there’s so many fatherless kids running around L.A.”

According to Ries, who was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, gang leaders recruit young kids, encouraging them to drop out of school and get involved in drugs, alcohol and violence.

And whether it’s one or two parents in the household, youth often succumb to the need of feeling accepted.

“These parents are totally bummed out,” Ries said. “They’re crying. They’re weeping and they don’t know what to do.”

‘Save Them From The Fire’

As complicated and serious as the gang epidemic is in L.A., there is an answer and it comes in the saving grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“It’s like that verse in Jude [1:23],” Reis said. “It says you gotta snatch them by pulling them out of the pit, you know, save them from the fire.

“That’s where my heart’s at is to literally go there right where those kids are and snatch ‘em out and give them the Gospel.

Reis, the son of Calvary Chapel pastor Raul Reis, grew up as a skateboarder, eventually was heavily involved in a variety of drugs and alcohol, before God rescued him.

“God saved me and pulled me out of that,” Reis said. “He changed my heart and my mind from reading the Word and now my heart is to go back to those kids right where they’re at because they’re empty.”

Watch the Billy Graham Television Special and see how BGEA is “Sowing the Seeds of the Gospel” from Japann to Los Angeles, Haiti to Liberia. Or click on billygraham.tv to watch online.

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10 Comments

  1. Ruth says:

    Thank You. My summer school class here at Biola will pray for you daily.

  2. emma says:

    Yes I am behind this Festiival in prayers, I know its God's will that many of the Gang will come into the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…

  3. sunny says:

    I have such a heart for the Mexicans. God bless Franklin for this outreach, and Lord, bring all those gang members into our family.

  4. Santos says:

    God is gonna bless everyone's socks off with this great event…….He loves all of them and wants to work thru all of you…..go for it…Holy Ghost Power in the house.

  5. ANDREA says:

    SAW CLIP OF THE FESTIVAL ON TBN AND GOT THE CHILLS. I WILL PRAY FOR THE EVENT THAT MANY SOULS WILL BE SAVED

  6. Pastor David says:

    I'm pastor of Calvary Chapel So.LA and I was a ex-gangster from LA. I'm blesses to hear of this event. I've been doing the same for 5 years now. I'll be praying and if you need more input let me know. Davidt@CCSOLA.org

  7. Ruthe says:

    Thank God for the Graham Family….together we all will help each other…..Praise be to our Father God in Heaven….I pray that He will touch the hearts and souls of all these gangs….God bless the City of the Angels…….in God we trust…God bless us everyone…….to God be the glory…He can make it right….. <3

  8. David says:

    We are praying for the FESTIVAL DE ESPERANZA L.A. Jesus Christ is the Hope. Amen.

  9. Venus says:

    We are PRAYING that everyone would come and join us. As we share the LOVE OF THE GOSPEL in TRUTH for today's world. LOVE for L.A. Amen.

  10. Mike says:

    That's awesome…it has to start somewhere. If there aren't any kids to recruit, the gangs will dwindle, and God will be the focal point…as He should be.