David Trujillo was driving to church when his best friend Henry, who was seated beside him in the car, had his head blown off by twin blasts from a 30-30 rifle and a 9 mm handgun.
“We were only 17,” Trujillo recalls.
Henry had been trying to help Trujillo escape the gang lifestyle. When he asked his friend to go to church, Trujillo reluctantly agreed, provided they stop by the old neighborhood to party first.
“We never made it to church,” says Trujillo. “We were set up by rival gangs and they shot up the car.”
Now the pastor of Calvary Church South Central Los Angeles, Trujillo had seen this scenario repeated far too often on the streets where he ministers.
“That is why I am so thankful that Franklin Graham is coming here to share the Gospel. L.A. is the stronghold of the enemy and I believe that what Franklin is doing is awesome, because not only is he reaching the Latino population, but he’s doing it in the heart of the city.”
Trujillo has been praying for years that God would send laborers who are not afraid to come to inner city areas like South Central, Watts or Compton. “The Festival is an answer to prayer for the whole area.
“This is hard ground,” he adds. “It’s like the enemy has a stronghold over all of L.A., with everything that it offers.”
Trujillo knows a thing or two about the “offerings.” He grew up in South Central Los Angeles and although his parents were Christians, he developed a rebellious attitude toward God after Henry was shot.
“I thought, ‘Lord, How dare You? He was my best friend and he was trying to reach me for You, and here You take him away from me.’ From that point on, my heart turned cold toward the things of the Lord,” Trujillo says.
A couple of years later, a friend who jumped into the middle of a gang fight to preach the Gospel, finally helped to soften Trujillo’s heart. God led him to Calvary Chapel Chino Valley where he received the Lord and was saved at the age of 19.
In 2003, Trujillo planted Calvary Chapel South Central Los Angeles and started to preach the Gospel and teach the Word, with a special burden to minister to gang members and drug addicts.
Why do so many kids feel compelled to join gangs? Trujillo says that for him the lure of money, drugs and women was irresistible. “I had an uncle who was an original gangster and he used to sell heroin. I would see the power and the respect that he had.”
Many kids join gangs because they feel they need to be accepted. Sometimes they join for protection.
“Some join because they think the party life is cool,” Trujillo explains.
“But once they get in, they get pulled in deeper and deeper. When you see your best friend getting killed or when 17 kids in your neighborhood die in one year—when you see that happen, you want to retaliate and get pulled into the darkness and blindness.”
Some kids join because they don’t have a dad. They grow up in single parent homes and start hanging out in the street and, the next you know, they are into the gang life.
“But mainly,” Trujillo adds, “they want to be accepted and they want to feel like they can rely on someone to back them up.”
His passion to help Hispanic kids escape the gang lifestyle—or prevent them from joining in the first place—fuels his excitement for this weekend’s Festival.
“Our church is bilingual,” says Trujillo. “Half of the church is Hispanic. We’ve been inviting people and announcing it in the church to get the Spanish-speaking people out there and take their loved ones.”
He believes even hard hearts can be softened by the Gospel. “When I was in the street and we heard of Billy Graham down there, something inside me said even then, ‘There’s something up with this guy. He’s well respected.’
“Now for Franklin to do what he’s doing, I think it’s a blessing. I think it’s going to impact a lot of people’s lives here, and we are blessed.”
Live Webcast from Los Angeles
Go to BillyGraham.org/LA to watch a live webcast of Festival de Esperanza on June 25 at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. Pacific) and June 26 at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. Pacific).