Extortion here in Honduras is a major concern to the population. I can’t imagine anyone not being familiar with the problems of extortion in Latin America. However, unless you live here, you’re going to feel a sense of separation from it. Extortion has been here as far back as 12 years ago when I first came to this country, but it has increased in the last few years to an epidemic. In order to help you understand the environment of the mission field that we serve in, I want to give you some details about the situation.
The definition of extortion is the taking of something, such as money, by force or threats. A bus company here in La Ceiba, called Cristina, was being extorted by a gang to pay about $10,000 per week. That’s unimaginable. When the Cristina company, perhaps, ran out of money and could not make a payment, one of the bus drivers was shot and killed by a female assassin who was posing as one of the passengers while the bus was full. I saw the video posted by the news. This happened in our city. Just a few weeks before, I had used this bus company to send some personal documents to the another city. The bus company shut down operations completely. This should have been the end of it, but the bus company resumed operations just a few weeks later. Today at about 6:30 AM, we were awakened by several gun shots off in the distance. A Cristina bus was stopped by armed men, the passengers forced to get off and then the gunmen opened fire, wounding several of the people before setting fire to the bus. The location appears to be right at a point on the highway that the police use as a checkpoint to stop traffic. Strange location for the bad guys to choose because the police and military responded with their weapons and there were fatalities. Think about this. The employees probably did not know on the first go around that the company was being extorted and that their lives would be at risk if their employer did not pay. They certainly would have been now. This is happening to many businesses. Now try to imagine if this were happening to your employer without your knowledge and they stopped paying the criminals, but did not tell you. Your life would be in danger and you would not even know it. In case you don’t know, these same gangs have a large presence in the USA.
We know an unsaved man who was supposed to be on that bus, but for what could only be the result of the mercy of God, he was not. I would say it was is because God is granting this man time for repentance. I will sure be talking to this man about this. By the way, I want express my deepest gratitude to our faithful supporters.
Now let’s talk about neighborhoods. Individual neighborhoods have been abandoned because of extortion. They come in and begin to extort residents and the people understand that if they don’t pay at the appointed time, they will be killed right then. It’s that serious. You might ask, “Can’t the police help?” Not really. There is, unfortunately, suspicion of corruption with the police that makes them unreliable. However, you still have to deal with them according to the Word of God.
Extortion is not something new. Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees that they were “full of extortion” in Matthew 23:25. They didn’t carry weapons, but their guards did. Jesus confronted them and was delivered from them before they could touch him.
Now the Bible also talks about extortioners in 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. In chapter 5, Christians are called to avoid anyone who is practicing extortion and calls himself a Christian. We are instructed to choose not to be with them if they will not repent, and this is talking about repentance unto God. Repentance unto God is where someone understands they have sinned against God and, after rejecting the sin, will make restitution to as many victims as they can. Regarding the people who are extortioners and don’t claim to be Christians, the Bible makes it clear that our life in this world is going to be lived out in existence with unbelieving people who are in bondage to this sin (1 Cor. 5:10). While practicing separation from the world, we preach repentance and remission of sins (these types of sins) in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47).