The Valdosta Daily Times
His brother taken, tied to a tree and burned to death by members of Colombia’s drug cartels, Alejandro Garcia faced a dilemma.
He had long believed in God, but did little more with his religion than sing in the church choir, he says. The death of his brother, a money launderer, compelled him to do something more, but he remained uncertain what that something should be.
One day as the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia recruited children into the drug cartel’s guerilla army, a friend pointed out to Garcia that these armed youths would one day be his young daughters’ friends.
With three young daughters, Garcia devoted himself to counteracting the FARC’s influence on Colombia’s children. The Mailbox Club, with its international headquarters located in Valdosta, has become a primary tool in reclaiming the lives, minds and spirits of Colombia’s children, Garcia says. Garcia recently visited Valdosta to share his struggle directly with the Mailbox Club and bring a monetary donation to the club, says Peter Faulkner, a Mailbox Club representative. The Mailbox Club was not expecting his visit nor did it expect to receive a donation.
Garcia visited the States hoping to enlist the aid of the United States
government and American churches in helping curb the FARC and its ability to recruit young children into its ranks. He brought a short movie showing youngsters shooting machine guns and being trained for violence in Colombia.
Through translators Omar Rincon and Dr. Felix Valdez, Garcia says the FARC recruits youngsters through three methods:
- Conscription by intimidation where children are forced to join the FARC’s ranks.
- Economic gain, promising a better life, money, better food, for the children and their families.
- Ideological recruitment where the FARC convinces children to accept the cartel’s principles as a way of life.
FARC recruiters enter classrooms to use these recruitment tools to add children to the cartel’s forces.
Since 2005, Garcia has used the Mailbox Club’s Sunday School-style literature as a tool to thwart the FARC’s influence on children. Through the Mailbox Club, children learn of the possibilities of love, God and family. They learn there is a way other than the FARC, Garcia says.
The Mailbox Club literature has reached thousands of children in Colombia. In the video, Colombian children share how the Mailbox Club has helped them forge new lives and kept them from falling under FARC’s thrall.
Yet, defying a guerilla army is a perilous business for both the participating children and for Garcia.
In meeting for Bible studies and to receive new Mailbox Club studies while turning in the completed previous papers, children use a password similar to the biblical Shibboleth which identified believers from outsiders. Worship services are held in something akin to an underground church.
Garcia’s life has been endangered many times, but with a smile, he says little about any possible danger to him.
Instead, he says, the greater danger is churches both in Colombia and other places not doing more to thwart the drug cartels.
“The church is not doing enough,” Garcia says through translation.
He challenges churches to become more involved, to throw off fear for cautious courage to change the lives of his nation and its children.
“Many ministers and the government are afraid to do more,” Garcia says. “… That is why I am so glad to have the Mailbox Club.”
It gives him an ally in a lonely land.
More information, or to help the Mailbox Club, visit www.mailboxclub.org.