Yes, Luis does look fierce in the ring as he trains them to recognize and deflect any attack. This is him helping a local gym of MMA hopefuls perfect their boxing technique.
Most of the time, he’s with far younger kids in the corner of an abandoned church parking lot. I’ll be honest; I don’t like boxing. I never have. But Luis was a Golden Glove boxer in his youth, and kids seek him out to teach them boxing. And for him, it isn’t really about boxing. It’s about using the skills he has to incarnate the reality of Jesus among kids from troubled backgrounds, many of them prime targets for the gangs to recruit. He has almost 150 of them now in two different cities in my county.
And, he does all of this for free. He cleans houses by day with his wife, and in the late afternoon, finds his way to a corner of a parking lot and works with a few of them at a time. You should see what happens between them. These kids enjoy being with Luis even more than the boxing. Some come who are not even training. Others just hang out there, calling these moments with Luis the only safe place in their life.
I hear from people worldwide enjoying the My Friend Luis story as to how God found this abused boy growing up in Mexico and, over the trajectory of his life, drew Luis into his love. Now, he lives that love not only among his family and friends but with a growing group of young boys and girls who are drawn to God’s work in his life.
It started with some friends of his daughters who found out Luis had been a Golden Glove boxer in Mexico in his late teens. They wondered if he would teach them some boxing techniques, and he offered to do so. In the time he spends with them, he teaches them character—to be honest, kind, and respectful, staying away from the gangs that prey on them, and in all of that, discovering how much God loves them.
Boxing lessons allow him to be with them as he gives them the wisdom to navigate the challenges of their lives. He’s often texting them through the day and held numerous Zoom sessions throughout the early days of the pandemic.
Paulo Coelho, the author of The Alchemist (which is a fantastic read, by the way), said. “Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning.” That’s exactly what Luis does with these young kids. His love for them is infectious and has garnered the attention and support of the police departments in both communities where he works with them. There is a ministry in the making here that is rescuing some incredible kids from going down some dark roads.
A friend of mine from Ohio listened to the My Friend Luis podcast with his family traveling for vacation this summer. At the end of the podcast, they felt moved to help Luis find and lease a small space so he could gather with these kids year-round. We are currently looking for that as the weather turns more difficult to be outside. Many others have sent donations to help free Luis’ time to be with these kids. Lifestream started a fund to support Luis and Maria in their work with these kids. Luis is calling it Fighting Chance of Ventura County.
I share all this for two reasons. First, to encourage all of us to celebrate the exquisite beauty of how God wants us to give meaning to love for those he’s placed near us.
Secondly, to invite any of you looking for year-end opportunities to share your resources with things God is doing in the world, to consider this new ministry. Luis has not asked for this. He is content to clean houses and work with kids as he has the opportunity, but I see a life that Father wants to free up to have even more impact in this corner of the world. We are helping him form his own nonprofit to see how far God might take this. In the meantime, we are happy to have Fighting Chance of Ventura County as an outreach locally of Lifestream.
If you’d like to join us in helping this embryonic gift of God grow in the world, we’d love to have your help. You donate to Luis’ work here, and either send a one-time gift or set up recurring support for this if that’s on your heart. He has rescued so many kids from a trajectory that could have easily led to dropping out of schools and getting involved with gangs. Some of his kids have been murdered for trying to leave their gang, but he persists with courage and passion.
Thank you for considering this with me.