Wimper Sanchez escaped a life of gang violence and desolation to become a university student, thanks to a conversion to Christ while attending a Compassion project.
It started as a game. When Wimper was young, he stole bags of candy and groceries. As a teen, he graduated to armed robbery.
"My goal was to become a great criminal," he said. "Girls were only interested in tough guys and I enjoyed it when people were afraid of me. I was hungry for power, fame and respect."
A Violent Childhood
The opportunity to be a criminal was easily met in Wimper's neighborhood, Las Malvinas. Riddled with drugs, alcohol, illicit sex, gang warfare and domestic violence, Las Malvinas is one of the most violent communities in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
But that environment was nothing compared to the daily violence Wimper witnessed in his home. He considered his father - a prisoner of alcohol and drugs who constantly beat his mother and older sisters - his greatest enemy. Wimper's hatred for his father was so deep that one day Wimper pulled a gun on him. His mother's arrival was the only thing that stopped him from killing his father.
"He never was a friend to me; he never once gave me a hug," says Wimper. "I began to hate and resent him and I began frequenting the streets, trying to escape from the cruel reality of my home and the misery of my life."
The Power of Early Childhood Ministry
Yet, in the midst of his tumultuous home life, Wimper found a safe haven and a place to think about God. At age six, he began attending a Compassion-assisted project.
"The Word of God was sewn in my heart from that time; in fact, I went to Sunday school until I was 10 years old," he said.
His conversion, however, wasn't complete.
"My father's abuse, his alcoholism and drug addiction drove me to distance myself from the Church and God," Wimper said.
As he faced a life of extreme poverty, his family's suffering and his father's abuse, Wimper believed God was far removed from the harsh reality of his life. In his hopelessness he turned to suicide.
"But I remembered that somewhere in the Bible it says not to, so I didn't," he said.
Knowing that his Compassion sponsors cared about him encouraged him deeply. Also the persistent prayers of his mother and others began to work in him. It wasn't until Wimper became a man that he buried his childish dream to become a criminal and became a Christian.
At age 18, Wimper's fellow gang members offered him the chance to commit a crime. They had high-caliber weapons and were ready for battle. But Wimper, afraid because he felt the closeness of death, decided to go home. The next day a friend he met at the Compassion project invited him to a youth meeting. At the service, Wimper decided to receive Christ. He said the constant exposure to God he gained at the Compassion project and his mother aided his conversion.
God's Plan Revealed
With Jesus in his life the young man began following the plan God had for him.
Wimper, now 23, attends the Christian University of Latin America, studying for a bachelor's degree in the theology of human resources and social management. He also tutors children attending Compassion-assisted projects.
Through his life with Compassion, Wimper has become one of the blessed Ecuadorian youth to escape gang violence that kills nearly 800 adolescents annually. Wimper is also thankful to Compassion for accepting him into the ministry's Leadership Development Program in Guayaquil.
"Do I want to be a great criminal today?" he says, laughing. "Not at all! I just live to preach the prophetic word of hope so that many will be freed from slavery and poverty in the Name of Jesus."
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