The sound of gunshots in the street was common in Maycol’s neighborhood of Medellin, Colombia — as common as mothers calling their children or horns honking impatiently as people dart across the road.
When Maycol heard gunshots, he knew he should stay inside, duck down, and avoid the windows and door. But sometimes he and his sisters couldn’t help peering outside. And one day when Maycol was 11, following a smattering of gunshots, he was looking down the street when a gang member ran by. He caught Maycol’s eyes and stared — for just a second too long. In that moment, Maycol and his sisters knew. They grabbed a blanket and rushed down the road.
Leonardo, Maycol’s older brother, lay in the street. He was dead by the time Maycol arrived. In recent years Leonardo had fallen into drugs, and, on this day, he had been killed by a local gang. As Maycol spread the blanket over his beloved big brother, he felt his own heart grow cold and hard.
Although Maycol had been registered with Compassion for nearly six years, he found the pull of revenge to be too much. Within days of his brother’s death he had joined a rival gang, acting as a look-out for police.
But despite his choices, Maycol continued attending his Compassion center. There, his best friend, Daniela, and a tutor took a special interest in him. They were a safe place for the boy, people with whom he could share his anger, grief and fear. They reminded him that God had a special plan for his life. Those words of encouragement, combined with the letters and prayers of Maycol’s sponsor, soon softened the boy’s heart.
Leaving the gang gave Maycol a sense of strength and accomplishment. He excelled in school and became a leader both at the church and among the students at the center. And when it came time for him to graduate, the staff encouraged him to apply for the Leadership Development Program.
Today, 19-year-old Maycol is an informational technology student at a university in Colombia. He volunteers at the student center and teaches the youth group at his church. Maycol’s neighbors, the very ones who saw his brother gunned down in the street, now come to Maycol for advice and guidance.
“I sit them down to talk with them and hours go by,” Maycol says. “I advise them and tell them about God, and they ask me to take them to church. They see the privileges God has given me and they tell me ‘I also want to go on.’”