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Mario’s Story: The Hard Road to Freedom


All my life all I wanted was a real family. For me, family disappears like water drops on hot desert sands. I was 17 years old when I met a sweet girl and we made a daughter, but we split up even before she was born. I lived on drugs and alcohol, so she didn’t want to stay with me. It hit me really hard. I moved deeper into the gang world of the cartel, I frequented abandoned lands, full of trash, I slept in debris within in the shells of dilapidated homes. 


While living there, I was caught and thrown into a federal prison. Six months later I was out again. That was right about when I hit 20. But you are owned when you leave prison. Bad people, groups put their claws into you, so I continued in the drug business. Life blurs. I was in a gun battle and was shot three times in the leg and once in the foot. Six months, three weeks and two days. That was how long my second wife stayed with me. She was 3 months pregnant when she left, but I was in jail so what could I do? 

When I met crystal meth, that was my doom. I stayed with it 12 years until I came back to rehab. I got married a third a time but was frequently in and out of jail, but I had to keep working for those “bad people.” I was in the system. My wife and I had 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls.

I managed prostitution and drug business. [Editor’s note: this included trafficking and killing people.]  I practically ruined my wife’s life by my choices. I made her go through the same hellish circumstances I went through as a child. I was with her 8 years until I came here to rehab. I don’t know if we’re are still together. We had to flee from one city to another. Fleeing from the police and other cartels. My guess is no…she’s left me for good. I’ve been in rehab for 5 months now. This is a different kind of center than any other I’ve been at. There is more freedom. I feel good being here, peaceful, I have hope. 

My drug addiction drove me through all these terrible things, though sometimes I took dark work on by assignment. When I had no drugs, and I could remember the killing, I felt like crying. In those moments, I know that I’m living the wrong life but I’m helpless, I can’t get out. 

Does someone like me ever feel forgiven? You never completely feel forgiven — I took lives. There are still moments your thoughts jump back into the past. The burden, the guilt is there.

Four people had to drag me here by force. Sometimes we have to take people out of the things that trap them by force. I had been away from my home for 15 days without pause, on drugs, when my family had me “kidnapped” and taken to the rehab center. 

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12). Often there is great cost to rescue one person, but even one child is worth our concern and effort.  

{Editor’s note: we asked Mario about the current needs/opportunities as he sees them for children in this space. His comments are below.]

I know many children who need rescued, but most people, including kids, do not come to rehab willingly. The other issue is capacity, a big enough team to manage new kids. Facility to care for so many people.

Most kids on the streets sell drugs or work as hawks but there are also the child assassins. For every kid selling drugs, there are 4-5 hawks watching the traffic for other cartels and the military or police. Child assassins…I can’t say much about this [it’s too dangerous a subject] but it is on the rise. I personally know over 100 children selling drugs on the street. That tells you the numbers.

Our cost of rescuing children from violence is often high but our cost of ignoring them means generations of violence.

Mario is currently in a rehab center, run and advised by long-term local friends and strategic partners of my organization, INfire. There are many children we are helping in this space, bringing redemption where hope seems to have gone dark. You can get more involved through our campaign, or visit .