Sara Gomez Lopez has lived in Tijuana nearly all the 43 years of her life, and has the scars to show it. A domestic abuse survivor and the single mother of three daughters, she opened a shelter in 2003 for women fleeing violent homes. Sara is part of her city's network of culture-shapers fighting some grim statistics: 843 murders in 2008, a 300 percent increase in petty crime in 2007, and 75 percent of women at risk for domestic abuse, to cite a few.
But in the face of battle, Sara believes the best place to be is the center of God's will: "He put me here, and I'm going to be here until he doesn't want me here anymore."
Part of Sara's fight means getting past the numbers and into the lives of hurting people. Meeting recently with local leaders at a conference on dating violence, Sara painted vivid images of some of the women at her shelter: one with her ear chewed off by a boyfriend; another with her jaw and legs broken; another with her uterus punctured.
"It's up to you to have a family without violence," she said, making a personal appeal to the audience of young professionals. "It's up to you to have a family the way God wants it to be."
On the front lines day after day, it took Sara traveling 1,600 miles north to a supporting church in Alberta, Canada, to finally break down. Billed as the inspirational speaker at the church's 2008 fundraiser, Sara locked herself in the bathroom, wondering aloud why she fought so hard for so few results.
"I'm done, God. I don't want to do this anymore," she cried out. "Tell me how you feel about my work. Is what I do pleasing to you?"
Later that evening, Sara gave her speech. But during worship, a pastor spoke a prophetic word to her—something the formerly cessationist Baptist believes ...1