Paradise Lost: The Obscure World of La Luz del Mundo Church
Written By Diego Rubio
“A blind sheep” is not usually something one aspires to become, much less an image that society looks kindly on. Yet for all the stigma that blind loyalty receives, few have ever known what it is like to rest in a divine embrace, to be cared for eternally in exchange for an unquestionable faith. Is it really so terrible to give up all that cumbersome independence and submit yourself to the powers which shaped the universe itself? For all the unending joy experienced as a member of La Luz del Mundo over the past 12 years, that sacrifice really does seem irrelevant. Of course, sheep need a shepherd to guide them; the organization’s larger-than-life leader, Naasón Joaquín García, is that shepherd.
Six years ago, when one of the church leaders approached you with the opportunity to become one of the Apostle’s personal lawyers, the word “ecstasy” would have fallen short to describe the absolute bliss that went through your mind and body. To be given such a title was undeniable proof of trust to manage Naasón’s personal affairs, but also a staunch test of loyalty and responsibility that you would have to work hard to live up to. It is no easy task to represent an organization that claims over 5 million followers in over 60 countries (Camhaji), but to be given such a holy duty is everything that a right-minded follower of the church could ask for. For this immensely generous favour, you have gladly given your unwavering loyalty to the church.
It is for this reason that you are now sitting on a plane to Guadalajara, Mexico, with over $70,000 dollars in cash making its way to the church’s main headquarters: the church of Hermosa Providencia (Camhaji). Of course, a person may only carry $10,000 on a flight, so you have recruited the help of six other Brothers of the church to carry out the transportation. This is a routine method of carrying money from every church across the country (“Así Convence La Luz Del Mundo”), and the cash always arrives smoothly.
Most of this money comes from the generous donations of the church’s members, who despite having little means at their disposal, are always willing to give sums higher than $1,000 each if it is what will bring divine favour upon them (“Así Convence La Luz Del Mundo”). This, of course, is what all church ministers are instructed to explain, and though at times it may be necessary to insist that bad luck in marriage or God’s disapproval could result from a poor contribution; if the ultimate result is the growth of the greatest religious organization on Earth, then you are willing to turn a blind eye to such unethical behavior.
As one of the Apostle’s lawyers, you happen to know that the $70,000 are part of a deposit that will be made on a ranch in Texas worth $2 million dollars (Alvarado). The property belongs to Naasón’s brothers, but you have been told since long ago that any property bought and owned by the church or its officers are for the purpose of expanding the church’s influence and spreading the true word; it is not your job to question the reasons behind this purchase (“Así Convence La Luz Del Mundo”).
When you finally arrive at the Hermosa Providencia church, you are warmly greeted by a church representative and invited to come in. Of course, an altar is not where church business is to be discussed, so you make your way to the church’s underground tunnel network where most of the organization’s more…inconspicuous activities take place (Camhaji).
As you make your way through the vast and dark expanse, you see some of the church’s ministers and assistants carrying children into rooms. One would be quick to think this place is a photography studio, for the flashing of cameras and the sound of people shouting instructions permeate the gloomy air that surrounds you.
While passing one of these rooms, you instinctively cast a quick glance through one of the unclosed doors in the tunnels. What you see being done to the children inside makes you shudder, but you turn around and keep walking. After all, it is beyond you to understand the workings of the church, or the reasons why it carries out its actions. In the end, it is all for the Apostle’s glory, and what you saw inside may or may not really have happened.
After finally arriving at a conference room and delivering the money, you discuss the elephant in the room: the upcoming trial of Naasón Joaquín García. An unending list of money laundering, human trafficking, minor abuse and other allegations are directed towards the church’s leader, and the organization’s stability hangs from a delicate thread. Of course, your testimony will be vital towards proving these senseless accusations wrong, especially given that some of the witnesses testifying against Naasón are former assistants and lawyers of the church (“Víctima Del Líder”).
You thank the minister for his kindness and make your way out of the church. As you head home, however, you notice the black car that has been trailing you since you left the airport. Inside the car is one of the Brothers who was on the plane with you, mimicking your every movement on the road. You sigh deeply and continue your drive. You know that today, like every day, you will be sleeping under close surveillance; threats about what will happen to you if you say, do, or think the wrong thing will come flying from every direction, just as they have been since you joined the church.
When you arrive home, you kiss your loving wife, hug your children and bid them good night as dusk slowly falls. As they make their way up, you look out of your living room window and see the same black car parked in front of your house. You shudder at the sight of it and for one fleeting, almost subconscious moment, your thoughts fall on those underground tunnels and the church deserters who have made a stand against the Apostle. It is all good and well to be a sheep when you lie on a good pastor’s arms, but now you wonder to yourself: will you always graze these divine pastures as you have been promised, or will the day come when your paradise becomes a slaughterhouse?
Camhaji, Elías. The Underground Lair of La Luz Del Mundo’s ‘Apostle’. EL PAÍS, Prisa, 19 Feb. 2021, english.elpais.com/usa/2021-02-19/the-underground-lair-of-la-luz-del-mundos-apostle.html.
Así Convence La Luz Del Mundo a Sus Fieles Para Que Donen Millones | Noticias Telemundo. YouTube, Noticias Telemundo, 13 Feb. 2020, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05XOlFq09U8.
Alvarado, Isaias. 7.3 Millones De Dólares En Propiedades: La Enorme FORTUNA DEL Líder De La Luz Del Mundo y Su Familia. Univision, Univision, 19 Aug. 2019, http://www.univision.com/noticias/justicia/7-3-millones-de-dolares-en-propiedades-la-enorme-fortuna-del-lider-de-la-luz-del-mundo-y-su-familia.
Víctima Del Líder De La Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo Narra La Pesadilla Vivida | Noticias Telemundo. YouTube, Noticias Telemundo, 13 Feb. 2020, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNJ_opiyNSM.