Former hit man Felix Vargas works side-by-side with Colorado Work and Witness team
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Quito, Ecuador
Traveling to a third-world country, one would expect to see and experience many traditional and cultural differences, writes the Montrose Daily Press. However, for one Colorado Work and Witness group, a trip to Ecuador’s capital to build a church became a journey to remember.

The First Church of the Nazarene in Montrose, Colorado, sent seven members to be a part of a Work and Witness mission group. For many, it was their first trip outside the U.S.

Their arrival in Quito, Ecuador, January 12, was greeted with bustling traffic and concrete-block architecture, reports the Montrose Daily Press. Their mission was to help complete the second floor of a church, but during the undertaking the group met the face behind what was one of the world’s richest and most brutal drug traffickers—once-hit man, Felix Vargas.

Currently, the Montrose Daily Press stated, Vargas is the church’s evangelism director for Ecuador. However, as the group learned, his current profession is a 180-degree turn from what he did most of his life.

Vargas killed his first person at age 15, Burns said. His second victim was a girl who was attempting to assassinate him. After working for the Colombian military, trained by U.S. Green Berets and Navy Seals, Vargas found himself working against cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar.

At one time, reported the Montrose Daily Press, Escobar was said to control 80 percent of the cocaine that traveled into the U.S. He was named by Fortune and Forbes magazines as one of the top 10 richest people in the world.

Those times have changed, Burns said. He calls Vargas now “a modern-day apostle.”

The group, which consisted of Montrose First Church Pastor Buddy Cook, Burns, and two other adults, along with three of the group’s children, met Vargas at a talk he presented about his life and conversion to Christianity.

“He’s a revolutionary, (a) changed guy,” Burns said.

Upon the team’s return to the U.S., a film about Vargas’ life, called From the Dark, was presented at the First Church of the Nazarene. From the Dark was produced by World Mission Films.

Though meeting Vargas was an exciting journey, the group’s main mission was to build a church.

After Vargas spoke, he was invited to help the next day. The towering 270-pound man joined in throwing bricks and shoveling sand.

He wasn’t the group’s only help. Members of the Quito church spent extra hours mixing concrete and hauling bricks.

Like the pigs’ legs the group ate for dinner, the architectural style was also much different from the group’s norm, wrote the Montrose Daily Press. Earthquakes from the city’s neighboring volcanoes and the overabundance of termites prevents the country from constructing a lot of wood structures. Rather, the buildings are made of cinder blocks and rebar.

Church members also visited Ecuador in 2003 and 2004, and plan to continue to make the trip.
--Montrose Daily Press, NCN News