Living for God Jasper man’s mission

In the midst of his faith journey, Mo Peraza found God was calling him to do more for His Kingdom.

He had been serving and volunteering in different ministries since becoming a Christian when he was 27 years old, but God was pulling at his heart to rely on Him and do more. He had been praying over that calling for about a year when he came upon the idea of creating a group to be the hands and feet of God.

These days, the 36-year-old Jasper resident is now in the midst of a growing ministry called L4G (Living For God).

“Our mission statement is trust God, be humble and show love,” Mo explained. “It’s hard to show love in these areas that some people don’t see but I have roots in those areas. I come from that background.”

Mo has an affinity for helping people that are homeless or convicted criminals. He’s been both.

He grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was gang controlled. It was just him and his dad, Fernando Peraza. “We couldn’t wear certain colors in certain areas,” he remembered. “I had to walk 16 blocks to school through areas controlled by different gangs.”

It was tough and Mo was learning the ins and outs of street life.

Then, in fourth grade, Mo’s dad decided to get out of the city and the two of them moved to Odon. The culture shock was an understatement.

“We actually passed it eight times before we realized we were in Odon,” Mo laughed, remembering when they first arrived in the area. “We pulled a mail lady over and asked her where Odon was.”

She told them they were in it.

“I thought, ‘oh no,'” Mo said. “I was expecting buildings and stuff and all there were was pastures and fields and a flashing light and one gas station.”

Volunteers with L4G serving in Evansville recently. Photo by Evan Lemond.

Being Salvadoran, he encountered racism for the first time in his new rural, mainly white hometown.

There weren’t any Spanish-speaking kids and his father worked long hours at a plastics factory. With no one to speak Spanish with, Mo slowly lost his native language.

“I realized I was out of place here,” he explained.

With the loss of that identity and the racism he faced, Mo found it hard to assimilate into the community. He tried to fit in with sports but ended up hanging with a crowd that reminded him of his tough South Central LA background.

Around 15, he stopped focusing on sports and began to sell drugs. “It was the beginning of a downward spiral,” Mo said.

After graduating high school, he headed to college but was kicked out for not showing up for classes. He moved to Charlotte, N.C., with an uncle and tried to make a go at it before ending up back in Indiana in Dubois County.

He jumped from job to job and continued to hang out with a criminal element until 2008, when he was arrested and faced some serious criminal charges associated with a prostitution ring. “I just knew some people involved and it was basically guilt by association,” he explained.

He did his community service, completed probation and then decided to attempt to start a new life in a different area. He moved to Dallas with his girlfriend.

“I was working for a couple of years, everything was going good,” he said. “But my girl wanted to move back to Indiana.”

She returned to Indiana with their two kids while Mo stayed in Dallas working for another six months to save money. Unfortunately, when he moved back to Indiana, he had a setback.

“I was born in El Salvador, so I’d had my residency cards and been legal but I lost them in the move,” he said.

Mo with two people the group served in Evansville late last year. Photo by John Baumberger.

Back in Indiana, he couldn’t get a job. Feeling like he was against a wall, he fell back into old habits. “So, I called a buddy of mine up and said I needed something (criminal),” Mo explained.

His buddy told him about a robbery they could take on.

“I still didn’t know God,” he said. “And this would have been my third strike.”

Besides facing harsher punishment, Mo would have been deported if he had been caught.

The day the robbery was set to go down was a low moment in his life. Struck by the valley he seemed trapped in, Mo found himself on his knees in the laundry room of his home crying out for God to show himself. “I said, ‘God if you are real, show me. I don’t see you. I’ve never seen you,'” he said.

A little later, Mo called his father to tell him what he was going to do. “He went off on me, as a parent should,” Mo said.

But Mo felt that his dad didn’t understand how lost he was.

“I just took it as he didn’t love me,” Mo said.

Then, a little later, his father showed up at his house and apologized to him. “My father hadn’t apologized to me in 27 years,” Mo said. “I was like, ‘what is going on?'”

“We’re not going to lose you, brother.”

His father told him he recognized the struggle Mo was going through and tried to encourage him. His dad also told him about the Christian Church of Jasper — now Redemption Christian Church. “But I had a wall built up about Jasper and I didn’t want to hear it,” Mo said.

His dad left and Mo continued to make plans for the robbery, but things got in the way. He needed a car to get to Evansville to commit the crime but Mo’s girlfriend had it at her work and wouldn’t be home in time. No matter who he called for a favor to get a ride, no one would help him out.

Then his dad called him back and spoke to him for a long time about coming to church. “We had a long conversation and I felt something. Everything that could have got me to Evansville didn’t happen,” he explained.

He called the friend who had told him about the robbery and said he couldn’t do it as planned. “He said if I went any later, the guy would have his friends with him, and it wouldn’t work,” Mo said. “I just told him that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit at the time but something was stopping me from doing it and I just told him I couldn’t.”

Mo ended up at the church that Sunday. He walked up by himself with his guard up, talking himself out of going in. Stepping through the door, he immediately made the decision to leave. He started to turn around but the greeter holding the door open grabbed his arm and said, “we’re not going to lose you, brother.”

The man’s grip was firm on Mo’s arm. Rather than shake it off, Mo continued into the church and sat in the back as Mark Messmore gave that Sunday’s message from the stage. “I felt like he was talking directly to me,” Mo said.

It wasn’t easy.

“I felt disrespected because I felt he was telling people my story,” Mo added.

But it led him to have a conversation with Mark and he began to explore the faith. A few months later, he was baptized and his life was turned around.

Volunteer A.J. Corlett prays with one of the folks receiving help from L4G. Photo by Evan Lemond.

“I came to God because He intervened. He stopped me from robbing that guy,” Mo said, marveling at what had to happen to bring him to this point. “Brad (the greeter) grabbed me and I had to hear that message from Mark.”

He began serving in Kairos Prison Ministry and at Christian retreats.

“I had led people down the wrong path all my life, and I wanted to start leading others and planting seeds for Him (God),” Mo said.

He enjoyed the work he was doing but began to feel a calling to do more. As sometimes happens, he considered where God wanted him to be. He drew upon his own experiences in the inner city and considered the impact he could have there but his studies made him realize something.

“God is everywhere,” Mo said. “I know there are callings to go on missions to other countries and other states but I feel I am being called to serve in my community, my Judea.”

He began to concentrate on forming the nonprofit L4G (Living for God), to be the light for his neighbors wherever he was. To be the hands and feet of God wherever the group is.

Volunteers handing out supplies during a recent trip. Photo by Evan Lemond.

L4G spreads Christ’s love in Indiana neighborhoods by donating to the homeless, serving at family shelters, holding prayer circles and donation events for school children.

“Maybe someone is wondering what they can do; well, here is L4G,” Mo explained. “We will go into a community and provide whatever is needed. Whether it is yard work, mentoring, whatever it is. We have someone that can do it.”

The list of ideas on serving the community is endless and nothing is off the table for those involved in L4G.

“We are just the body doing God’s work,” Mo said. “It’s been a humbling experience.”

Since forming, he and a growing group of volunteers have served in Evansville twice; once at the family shelter and once at a homeless shelter. They’ve given food and clothing to the people they’ve met.

A trip is being planned to head up to Indianapolis to distribute supplies to the homeless on the city’s east side in April.

The donations have been piling up as well. He has a garage and trailer full of items ready for distribution.

“It hasn’t been stressful at all,” Mo said. “Donations have come in from Bloomington and Evansville. Kairos Ministry has donated quilts specifically made for the homeless. It’s incredible.”

Mo sees God working not only on the people they are serving but on the people volunteering as well. Like when a volunteer with L4G took his own coat off and handed it to a homeless man on a street in Evansville. This prompted the homeless man to open up about his personal tribulations and culminated with the two of them praying together.

“He came away saying that he needed this,” Mo said about the volunteer.

Through the connections he’s made, Mo has been asked to speak at events and L4G is also working with a Bloomington group to provide more services. Mo remains humble, though and only sees his role as a conduit for the love that God showed him in saving him that day in the laundry room.

“We just try to show them there is a light,” he explained. “We show them the love of Christ, and then maybe they can see that someone from their lifestyle made it out and is now giving back.”

Mo currently leads L4G while working full-time at Meyer Distributing.

Those seeking to help out or donate to L4G, Inc., the organization can be reached on its Facebook Page.

Mo lives in Jasper with his wife, Heather, and has five children, Myah, 9, Rae, 5, Aaliyah, 13, De’Angelo, 11, and Isabella, 7.

The logo for L4G was done by a volunteer who learned of Mo’s mission.