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Detroit-area church mourns member killed in home invasion

Members of a small, Spanish-speaking church are mourning the loss of a member killed in an early morning home invasion March 23.
Julio Diaz, 37, a member of the Iglesia de Cristo Mexicantown, was shot three times and died later that morning at a local hospital. Nearly a dozen church members had surrounded his hospital bed, singing and praying for him.
His brother Armando Diaz, 52, also a member of Iglesia de Cristo, was shot but is recovering. The brothers, both from Vera Cruz, Mexico, lived together in the basement of another member’s home in Mexicantown, a suburb of southwest Detroit.
A police investigation of the crime is ongoing, but authorities have not yet been able to interview Armando Diaz regarding a possible motive.
“We have been going through a lot of pain these last few days,” said Javier Cuarezma, the minister of Iglesia de Cristo, which meets in the Vinewood church building. The church of around 40 members began in 2004 when Cuarezma began the work in Michigan after spending 11 years in ministry with a Spanish church in Ottawa, Canada.
A construction worker, Julio Diaz was the first person Cuarezma baptized in Detroit.
“He was a faithful Christian man, and was making progress learning English,” said Cuarezma. Julio Diaz’s wife and 1-year-old daughter live in Vera Cruz.
“We have been praying and asking why this happened,” said Cuarezma. “We know we live in a tough place, but no one expected something like this to happen to one of our members in this way.”  
Mexicantown is considered a dangerous neighborhood — teeming with gangs. “We pray, and we sleep with one eye open,” said Cuarezma. “But we keep our courage up, and we know God is on our side.”
Cuarezma is helping the family make arrangements through the Mexican Embassy to return the body to Diaz’s home in Vera Cruz for burial. If that can’t be done, he told family members the church will hold a memorial service for him.
Cuarezma, from Nicaragua, was hired five years ago by the church in Trenton, Mich., to start a Spanish ministry in Detroit.  The 350-member congregation continues to sponsor the work, said preaching minister Mark Frost.
“We are trying to come to grips with this,” said Frost. “We are just broken-hearted.”

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