Mexican megachurch leader Naasón Joaquín García is in prison in California after pleading guilty to sexually abusing minors earlier this year, still many of his followers in his home base remain loyal to him.

They view his imprisonment as a challenge that will strengthen their church, La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World), rather than weaken it, reported AP News. His continued hold on his followers was visible at the Christian church’s main temple in Guadalajara. Thousands of his followers recently gathered to pray for their absent leader during their Holy Supper. It is the most sacred festivity for La Luz del Mundo.

García even addressed the flock by telephone from his Los Angeles jail, where he is currently serving a 16-year sentence. He told his followers that he did not see the "bars that separate me from you." He said that he saw their beautiful faces because "you are the children of God.” The sound of his voice stirred emotions among his devotees who were guarding entries to the temple.

Almost all of them closed their eyes and lifted their fists. Some even knelt and cried. Towards the end of the call, García asked his followers to raise their hands and their voices to God. Then he told them to repeat after him, “I promise you, Lord, that whatever the suffering, I will never abandon you.”

WKBN 27 reported that it seems clear that many members of the church aren’t ready to abandon García as their apostle. It is the term used for the church’s leader. Many believe that he was sent by God to preach to them. They are convinced that he is innocent, despite his guilty plea.

Phares Ruiz, who traveled from El Salvador to attend the Holy Supper, said that the apostle always "shows determination to move forward." He noted that the spiritual leader is firm in his "convictions, and the church is firm as well in its purpose of moving forward.”

The 53-year-old church leader was arrested in 2019 in California. Initially, he faced more than 20 charges. But most were dismissed after a plea deal with prosecutors. The church said that prosecutors withheld or doctored evidence. They added that García pleaded guilty as he didn’t think he could get a fair trial.

He is the grandson of La Luz del Mundo’s founder Eusebio Joaquín González. He was a member of the military who started preaching in 1926, according to ABC News. The church was founded in Mexico in 1926 and is now active in several countries.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen listens to victim statements before the sentencing of Naason Joaquin Garcia Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen listens to victim statements before the sentencing of Naason Joaquin Garcia, the former leader of the fundamentalist Guadalajara, Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo, June 8, 2022, in Los Angeles. - Garcia, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three young girls, was sentenced in Los Angeles on June 8 to nearly 17 years in prison. But the ruling, following a plea deal Garcia struck with prosecutors last week, was met with anger by victims, who at an emotional hearing called for their abuser to face trial and the maximum possible sentence. Photo by Carolyn Cole/POOL/AFP via Getty Images