A letter from Mark Adams on the U.S.–Mexico border
May 14, 2010
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Mark answered a phone call from Pennsylvania the other day, and after the greeting the first thing he was asked was: “Is there any good news that comes out of Mexico?”
The media has been filled with bad news: the drug violence, continuing suffering and deaths of persons migrating, the economy (as the saying goes: “when the United States catches a cold, Mexico gets the flu”) and now the fear of a swine flu pandemic. The news reported is bleak, and yet as we have come to firmly believe, it is precisely in the midst of the bad news that Presbyterian Border Ministry and the church are called to live out good news.
Twenty-five years ago, the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) created the Presbyterian Border Ministry. Part of the vision was to create worshiping communities that would serve not only the spiritual needs of the community, but the emotional and physical needs as well. In 1985, Frontera de Cristo helped start Lirio de los Valles (Lily of the Valley) Presbyterian Church, the first Presbyterian church in the state of Sonora. Even as the bad news seems to be mounting, the church is becoming more and more the living example of the “servi-iglesia” (servant church).
At our weekly Bible Study last night, Pastor Rodolfo asked the congregation how the current context of violence and fear shapes the church’s understanding of faith. Much of the conversation revolved around the growing fear of the swine flu. Sister Lorena said that it was precisely in times like this that folks can see what the church says it believes as it lives out the reality that “nothing in life or death can separate us from the love of God.” Brother Noe emphasized the importance and the great opportunity of being instruments of “the peace that passes all understanding” for our families, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.
There was some debate about whether they should continue with their plans for their annual “Dia Del Niño celebration” for the children of the church and their friends. They decided that they would take the necessary precautions and continue with the plans, including the creation of a child-friendly interactive educational experience to help the children of the church and the community understand and talk about the epidemic and learn appropriate preventive measures.
In response to the growing drug problem in Agua Prieta, the elders of the church have felt called to be a healing presence in drug rehabilitation centers. Twice a month the church leads worship in the rehabilitation center and prays for the healing and strength of those recovering from addiction. Each time we go to the center, Sebastian pulls out his prayer square and thanks God for the church’s prayer and support. When men like Sebastian finally leave rehabilitation centers, the church wants to take the next step and provide continued support. Please pray for them as they seek to live into this ministry.
Despite and perhaps because of the downturn in the economy, many migrants continue to be returned to Mexico by the U.S. Border Patrol. The Migrant Resource Center provides a welcoming presence for the men, women and children arriving in Agua Prieta, often hungry, thirsty, tired, disillusioned and in need of emotional and physical care. The church is a main partner of the Migrant Resource Center by providing volunteers — almost 20 percent of its membership and its youth group. The Center has served over 6,500 people in the first four months of 2009.
Toward the end of the Bible study last night, elder Noe, who had just lost his job less than a week after his wife had lost hers, asked the congregation how many had jobs. Only five people raised their hands. He then asked: “How many have been abandoned by God?” After no hands were raised, he said, “God is with us through it all and God provides. While there may not be much employment right now, there is a lot of work to do as Christians.”
Lirio de los Valles does not have large numbers or impressive budgets or elaborate programming. In fact, some might see them as inconsequential. But God has called them to be a servant church and in the midst of the bad news of the world they are seeking to live out the good news of God.
We give thanks to God for the opportunity to partner with the Lirio de los Valles Church in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed here on the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond.
In October, you have the opportunity to participate in two events that highlight how God works through the PC(USA) and our partner churches throughout the world. Forty mission personnel will be visiting hundreds of congregations across the United States to tell how God is at work around the world. The event is called World Mission Challenge, a reprise of a similar event in 2007. It’ll be held September 25 – October 18, 2009. Learn more at the Mission Challenge Web site or call Ellen Dozier at (888) 728-7228, x5916.
World Mission Challenge will conclude with World Mission Celebration, a large gathering for Presbyterians who care deeply about mission. The event will be held October 22–24 in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the adjoining Duke Energy Center. Learn more at the Mission Celebration Web site or call Lis Valle at (888) 728-7228, x5279.
May God give us all the courage to live out the good news in the midst of the bad news — there is a lot of work for all of us.
Miriam, Mark, Cindy, Anna Flor and Nathan
The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 275