A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar in Mexico
“For Jesus Christ is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. Christ’s purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”—Ephesians 2:14-16
The Welcome of Political, Social, and Economic Realities
On June 23, after 10 months, 126 speaking engagements in 63 churches, 10 presbyteries, 5 seminaries and 4 universities, as well as wonderful time to reflect on life and ministry while based out of Clover, S.C., close to Mark’s side of the family, we drove south on Highway 80 toward Agua Prieta, excited to reconnect with our colleagues, friends and family on the border.
Before crossing into Agua Prieta, we were greeted by the bright lights, heavily armed CBP (Customs and Border Protection) agents, serpentine barricades of our U.S. government's southbound checkpoint—seeking to interdict guns and drug money that help fuel the cartels and increasing violence in Mexico. When we drove closer to the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico, we realized that the previous “aesthetic” fence that had been constructed a decade before had been torn down and replaced by a much colder and intimidating steel wall. As we crossed into Mexico, we were greeted by election posters everywhere—a reminder of the coming end of President Caldedron’s presidency and the more than 45,000 persons (law enforcement, cartel members and citizens) who have been killed during his six-year “war on drugs.”
Perhaps we had been in denial before returning, conveniently forgetting the realities of the context of our life and ministry, but we were all a bit shocked, saddened, and even angered by our government's welcome.
The last time we had crossed the U.S./Mexico border, the PC(USA) and the Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de Mexico were still in covenant relationship. We were now crossing back after that relationship had been severed and despite having received supportive phone calls and emails, we were a bit apprehensive as to how our colleagues from the Presbyterian Church in Agua Prieta would receive us.
The Welcome of a Community of Faith and Their Pastor
Our first stop was to visit the Navarrete Ocampo family—Pastor Rodolfo had had his left leg amputated the month before. As soon as we walked in the door, the apprehensions were transformed into joy as the pastor’s family, the Gastelum Sanchez family who were visiting as well, and our family were reunited with the shrieks of happiness, warm and heartfelt embraces, and tears of love. We were welcomed by Pastor Rodolfo’s strong faith in the midst of the storms of life. He shared with us that night: “You know, there are so many people in Agua Prieta who have physical challenges and the society tends to ignore them. Now they have a pastor, a leader who they can identify with and who can identify with them.”
The Welcome of a Courageous Young Person of Faith
The next day we were welcomed back to the New Hope Community Center, where the “New Hope” Mission was celebrating its first anniversary. Anyra, a 10-year-old girl who has been attending the Bible schools Frontera de Cristo (FDC) hosts at the Community Center all her life, has expressed the desire to become a member of the church so she can learn even more and eventually teach others the Bible. She was the catalyst for beginning the worshipping community there. FDC's intern Jocabed Gallegos provides the pastoral leadership for the developing mission.
Beginning about a year and a half ago, people started selling drugs very openly near the New Hope Community Center, which is also near an elementary school. One day before worship Anyra confronted the teenage boys who sell drugs in front of the Community Center by telling them that Jesus loves them and does not want them to sell drugs. Later when her school received the mayor of Agua Prieta, she told the mayor about the situation and told him she wanted him to make them stop. The next week the drug dealers who had been a permanent fixture on the corner were no longer there; unfortunately the “business” relocated.
The Welcome to Respond in Faith to the Challenges of Our Context
Frontera de Cristo, the churches of Agua Prieta, and the Community Center are joining together in hopes of following Anyra's example of courage by praying for God's wisdom for how to confront the reality of the drug trade and addiction with the transformative Good News of Jesus Christ. One of the first steps will be holding a community forum for children, youth and adults to hear from them about their concerns and hopes for the community and form a network of prayer and support.
Please join us in prayer for Anyra and the other children and their families in the Nuevo Progreso community as well as the New Hope Community Center, the churches of Agua Prieta, and Frontera de Cristo as we open ourselves up to respond to the substantial challenges of our community and to the formation of a new community of faith in the midst of a broken community that God loves.
The Adams Maldonado Family
Miriam, Mark, Cindy, Anna Flor and Nathan
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 4
Welcome back!!! We are so glad you are returning, Thank you for being willing to accept the new challenges and needs. Hector and Genie
I'm so glad to hear that you are back. I hope we will be in contact again in the following months. I'm sure you will need time to get readjusted to your life there. Lovingly, Evelyn