A letter from Mark Adams in Mexico
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
For years people have asked us, “Are you safe in Agua Prieta?” The drug violence that many saw in border towns on the news was the driver behind the question. While drug violence has waned in cities like Nogales, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, ironically it has only been this year that we have had a spike in drug violence in our community—with public shoot-outs with high-caliber weapons.
The violence began with the assassination of the head enforcer for the Sinaloa cartel in Agua Prieta and two of his associates following a car chase that ended eight blocks from our home in Agua Prieta by a park where we frequently ride our bikes.
The day after that occurred, while Miriam was leading a group of students from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for a lunch with a sister from the church in a different part of the city, a group of armed men surrounded the home. Three of the armed men walked into the patio toward the door. Miriam met them in the patio, introduced herself as a missionary and asked the men not to enter the house because they would scare the group.
Because the perpetrators of the killings the night before were thought to be from outside of Agua Prieta, the drug organization apparently heightened their “neighborhood watch” program and had people reporting any suspicious vehicles entering neighborhoods. They were evidently "concerned" about the two vans that the university delegation was driving.
The men left. The group had already noticed the armed men, and when Miriam re-entered the house the delegation and the family were visibly shaken because they had seen the armed men.
The group was already scheduled to return to Tucson, so they crossed to Douglas and we had a time of prayer and sharing to begin processing the encounter. We talked with Byron Peachy, one of the chaplains of EMU who is the leader of the group, and the students seem to be processing the experience in healthy ways. We will continue to be in communication.
Since the initial shooting there have been four other shootings—two police on cartel and two cartel on cartel. In two of these incidents there were bystanders, not the targets of the shooting, who were injured and one bystander was killed.
We continue to live without fear here on both sides of the border, and the important ministries that God has called us to in Agua Prieta continue, providing us joy and challenge. Pastor Rodolfo, pastor of the Lirio de los Valles church and Frontera de Cristo’s vice president, gave an incredible sermon based on Philippians 4 on the Sunday after the violence erupted. He reminded the church that we are called to be a people of peace in the midst of the violence and to not live in fear but rather open ourselves up to be salt, and light and to share God’s peace.
While we cut one delegation’s time in Agua Prieta short right after the first violence erupted, we are not cancelling delegations. When we asked Pastor Rodolfo what he thought about having delegations in the coming weeks and months, he said that the presence of sisters and brothers from the U.S. is more important now than ever and that by accompanying us we will be able to live more confidently and know that solidarity crosses borders.
We ask for your prayers for all those families who are involved in the drug trade and for whom violence is seen as a legitimate way of life and is a reality in their lives.
We ask for your prayers for all people who through omission or commission participate in systems of violence—whether economic, drug, political, or spiritual—and for courage to repent so that we may participate with God in creating a more just, peaceful and loving world.
We ask for your prayers for the community of Agua Prieta, for the many who are experiencing fear and uncertainty and hoping and praying that the situation does not devolve into an all-out drug war that impacts daily life in Agua Prieta.
We ask for your prayers for the children and youth of Agua Prieta, who see being a part of the “narco culture” as a viable and even glamorous life, that they may be guided toward nonviolent and legal employment, for the church that we may help live out and model alternatives, and for our communities and governments that we may seek viable economic alternatives.
We ask you to join us in giving thanks to the witness of the Lirio de los Valles Presbyterian Church and all our church and non-church partners in Agua Prieta and in praying that God would continue giving them wisdom and strength to be salt, light and instruments of God’s peace in Agua Prieta.
We ask you to join us in giving thanks for the reality that "nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
We are not naïve about the reality of the drug violence that erupted but give thanks for the reality that we do not live in fear and that our sense of call and faith has only been strengthened. We ask for you to pray that God gives us wisdom to faithfully serve here.
Miriam, Mark, Cindy, Anna Flor and Nathan
The Adams Maldonado Family
Serving With Frontera de Cristo
A Presbyterian bi-national border ministry
The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 37
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