A Letter from Amanda Craft, Regional Liaison for Mexico and Guatemala
We woke excited about the day. We would be crossing the border for the first time, having the opportunity to meet the individuals we will soon be working among in our new assignment. The sunny, crisp spring day in El Paso seemed to hold all sorts of possibilities.
Omar, Matteo, and I load the car and head to the border crossing between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. This is the largest international metropolitan region in the world. It is a place where the back-and-forth movement is constant and hefty. We park the car and head to see what the crossing is like.
All of us carry U.S. passports, making the trip quite simple. We paid our $1.00 to cross (Matteo’s crossing being free) and headed out behind the others. As I had heard, the Rio Grande at this point is certainly not grand. Having been put to other uses farther northwest, the water is minimal and slow moving. The fence at this point is formal and towering. Along the bridge people make small talk, and we pass local Mexican street performers. We make it to the official entrance to Mexico with little fanfare.
As we waited for Pastor Felipe Barandiaran, we watched people coming and going. Some were dropped off to walk across the border, others were off to the market, and others were meandering to their next destination. However, the bustling along the streets was a stark contrast to movement on the U.S. side. Since there is not much happening businesswise near the border on the U.S. side, there were few people out in the streets.
A few minutes later Pastor Felipe, President of Tamaulipas Presbytery, stopped to pick us up. We drove the streets and stopped at three different community sites supported by Pasos de Fe, the border ministry shared between Tamaulipas Presbytery of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and Tres Rios Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The ministry site has been struggling these past few years as the violence in Ciudad Juarez spiked. Many of the U.S. Presbyterian groups stopped coming and many in Mexico were overwhelmed by the violence so that their focus shifted from providing accompaniment to others in the community to protecting their own families. The sites we visited were starting a kind of rebirth as violence began to subside. The work was slow, but we could see movement at each site and individuals who were called to bring these initiatives to light.
As we return to our hotel room, Omar and I debrief our visit. There were two things that struck us on this first trip to Juarez. First, we were surprised to see the level of state services available. This is something that is still lacking for most in Guatemala. Second, we were surprised by the feeling of, as Omar put so clearly, “walking among a cemetery” that seemed to embody the community. Dr. Monty Marshall’s examination of protracted violence in The Third World War helped us frame what we were observing. He stated: “The existence of violence, and especially systemic violence (i.e., protracted social conflict), creates or reinforces a social psychology of insecurity which tends to diffuse through the network of social ties” (p. 120). The community thread that wove the community together was ripped apart violently, violence conducted mostly by those related to two warring drug cartels that in about four and a half years of armed conflict left more than 10,000 dead. That ripping apart left people without a sense of security and trust. All of their resources were spent on trying to protect their loved ones. No energy or desire remained to reach out to others, especially since it was difficult to know who could be trusted. Their social contracts to accompany one another in their difficulties, struggles, and even happiness, were broken.
However, in spite of these stark realities, it is a unique miracle to see how these communities, in the midst of a tenuous peace achieved after the Sinaloa drug cartel gained control of the area, are seeking to regain their security, their lives. So as we stand at the preschool/day care of the Centro Familiar Cristiano (Christian Family Center) supported by Pasos de Fe, we look into young eyes that hope for something different, something new. They want to play; they want to revel in innocence. We smile and Matteo too runs off to play with the toys. It reminds us of the Easter promise—Jesus was resurrected to forgive our sins and offer us the chance to right the brokenness. As stated in Isaiah 25:8, “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth” (NRSV), we rejoice in the Lord’s salvation and hope. We look forward to being a part of a team that is striving to heal the brokenness as they reweave the fabric of community and faith.
We invite you to accompany us as we move into another phase in our faith journey, Omar as the Facilitator for ministries of the Presbyterian Border Region Outreach and I as the Regional Liaison for Mexico and Guatemala. As we move into these positions we will be relocating to the El Paso, Texas, area in mid-summer 2014.
You can accompany us by:
- Praying for us and the ministries we engage in on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), serving with our global partners in Mexico and Guatemala.
- Praying for our family as we make this move. Our oldest son, Alejandro, will be starting kindergarten in August and our youngest, Matteo, will be turning 2 in September. We will all be leaving wonderful memories from our time in Guatemala behind.
- Supporting us financially—you can give to my sending and support at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200512.
Thank you for your faithfulness and your desire to be participants in God’s mission. We feel privileged that we can be such a direct part of this marvelous mission.
With the peace of Christ,
Amanda Craft and Omar Chan
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