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A Taste of Chiapas

A letter from Mark Adams in the U.S. on Interpretation Assignment from the U.S./Mexico border

March 2017

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Write to Miriam Maldonado Escobar

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Jaime Escobar Castillo and Whitney Moss both travelled nearly 2,000 miles to Agua Prieta for the dedication of the Café Justo y Mas coffee shop. Jaime is from Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, and Whitney from Greer, S.C.—two young adults from different cultural, political, economic and religious backgrounds separated by thousands of miles and an ugly and imposing 20-foot steel barrier, coming together to celebrate the reality of a community being built by God across borders.

“I had heard about the wall that divides the United States from Mexico—and I had to come and see for myself. While I cannot cross the border, my coffee can, and coffee is what unites us here today.” Jaime is one of the founding members of Café Justo. Though normally reserved, she addressed the hundreds of people who had gathered for the dedication of the coffee shop with deep gratitude and emotion.

Whitney, who is a full-time Christian educator for the First Presbyterian Church of Greer and a seminary student, took time out of her busy schedule to join us for the celebration. “Thanks to the mission and ministry of Cafe Justo and Frontera de Cristo, our Presbyterian South Carolina congregation has formed relationships and friendships with those on the U.S./Mexico border and in coffee farming communities of Chiapas.

“It was a joy, honor and privilege to travel from South Carolina to Agua Prieta, Sonora, to join brothers and sisters from east and west, north and south, to give thanks to God and celebrate together the grand opening of Cafe Justo y Mas. After months of praying for the vision of Cafe Justo y Mas, I was filled with gratitude to God as I walked into the beautiful new coffee shop, smelled the delicious coffee and pastries, heard the sounds of laughter and conversation, and saw faces from all over sharing in the fiesta of the day.

“The joy, celebration, hope and gratitude to God for the mission and ministry of Cafe Justo, Frontera de Cristo and CRREDA [a residential drug treatment center in Agua Prieta] transcended space, country and culture; the Cafe Justo y Mas dedication was a kingdom day! First Presbyterian Church Greer is grateful for the opportunity to be in partnership with Cafe Justo and to join with our Mexican and American amigos to work for hope, peace and justice.”

Café Justo y Mas is a coffee shop that will not only continue addressing the root causes of migration over a cup of coffee but also will be actively providing alternatives to the drug culture. Laura, who is in recovery from addictions and one of the first people hired by Café Justo y Mas, shared in our weekly devotions: “I give thanks to God for the opportunity for a new beginning.”

Hector Payan, who began working in Café Justo y Mas while still in the rehab center, credits the trust placed in him with helping in his rehabilitation: “I am very grateful [to Café Justo y Mas] for putting me back into society. . . . People start believing in me again as a person.”

Over the past six months both Miriam and I helped facilitate delegations on a journey to share life and ministry with the farming families of Café Justo in Chiapas. Ten years ago, these families were separated by thousands of miles and a political border. It is so encouraging to be with them now — united because of Café Justo — and to see proud fathers and mothers whose children are the first in their families to go to college!

In January I led a Border to Border: Coffee, Migration and Faith Delegation, which visited with Jaime and the other Café Justo famers in Salvador Urbina. Jaime’s coffee had united people from New Mexico, California, Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina and Sonora, Mexico, of differing political and theological backgrounds, with ages ranging from 19 to 65 in a weeklong spiritual pilgrimage. Jaime proudly shared with us his passion for growing delicious organic coffee and his commitment to being a good steward of God’s creation.

“God has placed us here not just to make a living off of the land, but to love and care for the land,” Jaime shared with us while proudly and carefully teaching us about the arduous process to cultivate, harvest and process coffee needed to get it from seed to cup.

Ansley Wright, a member of Whitney’s congregation, participated in the delegation. While talking with the farmers in Arnulfo Lopez’s nursery, she said: “You have hosted many members but more important than the coffee is the relationship we have with you.”

At a recent meeting of the Foothills Presbytery that First Presbyterian Church of Greer hosted they invited me to preach and arranged for “A Taste of Chiapas” to be the order of the day. Carmina Sanchez, a member of the Lirio de los Valles PC in Agua Prieta and office manager of Café Justo, provided the keynote presentation to the gathered commissioners and guests. She shared her excitement at the dedication of Café Justo y Mas: “It makes me very happy to be able to share with so many cultures. We are all working together for peace and to know that in a cup of coffee we can also do justice.”

Whether around the tables of the new coffee shop in Agua Prieta, in the coffee fields in Salvador Urbina, or in a sanctuary in Greer, S.C., we are grateful to be able to experience God forming us together as a community of people from very different backgrounds, a community that celebrates God’s love, God’s grace, God’s forgiveness and the ways we can work together for a more just world.

Mark


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