A Letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, serving at the Mexican Border
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“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathaniel asked Phillip.
“Come and see,” responded Phillip.
“Can anything good come from the border? Isn’t it really dangerous in Agua Prieta? What’s the cartel like there? Is it safe to stay in Agua Prieta?” These are questions that modern day Nathaniels ask. And we respond: “Come and see!”
We often get inquiries from churches and university groups about the safety of bringing delegations. Our typical response is that we have raised our family on the border for the past 16 years and do not feel afraid: riding our bikes with the kids all over Agua Prieta, walking to the plaza at night, playing in the parks, shopping in the stores, worshipping in churches. Rejoicing in the life God has blessed us with in the community we are blessed to call home. . . .
A Presbyterian campus ministry in Arizona was interested in bringing a delegation to the border, but their board (of Presbyterian elders and pastors) prevented them from coming and sharing a week of life and ministry with us because of fear. The board president forwarded my response regarding safety to the entire board. One member sent a response saying “Mark is just naïve. Nothing has happened to him or his family yet,” and she inadvertently (?) copied me on her response.
We give thanks to God that despite the fear and apprehension about crossing the border, more than 500 people from churches, universities, high schools, and seminaries from across the United States accept our invitation to “Come and See” each year. In a fear-filled world, crossing geographic, cultural, social, economic and religious borders in the spirit of faith, hope and love to share meals, worship, laugh, cry, and serve with people on the other side is a radical act of discipleship.
Shirley, one of the members from a recent delegation from Foothills Presbytery, not only came and saw but also experienced the presence of God working in and through the community here on the border. When she and her fellow delegation members presented at the Foothills Presbytery meeting, she boldly and joyfully proclaimed: “I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT CHRIST IS AT WORK ON THE BORDER!”
People who overcome their fears and cross borders often experience Jesus in more profound ways than if they stay comfortably within the confines of “their” own boundaries. David, a delegation member from Tennessee, initially was hit with great discomfort with what he saw and heard and smelled when he entered the CRREDA drug rehab center with whom we partner. After time sharing, serving and praying with the persons in recovery, he said “That is a place where Jesus walks.”
When we hosted Clea, a PhD student from France, for two months, she participated in our community life, including our weekly devotionals. What she mentioned was that never in her life had she experienced such a strong sense of community and a community that is made up of such a diverse group of people. God is at work here on the border!
Nikki, a young Lutheran woman living in Puebla for a year, arrived in Douglas/Agua Prieta with a group of young adult volunteers not sure of what she would encounter. Most, if not all, of what she had heard in the media about the border was negative. Yet, together with seven other young adults, she came and saw a community of faith working across borders to embody a more just, peace-filled and loving world. Beyond seeing, she experienced a community that did not view her as a stranger but as family. Before she left, she could already sense that her time sharing life and ministry with us had transformed her: “A different woman is leaving here than the one that arrived.”
During our final prayer and reflection in the shadow of the 22-foot steel fence that divides our two countries, Isaac Badachi, our mission delegation facilitator, awakened the Foothills delegation to shocking truth: “Your mission trip is only 50% over — the rest awaits you when you return. Take the lessons in Christian hospitality that you have experienced here and put them into practice. Take the stories of faith and perseverance that you have heard from your sisters and brothers here and share them. Take the example of the faith-based business of Café Justo and promote it in your church and your presbytery. Take the reality of God forming community across political, economic, and cultural borders and open yourself to that reality in your own communities.”
He was sharing the hope of our ministry that folks don’t just come and see that Jesus walks here. Our goal is not for delegations just to come and have a mountaintop experience. Our prayer is that they also follow Jesus back down “the mountain” into the suffering and division of their own communities to be instruments of God’s healing and transformation.
Coming down the mountain is the hardest part, as Dick, an elder and a doctor in a delegation from a church in Atlanta, shared. “This week I have discovered that I am an addict.” He paused, and there was a palpable sense of shock in the air for two reasons. First, no one had suspected that he was an addict, and second good Presbyterians don’t share things like this so openly. Dick continued: “I am an addict to a lifestyle that separates me from the majority of the world.” He went on to share that he had experienced a deeper and more profound sense of life and faith and “now like those at the CRREDA (drug rehab center), I am afraid to leave because I am afraid I will fall back into my addiction again.”
We just received encouraging news from the delegation from the Foothills — they are “down the mountain” and continue to be fired up: actively sharing the Good News with Presbyterian Women Circle Groups in the Upstate of South Carolina, trying to change the narrative of the border through articles, visiting US Senators and congresspersons to advocate for “building bridges not walls,” and promoting relationships and understanding across borders through delicious Café Justo.
Thank you for your encouragement, prayers and support throughout this year — we are grateful for your partnership and give thanks that you are part of this community that God continues to form on the US/Mexico border and beyond! Your prayers, encouragement and donations help make possible our life and ministry here on the border and beyond!
Can anything good come from the border? Come and see!
Mark and Miriam
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Tags: "bridges not walls", Agua Prieta, café justo, cartel, CRREDA drug rehab center, culture, fear, Foothills, Good News, holy spirit, language, Mexican border, ministry, Nathaniel, Nazareth, Phillip, transformation
Tags: Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar
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