A Letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, serving at the U.S. – Mexico Border
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How are you preparing to welcome Jesus? How are you preparing to receive and share the hope, the love, the peace, and the joy that God has poured out into the world?
The Advent and Christmas seasons are rich in liturgical and cultural practices on the U.S./Mexico border where we are blessed to serve with the bi-national ministry of Frontera de Cristo and its many partner churches and organizations on both sides of the 18-foot steel barrier that divides our community.
These spiritual disciplines have become central to our lives and as we write about them, we grieve that we will miss them this year; even as we celebrate the opportunity we have to share, in churches across the U.S. during our Interpretation Assignment, how we have experienced God at work in and through the incredible community of faith in Douglas/Agua Prieta.
Not being “at home for Christmas” is often a difficult reality for many, and we, too, have experienced that difficulty in the past. For Miriam, who migrated 2,000 miles away from home as a teenager and found herself a stranger in a strange place, Noches Navideñas have been one important way in which she has felt embraced by God through the church family. They are also one way in which the church emphasizes that we are called to open our homes to be a place of welcome for others.
Early on in his time on the border, Mark would often share with his family and friends about this spiritual practice of Noches Navideñas and what an impact this practice was on his life. Often, they would ask him “how do you find the time to do that in such a busy time of the year?” In reality, the 10 or so hours spent during these nights were not as many hours as he had spent shopping during the Christmas season when he lived in South Carolina.
Another important community spiritual practice is the annual Posada Sin Fronteras (The Inn Without Borders). Frontera de Cristo joins with our partners at the CAME (Exodus Migrant Attention Shelter) and the Migrant Resource Center in this adaptation of the traditional posadas that are celebrated in Mexico and in much of Latin America in the days leading up to Christmas. The Posadas remember and reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph seeking a place to stay in Bethlehem while waiting for the birth of Jesus.
The Posada Sin Fronteras begins with the U.S. side participants on the north side of the border and the Mexican side participants on the south side separated by the 18-foot steel barrier with “Danger Do Not Enter” signs on both sides. The participants walk along the border and engage biblical reflections, a symbolic action, and a verse of the Posada song at three stations.
In the Posada song, the Mexican side participants ask for “Posada” and the U.S. side participants reject them. It is a jarring and painful experience. One of the verses in particular sticks out for us after a conversation with a family in Atlanta who have lived in the United States for over 20 years, raising their family, being solid members of their church, working hard, and paying taxes.
Maria was talking of her father who lamented not seeing her since she left and worrying that he would not see her before he died. Despite the knowledge of the risks (injury, rape, death) and expense (over $10,000) of returning to her husband and children, Maria was planning on going to be with her parents before they died.
At the Posada, the Mexican-side participants sing: “I have everything in the United States. I went back to Mexico to bury my mother. I’m going back to my family, and you are preventing me from arriving home.”
And the U.S.-side participants respond: “I am not interested in your reasons; stop your whining. We are following our laws and are going to deport you.”
At the last stop, the U.S.-side participants enter Mexico and stand at the gate of the Migrant Resource Center, which has welcomed over 40,000 men, women, and children who have been expelled from the United States this year. The Mexican-side participants are inside and welcome the U.S.-side participants in for a celebration of the reality that the one we prepare to welcome is Jesus:
- the one who was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn,
- the one who crossed the Divine/Human border to dwell with us,
- the one who was hated, feared, and hunted by Herod,
- the one who fled to Egypt seeking refuge with his parents,
- the one who comes to us in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger.
We celebrate that this same rejected and vulnerable Jesus is the one who has destroyed the dividing walls of hostility and has formed us into a community of faith across borders.
We are grateful to God for the opportunity to serve as PC(USA) mission co-workers with the community of faith on the U.S./Mexico border and for the ways in which you make that possible through your prayers, support, and encouraging words. May God grant each of you the courage to make room for Jesus, not just during this season of Advent and Christmas, but each day of our lives.
Mark and Miriam
Please read the following letter from Rev. Mienda Uriarte, acting director of World Mission:
Dear Partners in God’s Mission,
What an amazing journey we’re on together! Our call to be a Matthew 25 denomination has challenged us in so many ways to lean into new ways of reaching out. As we take on the responsibilities of dismantling systemic racism, eradicating the root causes of poverty and engaging in congregational vitality, we find that the Spirit of God is indeed moving throughout World Mission. Of course, the past two years have also been hard for so many as we’ve ventured through another year of the pandemic, been confronted with racism, wars and the heart wrenching toll of natural disasters. And yet, rather than succumb to the darkness, we are called to shine the light of Christ by doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.
We are so grateful that you are on this journey as well. Your commitment enables mission co-workers around the world to accompany partners and share in so many expressions of the transformative work being done in Christ’s name. Thank you for your partnership, prayers and contributions to their ministries.
We hope you will continue to support World Mission in all the ways you are able:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel (E132192). This unified fund supports the work of all our mission co-workers as they accompany global partners in their life-giving work. Gifts can also be made “in honor of” a specific mission co-worker – just include their name on the memo line.
Pray – Include PC(USA) mission personnel and global partners in your daily prayers. If you would like to order prayer cards as a visual reminder of those for whom you are praying, please contact Cindy Rubin (firstname.lastname@example.org; 800-728-7228, ext. 5065).
Act – Invite a mission co-worker to visit your congregation either virtually or in person. Contact email@example.com to make a request or email the mission co-worker directly. Email addresses are listed on Mission Connections profile pages. Visit pcusa.org/missionconnections to search by last name.
Thank you for your consideration! We appreciate your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Rev. Mienda Uriarte, Acting Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give, please visit https://bit.ly/22MC-YE.
For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
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Tags: CAME (Exodus Migrant Attention Shelter), Christmas traditions, Frontera de Cristo, Matthew 25, migrant resource center, Posada Sin Fronteras (The Inn Without Borders)
Tags: Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar
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