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A Letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, serving at the Mexican Border

Spring 2021

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Dear friends,

Please join us as we honor those who are cherished and beloved by God.

“A woman unknown to us but known to God.
A daughter
Perhaps a sister
Perhaps a spouse
Perhaps a mother
Created In the Divine Image, Beloved by God
Mujer No identificada! PRESENTE!”

Two weeks ago, we added 25 crosses at our weekly Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil—each one representing the life of a son, a daughter, a mother, a spouse; each one created in the image of God and beloved; each one pushed from their country because of poverty, violence, or the desire to be reunited with family; each one not welcomed into the United States; each one having their dreams cut short and dying in Cochise County.

Every Tuesday since December 10, 2000, we have gathered to remember those who have died trying to enter the United States. We gathered to pray for their families, to pray for our governments on both sides of the border to find a better way, and to commit ourselves to work for a border defined by encounter, hope, and opportunity, instead of division, despair, and death. Sofia, a young adult who participated in the vigil, prayed through tears for the families of the persons whose bodies had not been identified — families who had not heard from their loved ones, feared the worst, and yet did not know what had happened to them.

2020 was the deadliest year this century for persons crossing the U.S./Mexico border seeking opportunities that many of our ancestors sought and 2021 may be even deadlier. Many of the persons coming north are now from the Central American countries. Last week Vice President Harris visited Guatemala and waved her hand, saying, “DO NOT COME” to those ravaged by the poverty caused by extractive trade policies that favor the U.S. or by natural disasters or other climate changes. She said, “DO NOT COME” to those who are facing extreme violence. The torch of Lady Liberty that symbolizes our nation as a nation of refuge has been obscured by 18- and 30-foot steel barriers draped in concertina wire, with DANGER DO NOT ENTER signs plastered on both sides.

Over the past six months, 9,251 men, women, and children have found a welcoming place, a delicious cup of coffee, a filling meal, water, first aid, clean socks and underwear, and caring people at the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, just across the border from Douglas, AZ. In May alone, 3,077 received hospitality.

Juan, who was separated from his cousin in the desert, recently arrived at the MRC after walking for 16 days in the desert, being apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, and then being expelled from the United States. Sister Emma and Sister Maribel washed his feet and cared for the blisters that covered them. They also accompanied him in his grief when he received word that his cousin’s body was recovered. He was the sixth guest who had arrived recently in the MRC who had lost loved ones in the desert.

We are grateful to be a part of a ministry that chooses welcome in the face of painful and deadly rejection and thankful for the witness of our partners in Mexico of Gospel hospitality.

Sister Emma, sharing how she is able to serve when the suffering is so heavy, said, “there is a strong presence of God in each of the persons who come into the MRC seeking refuge and in the team of volunteers. We do this service seeing the face of God in our siblings who are migrating, and we continue forward united in prayer and action.”

Over two days in April, two people who had been instrumental in forming our lives and ministry died. We are grateful that neither of them died in the desert and that each one lived a full life and died surrounded by family and friends.

Dad died on April 12—we were able to accompany him and help care for him in the last week of his life. He gifted us with a legacy of service, but the greatest gift he gave us is that we never had to wonder if we were loved. While the “Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil” and the “Border Stations of the Cross” are spiritual disciplines that were outside of his comfort zone, he eagerly participated each time he visited us. In addition, he accompanied us on multiple occasions to serve at the MRC. Welcoming persons being expelled from the U.S. at midnight in below-freezing weather together reminded me of his allowing me to accompany him on late nights to re-open the pharmacy for people who needed medications or medical help late at night.

Father Bob died two days before Dad. He was a mentor for both of us and had the rare gift of being both pastor and prophet. Before we were married, when Miriam had the crazy idea one freezing night to go down to the border to provide coffee, food, and blankets to those being expelled from the U.S., we called Father Bob, and he joined us. And the reality is, we don’t think we would have had the courage to do it without him. When the Port of Entry supervisor came toward us with rage in her eyes, Father Bob exhibited calm and care.

“Who’s in charge?” she yelled. We looked at each other, and then Father Bob said: “God.”

“We don’t want these people in the U.S., and you are encouraging them to stay.”

“No ma’am. We are just providing some hot coffee, warm food, and blankets and letting people know where they can find help in Agua Prieta.”

“Billy Meek Adams, PRESENTE!”

“Father Bob Carney, PRESENTE!”

We are grateful to serve as your PC(USA) mission co-workers with this inspiring community here on the border. Your prayers, encouragement, and support enrich our life and ministry. May we continue to work for the day when all who die are surrounded by family and friends.

Mark and Miriam

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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