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A border ministry that chooses welcome and hospitality

The Migrant Resource Center has helped more than 16,000 people so far this year

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Father Bob Carney leads prayer at the border site of an unidentified person’s grave. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Every Tuesday since December 10, 2000, a group gathers in Agua Prieta, Mexico, just across from Douglas, Arizona, to remember those who have died trying to enter the United States.

Prayers are offered for their families and for the governments on both sides of the border to find a better way.

“We commit ourselves to work for a border defined by encounter, hope, and opportunity, instead of division, despair, and death,” said mission co-worker the Rev. Mark Adams in a recent letter. “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.”

Adams said 2020 was the deadliest year this century for persons crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and 2021 is on track to be even deadlier. Many are coming north from Central American countries.

“Not too many weeks ago, Vice President Kamala 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,” said Adams. “She said, “DO NOT COME” to those who are facing extreme violence. The torch of Lady Liberty that recognizes 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.”

Recently the group added 25 crosses at the weekly Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil— each cross representing the life of a son, a daughter, a parent or 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,” said Adams.

Sister Maribel Lara and Dr. Marino care for the feet of people who have come to the Migrant Resource Center. (Photo by Sister Judy Bourg)

Through August, 16,000 men, women, and children have been served a cup of coffee or a meal, given water, first aid or clean socks and underwear, at the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, just across the border from Douglas, Arizona.

Adams tells the story of Juan, who was separated from his cousin in the desert, arriving at the MRC after walking for 16 days in the desert. He had been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and then being expelled from the United States.

Two women, Sister Emma and Sister Maribel, washed Juan’s feet and cared for the blisters that covered them. They comforted him when he received word that his cousin’s body had been recovered.

“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 the gospel of hospitality,” said Adams.

In his letter, Adams quoted Sister Emma, who wrote about how she is able to serve in the midst of such great suffering. “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.”

The Rev. Mark Adams and his wife, Miriam Maldonado Escobar, are mission co-workers with the Presbyterian Border Ministry in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. (Contributed photo)

Adams has served with the Presbyterian Border Region Outreach in Agua Prieta since 1998. He serves as U.S. coordinator of the binational ministry Frontera de Cristo and its six areas of ministry: church development, health, family counseling, the New Hope Community Center, mission education and the Just Trade Center.

His wife and fellow mission co-worker Miriam Maldonado Escobar connects people and organizations across borders and serves as a liaison of Frontera de Cristo with the Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation and Recuperation (CRREDA in Spanish), DouglaPrieta Trabaja, and the Lirio de los Valles Presbyterian Church. She works with DouglaPrieta to help the community, schools, rehabilitation centers and families of the church grow their own food, increasing their nutrition possibilities and connection with God’s Creation and one another.

To learn more about their ministry, reach out to Adams at mark.adams@pcusa.org.


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