The threat of being caught in the crossfire of drug-related violence just inside the Mexican border is enough to make summer mission teams refocus their efforts in safer climes.
And that, some say, is not a bad thing.
Violence between the drug cartels vying for control of regions throughout Mexico and between the cartels and the Mexican Army compounded with the swine flu scare was enough to make any casual visitor cancel plans to the troubled nation. But for the individual or group who believes they are called by God to go, backing out is tantamount to lacking faith.
Pastors along the border and IMB missionaries within the country have said the way missions have been done in Mexico needs to be reworked to equip Mexican believers to carry on.
For years missions teams, predominantly Baptist, have sent buses and van loads of enthusiastic teenagers and their adult chaperones to the border for Vacation Bible School, building projects, clothes and gospel tract dissemination, medical aid, and a host of services intended to meet the perceived physical needs of the residents.
MEET SPIRITUAL NEEDS TOO
Douglas Cantu (a pseudonym), an IMB missionary, urged mission teams to not be so overwhelmed by the physical needs of the people that they lose sight of the spiritual needs.
“We’re going to help those poor people down there,” Cantu said, giving an example of what is often the mind-set of relatively wealthy Americans. American Christians need to partner with their brothers and sisters in Mexico and not patronize them. That, Cantu said, is a foundational element of mission work in Mexico and one that has been forgotten.
“We take all our money down there and we ‘bless’ the people,” said Mike Due, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Port Arthur.
Tiffany Smith, SBTC missions mobilization associate, said, “[Americans] don’t feel like we’ve done missions unless we’ve built something.”
She was quick to add that God can and does bless the efforts of those who work in God’s name for the Mexicans, but what is more profoundly needed are long-term commitments by churches in the U.S. to partner with churches in Mexico to help them be witnesses in their communities with or without a team of Americans.
Otherwise, she said, Mexico ends up with churches that cannot stand the test of time and the gunfire of drug lords.
Scottie Stice, former IMB missionary to El Salvador and an SBTC field ministry strategist, said if American churches weren’t willing to make changes on their own, the situation in Mexico is forcing the issue.
He said, “With the drug violence and now the flu, it doesn’t change what God will do but makes us change the way we do things. And that has been overdue for a while.”
He said missions to Mexico need to be redefined in the simplest of terms?”Go and make disciples.”