Drug violence in Mexico deters volunteerscomment (0)
July 12, 2012
A steady decrease in missions trips to Mexico due to drug violence has left many Mexicans feeling abandoned just when their anxiety levels are peaking, missions experts in Texas said.
“It’s unprecedented,” said E. Daniel Rangel, director of River Ministry and Mexico missions for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Yet Rangel and others agree it is often much too dangerous to send teams, especially youth groups, to Mexico.
The U.S. State Department warned Americans from going there, saying U.S. citizens have been victims of “homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery” in violence between the government and drug cartels.
Mexico-focused missions projects have plummeted from 400 annually three years ago to 80 in 2011, Rangel said. Those still coming are all-adult teams that have been working in a particular region for years and have solid contacts there.
“What generally happens is people make plans to come, but when [they] see these articles in the paper, they cancel,” he said.
The situation has led many in Mexico to feel forgotten by American congregations who had once adopted them, Rangel said.
Those in Mexico understand why missions groups cannot come, but complain that the absence has come with silence from their American counterparts.
It is important that Americans send emails to let Mexicans know they are being prayed for, Rangel said. They should also send supplies that would have been taken on the visits.
“We have to do something because the need is great,” he said.
Some churches, however, are pressing into violent areas.
Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church, Dallas, has adopted Indian Hills colonia near Mercedes, Texas. A colonia is a neighborhood marked by extreme poverty and a lack of basic public services populated mostly by squatters.
“We’ve been going down twice a year,” said David Balyeat, minister of missions for Shiloh Terrace Baptist. Teams from Shiloh Terrace have done building projects, renovations and activities like Vacation Bible Camp. About 60 volunteers from the church work in Indian Hills each year, and they have never faced any violence in the three years since their partnership began.
“Personally, [the possibility of violence] increases my resolve to go,” Balyeat said. “That’s where we have to shine our light.”
Volunteers who travel to the area know what might happen to them but go anyway. “There are certain people God calls to those places and certain people He doesn’t,” he said.
The church does not currently take missions trips over the border to Mexico, but they would if they felt called by God, Balyeat said. “Where there isn’t Kingdom is where we need to go.”