This summer, as we have done for the last six years, Crossing Borders mission camp crossed into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to share the love and grace of God with our Hispanic neighbors.
We normally average about 15 participants and have about a third of our group as new attendees. However, with the new passport requirements and the stressed economy, our numbers were down this time. But not our enthusiasm. We were a group of nine experienced missionary camp alumni, eager to follow wherever the Spirit led us. In some ways, we probably made a larger impact on this trip than on any previous occasion.
One of our goals is to work with and lend support to local ministries as they serve their people. Food is a critical need that the churches help provide. On the morning of day one, we gave dozens of large bags of dried beans and rice to 30-40 representatives from local churches. That evening, we spent several hours driving to parking lots, bridges, street corners and dirty niches to provide a hot meal and bags of toiletries, socks and other necessities to homeless people. We smiled at them, hugged them, sang for them and prayed for them.
While we were serving a meal we had prepared for non-Mexican immigrants who were being deported from Mexico to their country of origin (mostly in Central America), the Nuevo Laredo city mayor heard what we were doing and wanted to meet us. When Mayor Galdán arrived, we were able to discuss some of our ministry goals with him. He talked about his desire to help as many of his citizens as possible while faced with the challenges of coping with the drug cartels and gangs that terrorize the city and nation. He was very friendly, gave us his cell phone number and told us to call him if he could help.
As often happens with this kind of cross-cultural mission, we might have gained more from the experience than the people we helped did. We were struck by the simple but profound faith of our Mexican brothers and sisters who are desperately reaching out to God in the midst of serious trials, putting their trust in a God they may not yet know much about.
These people live in tiny shanties made of wooden pallets and sheet metal. They have no running water, no electricity, and no sewer service. They often don’t know where the food will come from to feed their children the next meal. As we prayed for these dear people—God’s beloved children—my eyes filled with tears, and I saw others of our mission team crying also. It seems the fewer material goods and less physical security these people have, the more strongly they tend to rely on the loving hand of God in their lives.
In the past couple of years, most of the mission groups from the U.S. to Mexico have quit going. From the base camp where we stay each night, there used to be several dozen short-term mission groups crossing the border each summer. This summer there were only four or five mission teams coming to the border facility, and all those groups were confining their mission work to the U.S. side of the border. Our group was the only one scheduled to cross into Mexico. It is sad that at a time when our Mexican pastors and ministry partners are under the greatest stress and in most need of encouragement, they are being abandoned.
Why not join us?
Crossing Borders camps provide a good way to help people experience short-term mission. Our next trip to Mexico will be to deliver hundreds of shoebox gifts in December. Perhaps your church could help provide shoebox gifts. Then in June, we plan to spend a week in Mexico, as we did this year.
Would you like to join us? Crossing Borders is not just a youth camp. We welcome people of all ages from 15 to 99. If you are looking for new challenges to stimulate growth in your Christian walk, if you are ready to reach outside yourself and invest in the lives of others, if you can accept the challenge of operating in a foreign culture, and if you want to share your heart testimony with others who need to know Jesus, then this camp might be just right for you. You do not need to know Spanish in order to participate in this mission.
Is It Safe?
There is ongoing violence in some areas along the Mexican border, and many people are affected. The bulk of the violence is between rival factions of gangs, crime syndicates, drug cartel members and the police and armed forces. This is a deep-rooted problem that will not go away quickly or easily. However, with the kind of work we do and in the locations we go to, we are essentially a “non-target” for the cartels and other criminals.
Nevertheless, we use wisdom and caution in our work in Mexico. We maintain year-round contact with our Mexican ministry partners, who are aware of the local situation and advise us how and where to work. We always travel and work in groups—never as individuals. We stay away from any known areas of violence, and we spend each night on the U.S. side of the border at our base camp.
For more info about Crossing Borders, go to www.cbmission.org or call Lee Berger at 903-746-4463. GCI also sponsors several other short-term mission camps. Go to http://www.generationsministries.org/ for details.
Author: Lee Berger