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Border violence prompts decline in mission trips
John Hall, Associated Baptist Press
March 09, 2011
6 MIN READ TIME

Border violence prompts decline in mission trips

Border violence prompts decline in mission trips
John Hall, Associated Baptist Press
March 09, 2011

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ABP) — Violence between drug cartels in

Mexican border towns has cut into the number of mission trips in the area. In

some cases, it has led church groups, even those who have served in the area

for years, to cancel trips to sites on the Texas side of the border as well.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages groups

who want to serve along the Texas-Mexico border to minister on the Texas side

of the Rio Grande, said Daniel Rangel, director of Texas Baptists’ River

Ministry.

A few teams have chosen to serve in Mexico. The BGCT

requires those who want to minister there to spend their evenings on the Texas

side of the border if they want the convention’s assistance in facilitating the

groups’ efforts.

Despite the encouragement to serve in Texas, some areas in

South Texas have seen a significant drop in the number of mission teams

serving, and the overall number of mission teams through River Ministry has

decreased since the Mexico border violence broke out.

In the past, River Ministry facilitated 50 El Paso mission

teams in a typical year. Last year, it helped seven. The number of trips

working through the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association has been cut in half

to 25.

As a result of the border violence, a number of Mexico-based

ministry agencies have partnered with Buckner International, increasing the

number of mission groups Buckner expects to facilitate in 2011, said Jorge Zapata,

director of Buckner International’s colonias program.

Congregations are choosing not to minister along the border

as a result of the reports of violence in Mexico border towns, Rangel said.

Although River Ministry, Buckner and Valley Baptist Missions Education Center

have facilitated mission trips throughout the Texas side of the border without

incident, some church members and leaders are hesitant to undertake mission

work there.

Some churches try to put together teams, but find people

aren’t willing to go to the border because of safety concerns, ministry leaders

said. Some churches plan to do mission trips to the border, but volunteers to

go on the trips never materialize.

“I think everybody has great intentions,” said Jamie

Campbell, facilities manager at Valley Baptist Missions Education Center.

“Their heart says we have served in the Valley or served along the border

before, and they want to go again. They say let’s go ahead and plan like we’ve

always done before. I think what’s happening is the mission teams aren’t

stepping up.”

Many border mission teams traditionally have been made up of

youth, and parents do not want to take a chance sending their children to the

border. Texas border ministry leaders said they understand church members’

concerns, but they quickly note the Texas side of the border is as safe as any

large Texas city — and probably more so. Texas Baptist ministries particularly

are careful about the situations in which they place volunteers, attempting to

place people where they can minister safely.

“As a parent, I understand the concern about sending your

child down,” Campbell said.

“What they have to realize is none of us would put your

children in a situation where there is any danger. We simply wouldn’t do that.

It wouldn’t be responsible.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hall writes for Texas Baptist

Communications.)

Helpful tips for border missions

Leaders of mission work along the Texas-Mexico border shared

several helpful hints for volunteers who feel called to share the hope of

Christ in the region through mission trips:

  • Work on the Texas side of the border. Although drug cartel

    violence has not ravaged the entire Mexico side of the border, organizations

    continue urging mission teams to work along the Texas side of the border where

    the physical and spiritual needs remain great, and the region is safe.

  • Partner with trusted organizations. There are a multitude

    of churches and ministry organizations along the Texas border. Choosing an

    organization that is known and trusted like those supported by Texas Baptists’

    Cooperative Program giving — Texas Baptists’ River Ministry, Buckner

    International and Valley Baptist Missions Education Center — helps church

    groups know they will be well taken care of and put in a position where they

    can have a long-lasting impact for God’s kingdom.

  • Listen to local leaders and organizers and do as they say.

    Local residents and ministries know the area better than visitors coming into

    it. While the Texas border remains safe, it is always important to remain in

    areas organized have already scouted. It not only does it keep teams safe, but

    also enables them to work together better and accomplish the task at hand.

  • Consider staying at a Christian retreat center. There are

    several retreat centers along the Texas border designed to host mission teams.

    Many of them —like Valley Baptist Missions Education Center — can help connect

    mission teams with projects, provide three full meals each day to each trip

    participant and allow space for teams to debrief at the end of the day — all at

    prices drastically lower than what it would cost to stay at a hotel and eat at

    restaurants. And the money spent at these retreat centers is invested back into

    ministry and mission efforts.

  • Expect God to work before a trip, during the trip and after

    it. Missions leaders believe people along the border are more open to the

    gospel than they typically are because of the violence on the other side of the

    border. Organizers encourage team members to prepare themselves through prayer

    and studying the Bible before the trip, during the trip and long after the trip

    finishes. God will change the lives of people mission volunteers encounter

    along the border, mission leaders said. Lives of volunteers also may be

    changed.

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