Every Week, Every Day, Every Moment
Not everyone’s average, everyday week includes narrow escapes from violence. But life and ministry in Mexico City means the constant presence of an all-encompassing drug war.
Karla and I serve with ReachGlobal in Mexico. Our first term began November 2006, shortly before Philippe Calderon was sworn in as Mexico’s president and began a campaign against drug cartels and traffickers. Since then, Mexico has experienced more than 28,000 deaths related to this new war. And every act of violence is a visible warning: Don’t mess with drug lords.
The drug war affects our day-to-day lives. For example, the metro system is a major way to get around in Mexico City, but at times we’ve been ordered off trains so the Federales can search them. Last spring we had wanted to travel to Veracruz to see the tall ship regatta. But after multiple incidents of violence and kidnapping on the road to Veracruz, Karla and I simply stayed home.
We frequently hear stories from the border region. Recently, one family encountered a military checkpoint in Nueva Leon. The father wasn’t sure he could trust the military because of corruption, so he decided not to stop. The soldiers opened fire, killing him and his son and wounding members of the rest of the family.
We have our own border-crossing story. Not long ago, TouchGlobal had a donation of 11 sewing machines for us—an answer to many prayers for Karla, who helps young women learn to make a living that will keep them off the streets. Together with José Nolasco (pastor of Iglesia de Rey, “Church of the King”), I planned a four-day trip to Galveston, Texas, to pick them up.
At the last minute, I altered our planned route. When my friend and I arrived at our first stopping point, in Reynosa—the home of an Evangelical Free Church pastor—our host was visibly relieved.
“Thank God you did not come through San Fernando,” he said. Not long before, seven Pentecostal pastors had been shot and killed in the area, because the drug dealers don’t like the Church preaching against them.
More than one close call
After picking up the sewing machines, we were 20 kilometers from Reynosa on our return trip when we encountered a military checkpoint. In the dark hours of the morning, the squad of soldiers pulled us over and searched my car. We casually drank our coffee and had light conversation with them before they let us go.
A few hours later, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in downtown Monterrey, staring at roadblocks and a police presence. We learned that a few hours earlier, while we were being detained at the checkpoint, some buildings had been hit with explosives.
A little while later, we stopped for breakfast in San Pedro. The restaurant was full of federal police with the same idea, so José and I sat in the middle of 200 armed Federales enjoying a good Mexican breakfast. I said jokingly to him, “Hey, you have a great chance to preach a message.”
“No . . . uh, maybe next time,” he replied.
I suspect that there will be a “next time” as we continue to live and minister in a country fully engaged in the drug war—knowing that the Spirit is directing our paths and serving as our shield of protection.