Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mi viaje al Juarez hoy (My trip to Juarez today)

Today, I went to Mexico. The city of Juarez in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

I was kind of hesitant to go because I didn't feel a peace about it until late last night while I was worshipping at the Chris Tomlin show. I had peace and knew I had to go, but I just could not get rid of this nagging feeling that I was going to be killed today if I went. Thankfully that didn't happen today; I'm very grateful to be alive right now.

Even this morning when I woke up I still felt peace, but I also had that nagging thought in my mind. I honestly thought "maybe I shouldn't go" - I mean I had good reason not to, but then I started getting texts from people telling me they were praying for us and I was like "dang it, I really have to go", so I finished up reading the book of Nehemiah and headed out to meet Chris and Troy.

We went into Juarez and the first thing that happened as soon as we crossed the bridge was that we were pulled over by federal soldiers. It's kind of disheartening being pulled over and watching your car be searched by armed soldiers while a couple of other armed soldiers stare at you with their machine guns pointed in your direction.

After they let us move on, we went through the heart of the city and saw a several mile stretch of a main road where there was just an incredible amount of military and police force lining the street. I mean, we're talking hundreds of policemen and soldiers lining both sides of the street for miles and miles. Turns out that several federal officials, like the country's secretary of defense, were in the city for a security meeting, so that's probably why all that force was there.

Anyway, it was incredibly eerie driving through Juarez, in the middle of the day, and seeing business after business shuttered closed, nearly empty streets, and drivers following the law to the letter - I'm talking no speeding, no swerving in and out between lanes, no honking. It was so incredibly surreal that all I could think is "this looks like Juarez, but this can't be Juarez." Sadly, it is. It's a city overcome by fear and a lack of leadership.

It's a perfect example of how true the Bible is when God says in Proverbs 29:18 that "where there is no vision, the people perish."

We made our way to a church in the desert just off the Casas Grandes highway, not too far from Santa Teresa, NM and spent some time with Pastor Tino there and Jim & Barb Hetzel, who are church members of ours that run a building ministry in that part of Juarez. We talked with them, listened to their stories, prayed for them, and headed off to a large church in the city that's just about the size of Del Sol Church. We met for a couple of hours with two of their pastors and just listened to them, let them vent their frustration, and talked with them about how we as the American Church can support the Church in Juarez.

Now this is a very difficult area to go into. How do we help the Church in Juarez without making them dependent on us, and how can we help them while still being wise in light of the raging violence there.

We came away with some great ideas, felt like we had received some solid direction from God, and were excited and a little overwhelmed at it all. We understand now that this drug war is so much bigger than we had understood, and most Americans probably don't understand the scope of it either. We heard over and over that this is the greatest crisis Mexico has ever faced - even bigger than the revolutions or anything else it has faced.

We saw how we as the great nation of America caused most of this problem and now we've washed our hands of it when it started getting ugly. We as the Church have, for the most part, abandoned our brothers and sisters in Mexico, basically saying "we're brothers and sisters in the good times, but when it gets tough, you're on your own".

More than anything, we came away seeing the need for a continued relationship with our fellow Christians in Mexico. It'll look very different; it probably won't be large groups going to build homes and do outreaches for kids, it probably won't involve kids and youth, but even if just two or three would go to the orphanages and churches and say "we haven't forgotten you, we're still with you in this" - well that would just make a world of difference to them.

We came back to the church office and Troy and Chris talked with Walter about some ideas, and now we're looking at taking some more pastors back with us in 2 weeks and starting to build some good relationships with that. That's just the beginning - we're trying to figure out what the next steps are. Right now we need prayer, we need courage, and we need direction from God about what to do next.

It's funny because I've often heard people come down to Mexico and talk about how they left changed after seeing what they saw there; I had never felt that way before, until today. I suppose I was de-sensitized but after today, my heart was broken for Juarez and the Church there, and while we as Del Sol Church try to figure out what we need to do, I as an individual follower of Christ am praying to see what I need to do next. Not everyone is called to go to Juarez and be the light of Christ there, and that's fine - but some (myself included) are.

I just can't sit around and do nothing anymore ...

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