Bordering on a disaster

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Border unrest impact ministry efforts

This past week I received a disturbing phone call from a friend in south Texas who is my contact with an orphanage just across the border in Mexico. For security reasons, references to people and places in this article will be vague. My friend reported that some drug cartel members recently showed up at this orphanage with guns drawn and demanded that all the children and caregivers leave immediately.

Fearful for their lives, they complied. The drug cartel moved in and took over the orphanage facilities. People in a nearby town are temporarily caring for the children. The orphanage director was able to go back and retrieve some clothes for the children—nothing else.

This orphanage began several years ago when a pastor visiting this community from a nearby American city became concerned about the many street children he saw who were homeless and in need of care. He and his wife, together with members of his church family, responded to the tremendous need they saw. They received permission from local authorities to use a small abandoned manufacturing plant as their home base. With help from mission groups and others from both sides of the border, they turned this facility into a nice home for children who need one. Now it has been stolen from them.

The need in this community is great. For example, police brought three children—ages eight, six and three—to the home. The three were found living under a bridge where their mother had abandoned them. From evidence at the site, police estimated that the children had been there at least seven to 10 days. In another case, an uncle brought his nephew to the home. “We don’t want him anymore,” he told the director.

It is hard for me to imagine what has now happened there. Just last summer my husband and I visited this orphanage and watched as the children participated in a vacation Bible school program put on by a visiting mission group. We felt perfectly safe. In fact, I’ve been there several times over the past few years and always felt safe. Now, because of the activities of rival drug cartels fighting each other for territory, things are very different in this town.

In the past, my friend was able to collect supplies from several food banks on the American side. The pastor would then take this food across to the orphanage. Now this is no longer possible. Cartel members have taken over the town, not just the orphanage. They watch the border and confiscate anything coming across that they want for their own use.
This pastor still crosses the border, risking his life to do so. So far, he has been able to take some cash across to buy food locally. His wife is staying with the children to help care for them. However, this puts a serious strain on their ministry. Local officials are recommending to the orphanage director that the orphanage be relocated to another city. This will require a serious infusion of new cash.

While not all areas along the border are dangerous and visitors continue to safely cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the unrest at the border has caused a significant number of mission trips to be canceled. Orphanages and ministry centers in these communities rely on these visits for the needed income to function throughout the year. Now, with the increased level of unrest due to the drug cartels fighting each other for territory, many of these ministries are struggling to survive.

Groups that choose to cancel their ministry trips would do well to consider raising the money for the cancelled “trip” and then sending it down to the organization they had planned to visit. Right now, orphanages and other ministries desperately need cash in order to provide for the basic needs of their homes—electricity, food, clothes, health care, school fees and supplies.

Please keep our Christian brothers and sisters in your prayers as they seek to minister in areas which are at times dangerous. Let’s support them not only with our prayers but also with our cash.

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