Mexico (MNN) ― Mexico opened 2010 with 69 murders in one day. That's unprecedented in a country that has been struggling with a sudden upward tic in violence.
According to police reports, 283 people are believed to have died in drug-related violence in Mexico in the first 10 days of this year. It's bad enough that the U.S. Department of State issued a Travel Alert that will expire next month.
Does the unrest interfere with church planting work? Steve Dresselhaus is senior director for Latin America for The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) says, "The vast majority of the violence is cartel-on-cartel, or cartel against the military or the police, so it's pretty much limited to those groups. Where it does become a problem for us is a case of somebody being at the wrong place at the wrong time."
There was one case where a shooting occurred at a mall where Dresselhaus' wife and daughter were shopping. Other than jangled nerves, they were unharmed. Kidnappings are becoming part of their "watch list," too. Another close call came with a failed kidnapping on a team member.
Dresselhaus says while their teams are not directly targeted by the cartels, it's clear they should not take chances with safety. "Each missionary family is working on a contingency plan to know how to deal with the situation."
Holistic ministry goes a long way to evangelism and discipleship. TEAM missionaries are building solid churches in the midst of the despair of Baja's tourist towns, such as in the capital of Baja, La Paz, and in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
Since they've accomplished what they've set out to do along the coast, Dresselhaus says they've set their sights inland.
TEAM missionaries are also developing a network of cell churches on the mainland of Mexico, in Guadalajara. "Next month, we're sending a team of missionaries, national leaders from our churches in Baja on an exploratory trip over to central Mexico to investigate the possibilities of additional churches over there."
Keep praying safety for the teams and their families. Pray for open hearts to the Gospel, too.