(Cover photo by K Flow Razowsky/Story photo by Buckner)
Mexico (MNN) ― The Texas-Mexico border is 1256 miles long -- greater than the distance between New York and New Orleans.
It's a tough region to patrol in a drug cartel battle that has increasingly deadlier stakes. Recently, Mexico's northeastern border with Texas took center stage. What is left of law and order will be settled by the turf war between the drug cartel and the Mexican military.
Rather than see the area as a no-man's land, Buckner International and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship decided to plant Gospel seeds along the United States/Mexico border.
People began congregating there, and colonias, or small colonies, began springing up. It's usually a poor neighborhood that begins as nothing and gets stitched together with wooden pallets, leftover building materials, and cardboard.
Those inhabiting the colonias were likely never going to leave, and the need inspired the beginning of Buckner Border Ministries in 2008 when Jorge Zapata became director of the program.
Zapata says, "Colonias are incorporated communities with no sewer, water, electricity. These people in the colonias start buying these properties and building their own communities, building their own houses. It was their dream to build a house."
Through mission teams, the ministry emphasized the transformational effect that the Gospel has along the border. "The hope of Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that has ever happened to those colonias," says Zapata. "These families are without hope, and no one will help them, especially with immigration issues. A lot of American Christians are afraid to minister. They're afraid to come to the border."
There's good reason for concern. Zapata cites a recent survey in El Paso where "35,000 people have emigrated from Juarez into El Paso because of the violence."
That's a big problem for the ministry team. Recent cartel violence is a distraction from mission. "We have seen other mission groups now afraid about the border. They think the violence is on the U.S. side, but most things that are going on [are] on the Mexican side," explains Zapata.
Buckner Border Ministries won't take unnecessary risks with ministry teams, but Zapata also encourages them to continue working. There are hundreds thirsting for hope. "We have over a thousand families that have accepted Christ. The whole family has come to know Christ because a mission group came and ministered to them and their needs. We don't have to tell them about Jesus: we need to show them Jesus."
What's more, it's not just the colonias that benefit from the cross-border outreach. "The local churches on the Texas side are growing because the mission groups are coming and working alongside us to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Zapatas says in spite of the conditions, they press on. They've seen too much Gospel transformation to be intimidated into silence. "We work alongside the families in the community centers. We work with the churches. There are ways to minister the Gospel. Just be the presence of Christ at that moment."
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