Media-created fears halt ministry

By June 11, 2009

North America (MNN) — Youth for Christ had to cancel half
of this summer's missions trips to Mexico, losing 300-400 opportunities to share
the Gospel.  Why? Media reports on the swine flu and
drug-related violence scared Christians away. 

David Schultz, YFC's national director for
Project Serve, is concerned about the way America's evangelical churches are
making decisions. 

"Pastors and parents just said, 'We're not going to send
our kids down there. They walk across
the border of Mexico, and they're going to be killed,'" said Schultz. 

The problem is that Christians didn't understand how much
the violence actually impacted most people and most areas of Mexico. 

"The whole violence issue in Mexico, while very real in three
or four major cities along the border, did not tell the true story," Schultz
explained. "There are just many, many,
many small towns in between those three or four major cities that hardly even
know of drug violence and drug cartels–and these are towns where we send teams." 

Reports of spreading swine flu in Mexico put the final nail
in the coffin for many missions trips to Mexico. Now, the feared pandemic has failed to
materialize. In the news, both the swine
flu and the drug violence appeared to be bigger problems than they actually
were. 

"All the hoopla and the media
reports over the last three or four months have revealed that since there's
nothing being talked about now, that it was a situation that was blown out of
proportion." Schultz said.

He believes the evangelical church in America needs to
re-evaluate its decision-making process and learn to trust Christians on the
ground in other countries rather than the media. The church should be "taking the input of
people that work down there continually, rather than the news media that maybe
sends a reporter down there to spend a day or two reporting dramatic
events," said Schulz. 

YFC will not pressure parents to change their decisions
about their children's travel plans. "The
parent's decision reigns supreme, and we acknowledge that," Schultz said. "They're responsible for their children, and
we understand that and respect that." 

However, the church as a whole would be better served to listen to indigenous
Christians instead of being controlled by fear. Schultz compared the situation to the city of
Baltimore, where he lived at one time. 

"We had nearly 500 murders in
Baltimore City the year I left," he explained. 
"There are places I didn't go because I knew Baltimore City, and there are
times of the day I didn't go…The point is that when you trust the indigenous hosts, they
know their country intimately; they know where they can and can't go.  My reasoning is, this: the situation down there is
no different than going to a major city here in the United States." 

Americans' failure to trust
Mexican Christians "presents an incredible credibility issue," Schultz
said. He will soon travel to Mexico and
have the opportunity to explain the situation to indigenous Christians face-to-face. 

"Our folks in Mexico live with
whatever problems they have down there, and they don't understand the fact that
the American church can make…a spontaneous decision based on one or two news reports
that they hear, and not trust our indigenous hosts when they say it is safe to
come down here," he said. 

Schultz hopes the church will
reconsider its reliance on the media in making decisions about international
travel and learn to listen to other sources of information. 

"We as an evangelical church are
in danger of focusing inward rather than outward because of the fear and
economics," he said. "I don't think
that's what God would have us to do. That's
not how I want to make my decisions and raise my family. It's just a
caution, a red flag that's come up in my mind this spring in dealing with all
this."

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