Mexico’s drug gangs inadvertently threaten an outreach

By October 29, 2010

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

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

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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