Ahwatukee church cancels mission to Mexico

| May 3, 2010

Mountain Pointe senior Brandon Kaehr was eagerly anticipating his post-graduation trip this month to northern Baja, where his home church has traveled annually to build houses for the needy.

It would have been Kaehr's fourth trip to Mexico with a contingent from Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee, which since 1993 has had more than 1,200 members participate in 16 missions to Mexico. There, they built a total of 50 houses, two churches and a school.

But for the second consecutive year, last-minute concerns scuttled those plans. Instead, the church will send eighth-grade confirmands, teens and adult volunteers to the San Carlos Reservation.

"There were concerns about safety and security," said Mountain View associate pastor Leland Armbright. "It's been a low-level conversation, but it became a high-level concern about violence on both sides of the border."

The decision to change plans was made just six weeks before the group's May 30 departure.

This would have been the church's 16th annual Mission Mexico trip. Last year's was scuttled by swine flu reports in Mexico. Instead, mission volunteers worked with the Navajo Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the Four Corners region.

"My kids definitely were a little disappointed," said Wanda Kaehr, who with husband Eric and daughter Katrina were also signed up for Mission Mexico.

"The San Carlos Apache Reservation also has a great need and I'm sure our kids will also feel a similar experience of giving back here in Arizona as well," she said. "The Holy Spirit will be felt no matter where we're placed for this mission."

The new mission site is 20 miles north of Globe.

Amor Ministries, which teamed with Mountain View on Mission Mexico, said the reservation is Arizona's third largest, and suffers from an unemployment rate of more than 75 percent, with 77 percent of its population living under the poverty line.

In mid-April, Amor Ministries announced the termination of mission trips to Chihuahua, Mexico, after a U.S. Consulate travel warning to American tourists and other visitors.

Though the travel warning identified Tijuana as "an area of potential violence," Amor reported no incidents like one in Chihuahua, where two U.S. citizens associated with the American consulate in Juarez, a border city across from El Paso, were slain in mid-March.

A spokeswoman for San Diego-based Amor Ministries said despite safety concerns, more than 3,000 volunteers served in Tijuana and Tecate over spring break with an additional 1,000 in Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point).

Only four groups canceled in the past month, one of which was Mountain View Lutheran. This summer, more than 3,000 people are volunteering in northern Baja for Amor Ministries.

This is Mountain View Lutheran's first trip to San Carlos, though a November trip was already scheduled.

Although Armbright declined to speculate if this means an end to the church's participation in Mission Mexico, he predicted future trips across the border would be for adults, not freshly confirmed eighth-graders, or even teens.

"I think the mix of who goes and where they go will change. There are many opportunities within the U.S. for mission work, and we may look more closely at those," he said. "Our hope is to continue to do something in Mexico, but it may not be targeted to youth or young adults."

He said even though interacting with Apache families might be different from those of Mexico, "interaction with cultural learning" would be as rich.

Another difference mission participants will experience involves the houses they'll build. In Mexico, at week's end, houses were complete and keys presented to the new owners.

On the reservation, houses require electricity and plumbing, extending the completion date beyond the groups' six-day trips.

Even with the change of mission focus, fundraising continues.

The church's Sombrero Board on Sunday will hold Churro Sunday with $1 hot churros available before and after morning services; on May 15 it will sponsor Fiesta Night with a potluck from 6:30 to 8 in the church social hall.

Mission volunteers pay $315 to participate.



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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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