Violence in Mexico curtailing faith-based missions

| February 4, 2012

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — John and Wanda Casias knew the risks of being missionaries in one of Mexico's most violent, cartel-dominated regions, their children say, but they refused to curtail their work and instead put their ministry ahead of their safety.

The couple's slaying this week during a home invasion comes as missionary groups are rethinking how they prepare their volunteers to live in Mexico and other hotspots — or whether to send them at all.

The cartel-fueled violence in Mexico has made parts of the country so dangerous that the U.S. government warns Americans not to travel in those areas. Mission groups, which have long flourished in the border region and other areas, have been forced to dial back outreach efforts and some have cancelled trips altogether out of fear missionaries could be targets.

For those determined to work despite the risks, at least some groups are starting to send volunteers to the same security training camps corporations and aid groups have used for years to prepare their employees for risky overseas assignments.

"For all of our new missionaries in recent years it is mandatory that they get security training commensurate with the risk level in that country," said John David Smith, executive director of the Baptist Missionary Association of America Department of Mission, which has four families currently volunteering in Mexico according to its website. His organization also has put in place other safety measures such as forbidding missionaries from driving in and out of Mexico, which would force them to travel through more dangerous border areas.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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