Violence keeps mission team from Mexico

| May 14, 2010

For the past 20 years, youth and adults from First Presbyterian Church have traveled annually to Mexico for mission work, but for the second year in a row, Mexico will not be their destination this summer.

Instead, they're going to work on a school for the deaf in Jamaica.

"We are unable to go (to Mexico) because of the violence," said the Rev. Whitney Bayer, associate youth minister.

Recent drug-related violence in the border city of Reynosa, Mexico, has caused a temporary hold on missions in that area and other border cities.

The Teens With a Mission group usually holds vacation Bible school and builds homes for families in Reynosa. The group works with Faith Ministry, based in McAllen, Texas, just five miles north of Reynosa.

The fighting between rival drug cartels against the Mexican government escalated in February, leading Faith Ministry to place the temporary hold on missions. Reynosa had escaped the violence before, but this year it has encroached upon the city.

Officials with the Texas-based ministry placed the hold through May and have since extended that hold through June.

"It's been a disappointment because we have so many relationships with the people in Mexico," Bayer said.

First Presbyterian is so supportive, she said. "The church feels the ministry is so important."

Much of the violence centers on a break between two drug cartels, the Gulf and former allies known as the Zetas. The cartels have been competing for drug trafficking routes and turf.

"They've had violence like they've never had before," Bayer said.

But the group's mission work goes on, and its major fundraiser is this weekend.

The TWAM group is holding a 5K Mission Run on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at Salisbury Community Park on Hurley School Road, with all of the proceeds going to missions.

The group has held this fundraiser for five years.

"There is no specific goal, just whatever we are able to raise," Bayer said. "It's our most successful fundraiser that we do throughout the year."

Last year the youth raised $8,000, mostly through sponsorships.

The group also does mission work in and around Salisbury and has taken mission trips to Charlotte, New York and Washington, D.C.

Those interested in participating in the 5K run or the 1-mile fun run can register the day of the event. The cost to participate is $20 for the 5K and $15 for the fun run.

TWAM's 20 youth and 10 adults will travel to Jamaica in July.

"We will be working at a school for deaf children, doing repairs and leading vacation Bible School," Bayer said.

They may also get to work at an orphanage.

Last year TWAM was not able to go to Reynosa because of the H1N1 outbreak, so the group went to Kentucky instead. There is hope that one day they'll return to Reynosa.

"We haven't ruled it out. We will watch it very closely," she said.

The church has had regular e-mail communication with their contacts in Reynosa, receiving regular updates about the violence.

"It's been devastating to the people and they are real devastated that no one has come to build homes, but the safety of the volunteers is the most important thing. It's been a challenge," Bayer said.

For more information about the 5K Mission Run, contact First Presbyterian Church at 704-636-1321.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security