General News

The Realities of Life at the Border

A dispatch from our mission trip team in southern Arizona.

Mission trip participants Donna Schano, Kathy Murray, Brenda Berkman, Lane Maurer, Debbie Mullins, Greg Dow, Alyce Andrews, Jane Hong, Moira Ahearne and Dennis Bushe. (Not pictured: Heather Guardado, Seamus Campbell)

Twelve members and friends of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, led by Outreach director Seamus Campbell, are on an eight-day mission trip this week along the Arizona-Mexico border. They are working in partnership with Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian border ministry located in the sister cities of Agua Prieta, Sonora (Mexico) and Douglas, Arizona.

We arrived in Tucson on Saturday (Oct. 12) and met our partners from Frontera de Cristo. We drove to Douglas and crossed the border into Agua Prieta, where Frontera de Cristo has been operating a binational ministry for over 30 years.

In the days that we have been here, we have been able to observe the realities of life at the border. We have visited with many of the ministries that Frontera de Cristo works with, including a migrant shelter, a drug rehabilitation center and a children’s enrichment ministry. We have worshiped and eaten meals with members of the Lirio de los Valles (Lily of the Valley) Presbyterian Church, and they have been kind hosts to us.

One of the things we’ve learned is that the border policy that started in the ‘90s has gotten progressively more draconian. Unlike what is prominently focused on in U.S. media, we are finding that the individual stories on the ground are more nuanced, and some of the services provided here are providing hope for families.

We met with Daniel Cifuentes, co-founder of Cafe Justo (Just Coffee), which is also supported by Frontera de Cristo. He taught us of some of the economic forces (e.g., the steep drop in the price of coffee) that pushed many people to the border and into the U.S. But because they were able to start a coffee cooperative at fair prices, they can provide for their families in Mexico. And now that they can earn a living wage, folks that have previously been in the U.S. are coming back and building out their communities.

We have so many stories of our border encounters that have touched our hearts profoundly. We are eager to share our thoughts with you.

The mission trip team will present a full report on its border experience on Sunday, Nov. 17. For more photos of their adventure, see our Facebook album.