Ministry in the Midst of Crisis

 by the Rt. Rev. Francisco Moreno, Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Mexico

The Diocese of Northern Mexico lies in part along the border between Texas and Mexico, where violence is commonplace. Bishop Moreno and his parishioners live in constant turmoil and danger; still they refuse to give up being the presence of Christ in the midst of the devastation. Below, Bishop Moreno writes of the ministry they won’t give up.

The world we live in becomes more violent day by day.  Men and women’s attitudes, by negligence or circumstances beyond their control, have allowed this violence, and we live with the consequences day after day.  We can see the consequences all over the world in events which we cannot evade. Here in Mexico we live with this violence in one of its darkest and most insidious forms:  drug wars violence, the violence of the “narcos.”

This violence unleashed in my country is the result of the many people who’ve succumbed to the vice of these drugs. With impunity, men — protected from justice by the power of the arms provided by stronger and unscrupulous powers — sow terror in every corner, from border to border of our beloved mother country.

But we live here. Our ministry is here, in the North of our country, in the border cities of Juárez, Matamoros, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Rio Bravo; and in the interior cities like Tampico and Monterrey, Chihuahua, and Ciudad Cuauhtémoc.  All of them feel the harsh lash of this wave of destruction we live with day by day. Our home has become a zone of fear and terror for all. It takes many forms; many of us have been hurt by kidnapping, blockades, and assaults.  We have found ourselves in the middle of gun battles. We have suffered, or been threatened with armed robbery or home invasions, or by blackmail in the form of buying “protection” for our business or family.

We exercise our ministry in the midst of the terror that causes these inconveniences. Yet our message is not one of fear; our message is much greater than that. Our message is centered in what Jesus asks of us: to preach the salvation message of the kingdom of God; to proclaim the peace and hope that the love of God in Christ manifests; and to trust the integrity of His Word. Do you have faith in his word? Then demonstrate it! Perhaps you will help others whose faith is weak and hope will grow because “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Here we will continue, seeking to grow the faith of our people, of our congregations.  We cannot stop and hide. We must continue walking forward, always trusting our Lord’s promise, “I will always be with you.”  We feel the fear, but we do not let it paralyze us nor force us to bury our heads in the sand denying reality.  On the contrary, it sharpens our senses and increases our discernment, helping us to see how important it is to seek the One to whom our lives belong. This is the road that enables us to analyze our faith, our conversion, and our faithfulness to the message we preach, giving thanks for the privilege of this testing that God allows us to experience.

Leaving our houses each day we place our hope of return in the hands of God. We don’t worry too much about the dangers, but focus on fulfilling the task in front of us. We trust that if the action is good, God will take care of us. As we go, we place each person in our homes into God’s hands, crying out for His mercy to care for our children and family members going to school, to work, to church.  And we hurry out with our eyes open, our hearts ready to endure whatever comes, adrenaline pumping, to do what we have been given to do.  While we sense that the danger of death is ever present, we know that we are always in the hands of the God whom we trust.

Thankfully not all is bitter; there are wonderful moments, and as each day draws to a close, we are grateful. When we return home in the evening as the sun is setting and we see the bright stars begin to shine, we give thanks again, asking the God of all mercy for his grace to remain with us until his sun rises again on the horizon of our lives. We pray for his strength to run the race to fulfill what Christ requires, a life of daily prayer, praying for the hope of change and the end of this storm, giving thanks for the security that bit by bit is improving.

For now we give thanks to God, who loves us.  After all we are his children.  We walk the road he has given us in faith and obedience and hope trusting in his promise.

Lord Jesus Christ, defend your people from all danger, keep us from all evil, save us from violent death, guide our lives in the path of safety, send your angels to protect us, and do not let the evil one cut short a life whose days belong only to you, the Lord of all, to whom we will gratefully surrender this life to rejoice in your eternal presence.  Amen.

The Episcopal churches along the border have a continuing ministry with their Anglican brothers and sisters in Northern Mexico. To learn more about the ministry, contact the Rev. Scott Brown at sbrown@stalbansharlingen.org.

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