MATAMOROS, MEXICO—More than 100 people joined together in Matamoros on November 17 to discuss the importance of ministry along the Texas/Mexico border at a Border Summit co-hosted by Texas Baptists and the Seminario Teológico Bautista Cosme G. Montemayor.
Josue Valerio, director of Texas Baptists’ Missions Team, discussed the influx of immigrants through Mexico as an opportunity to renew a commitment to God’s commission. “God is in the middle of this disruption,” he said. “He is sovereign and omniscient. If there are disruptions in society, that affects the church. How does God want us to respond to what is happening in our society? He wants us to identify ourselves with Him.”
Addressing the unique culture of border cities, Dr. Guillermo Lozano, health care coordinator and Texas Baptists River Ministry missionary, shared about the constant exchange of groups, ideas, customs and culture. Lozano detailed the unique history of sister cities and the safe haven the cities provided for much of the 20th Century. “We have seen evidence of how the Gospel has impacted the border. Many of the people living on the border have opened their lives and their families to the Gospel,” he said.
Dr. Benjamin Roman, director of the Seminario Teológico Bautista Cosme G. Montemayor, discussed several challenges churches face with border ministry including deportation, labor slavery, family dysfunction and religiosity. He encouraged those in attendance to remember God has provided the church with all the necessary resources for ministry. “The Gospel goes beyond any limit, boundary or border,” Roman said.
For more than 50 years, Mexican Baptists have partnered with Texas Baptists to equip churches on both sides of the border for effective ministry. Resources through Texas Baptists River Ministry, such as No Mas Violencia, a program to educate families on reducing violence in the home, and 4xFour, an evangelism tool, have been used in recent years with good results. While Roman celebrated the success of those programs, he cautioned church leaders to not solely rely on the programs, but to allow the Lord to work through each person to share the hope of Jesus with those they encounter.
“We need to reach the border with the transforming message of the Gospel,” Roman said.
Texas Baptists Director of Multihousing Congregations Mario Alberto Gonzalez shared about the pastoral work of the church on the border. He encouraged church leaders to remember God made each person a new creation and they serve as ambassadors of Christ. Additionally, he highlighted the symbiosis of the economy and social aspects of the border. Drawing from Psalm 23, Gonzalez said the role of pastoral ministry is to provide, guide, care, feed and develop those entrusted to their care.
Concluding the Summit, Raquel Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Publishing House in El Paso, challenged those in attendance to see the mutual benefit of ministering to immigrants and refugees. Contreras detailed her personal experience in Chile in 2010, when thousands of Haitian refugees migrated to the country following a devastating earthquake.
Through the last few years, the Haitians and Chileans have equally served and impacted each other.
Contreras said, “You see the immigrant as someone to minister to, but they can minister to you too. You see a person who had needs, but in the middle of their needs, they can bless us also. And we can bless them. It’s a two-way street.” Contreras also highlighted several ministry tools available to church leaders such as tracks and Bible study materials which could be useful in border ministry.
Texas Baptists River Ministry is collecting hygiene kits and donations to purchase basic food supplies, such as rice and beans, for churches ministering to refugees along the border. For more information on ways your church can support the work of River Ministry missionaries along the border, contact Daniel Rangel, director of Texas Baptists River Ministry, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214.828.5394.