Presbyterian Border Ministry is a bi-national ministry of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the PCUSA and includes six ministries along the southern U.S. border.
Proyecto Amistad’s previous foci on unemployment and lack of health care were now being addressed by local churches, and the site — bi-nationally located in Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico — began concentrating on its violent surroundings.
“One big question came to the fore: How to connect church development with a response to the violence?” said Roberto Medina, the site’s Mexico coordinator. “Our background said, ‘Teach the Bible!’ but what resource connects discipling children and their parents with the violence?”
One day, Medina and then-U.S. coordinator Chris McReynolds traveled to San Antonio to speak at churches there. They met Rick Lane, a Presbyterian elder and businessman with a long history of ministry in Mexico. He told the men about AMO, a curriculum designed to develop the whole person with biblical principles, and thought it would provide the tools Proyecto Amistad was looking for.
Thus was born Club Amistad, where children and their parents learn the principles of the Bible and “that God created all things, including them; that God creates things whole and wants each person to live fruitful lives; and that God provides us the wisdom through the Bible for lives that are fruitful,” Medina said.
There are now four clubs working with 200 children in churches in Nuevo Laredo and neighboring communities. In September, the clubs expect to minister to 500 as more churches in communities get involved. McReynolds and Medina hope to eventually expand the program throughout Mexico.
Club Amistad displayed its impact at the Day of the Child, an annual celebration in Mexico that most churches use to reach out to the surrounding community. The celebrations at the churches typically include worship, games, food and lots of small gifts.
When the devotional leader at Victory in Jesus Church asked, “We often hear in Juarez that men have killed other men with pistols, rifles and automatic weapons, but what are the weapons God gives us?” a child quickly held up his Bible and yelled, “the Bible!”
“So, what does the Bible tell us we are to do when someone hurts us or makes us angry?” Another child called out: “Love him and pray for him.”
The leader went on to ask the children to read Galatians 5:22-23. One of the boys stood and began to read: “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
One of the parents observed during the games and social time, “We give thanks to God for Club Amistad because we want our children to be good people, there is so much bad. Club Amistad is a sanctuary from the violence and the meanness they experience all around. We see a big difference in the way our children behave now. It also helps us to teach them and be patient and kind with them.”
Weekly leadership training classes — which include learning the biblical content and theological themes, teaching principles and practices and organizing and marketing — continue to prepare more churches for their own Club Amistad and the hope that the Gospel will light the way to a new non-violent future for Mexico.
Parrish W. Jones is an ordained minister member of St. Augustine Presbytery who lives in St. Augustine, Fla., where he teaches philosophy at St. Johns River State College and writes for PNS and other media outlets. He is traveling the U.S./Mexico border researching a book on Presbyterian Border Ministry. You can learn more about his work at www.presbyteriansonthefrontier.net.