Ministry at the intersection of life and death
A PC(USA) mission letter from the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona
December 17, 2013
We are grateful to God for the opportunity and the responsibility to be in ministry at the intersection of life and death. We seek with all our minds, hearts and strength to “choose life” and celebrate when we can accompany folks from the brink of death to new life as happens with our partnership with CRREDA, a residential drug treatment center in Agua Prieta, Mexico, run by recovering addicts.
We have known Ernesto for more than 10 years — in that time he has probably aged at least 20 years. We often would see Ernesto in the line of cars waiting to cross the border from Agua Prieta to Douglas, Ariz. He was washing windows to feed his heroin addiction.
“Ernesto, you want me to take you to the CRREDA and start life again?” “No, Marcos, I am good. I’m really not using.” Ernesto could lie with a “straight” face — yet the increasingly sunken nature of his eyes and his increasing emaciated body told the truth.
Finally, when he was “at death’s door,” he went to the CRREDA. We prayed that it was not too late — is it ever too late for God’s grace and healing? Three months into recovery he has come back to his “right mind,” filled out physically, and is on the road to recovery — he is experiencing new life. Ernesto sent us his "before and after" pictures and asked us to share them with partners to show the power of God to heal.
Napo, an alcoholic who was literally being put in a body bag by the city morgue when they noticed signs of life, is in his fourth month of recovery.
The hospital, after cleaning the worms from his eyes and nose, rehydrating him, and discovering that he was “uncontrollable” in the midst of his withdrawal, took him to CRREDA and left him there because they could not (or would not) deal with him in his delirium. Raul ― a CRREDA staffer ― called us to pray with him in the detox room.
Napo is also experiencing new life.
Recently a pastor asked what brings us the most joy about the ministry that we do. One of the many things that bring us joy is how God seems to continually surprise us with life and grace in unexpected places.
CRREDA is a place that both of us found to be an extremely uncomfortable place to be when we were initially introduced to it — a place we did not want to be.
Yet we are surprised that now we not only find ourselves comfortable visiting the folk of CRREDA, taking our kids to parties and celebrations there, having folks from CRREDA at our Thanksgiving meal at our home in Agua Prieta, but we also find that the folks of CRREDA are some of our closest partners in ministry.
Recently Mark was asked to be one of four presenters at a missional preaching conference for the presbyteries of Grand Canyon and de Cristo that was funded by a grant from World Mission. Ernesto and Napo came to our house to read scripture with Mark and help him prepare for the preaching conference, the purpose of which was to nourish and equip the lives of those whose purpose it is to nourish God’s people with the preaching of the Word.
For over two hours we sat in our living room and reflected on the passage from Mark 5:1-20—the healing power of Jesus and the negative reaction of some of the community to the healing.
Ernesto and Napo commented how the drug dealers really don’t want Jesus healing folks like them because it affects their business. Ernesto said that when those who sold him heroin see him, they offer him free heroin to try to get him using again — “ellos me ven como su banquito” (“They see me as their little bank”).
It made Mark think about our drug policy in the U.S. and the growth of the private prison industry in the United States. Does it make sense for these private prisons to see addicts and incarcerated low-level offenders healed by Jesus? Or do they see them as thousands upon thousands of banquitos?
What a joyful surprise! Recovering addicts with little formal education, neither of whom can legally enter the United States, being instruments of God to help equip highly educated pastors from the United States.
After our time of reflection and prayer together, Napo and Ernesto asked us to say thank you to the folks who support Frontera de Cristo and who have supported CRREDA because they know that CRREDA has been an instrument of God to save their lives and give them another chance.
So from Ernesto and Napo: thank you! Also, thank you for helping give us the opportunity to encounter God’s grace in surprising places through your encouragement, prayers and support. If you are reading about our ministry for the first time, we invite you to prayerfully consider partnering with us through prayer, correspondence, and/or financial gifts.
We wish that all our interactions were ones in which life wins out over death, but they are not. Death often intrudes prematurely whether through overdose or a body worn out by years of abuse or dehydration or injury resulting from crossing the border in search of a dream. Yet we are grateful to God that God in Jesus Christ has come to bring life and life abundant and has called us to witness to, to struggle and strive for, and to experience that new life in the face of death.
Thank you for your partnership as we engage with the realities of life and death here on the border and beyond.
Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar are mission co-workers with the Presbyterian Border Ministry in Agua Prieta, Mexico, where Mark has served since 1998. As U.S. coordinator of the binational ministry, Frontera de Cristo, Mark is responsible, in partnership with Rev. Angel Valencia of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, for the coordination of the six ministry areas of Frontera de Cristo: church development, health, family counseling, the New Hope Community Center, mission education, and the Just Trade Center.
Miriam connects people and organizations across borders and serves as a liaison of Frontera de Cristo with the Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation and Recuperation (CRREDA in Spanish), DouglaPrieta Trabaja and the Lirio de los Valles Presbyterian Church. She works with DouglaPrieta to help the rehabilitation centers and families of the church, community and schools grow their own food, increasing their nutrition possibilities and connection to God’s creation and one another.