For the last ten years our ministry has been in a region of growing national concern, the border area of the United States and Mexico.We work with those who both legally and illegally cross the border.There probably isn't a Hispanic church in Southern California whose congregants are all documented Hispanic-Americans. Issues are dealt with on nearly a daily basis.They include health care, education -- especially post-high school, legalization of status, and when, if at all, a visit to family and loved ones in Mexico is possible.And on the Mexican side, every church has its share of border tales, some more openly passed on than others, stories of crossing to the north, of arriving safely or being apprehended and deported, often more than two or three times.Who, when and how the next try will be made is a whispered secret between only close friends.
There are no easy answers to the many questions that accompany any discussion of the world of the Borderlands.It can be especially difficult for church leaders and pastors as they strive to give guidance and counsel as to the right course of action while at the same time ministering in a broken world.
We include some statistics in this journal.At times numbers speak for themselves.This is one of those times.Take a look at the following statistics.We think they will shed some light on the broader context of life in the Borderlands of California and Baja California.
Population growth of Baja California's largest cities:
Tijuana - Founded 1889 Mexicali - Founded 1903Pop. in 1900242 Pop. in 1920 6,200
Pop. in 195065,000 Pop. in 1950 35,000
Pop. in 20052,000,000+ Pop. in 2005 1,000,000+
Number of maquiladoras in 2003 (internationally-owned assembly plants/factories):
Ensenada = 110
Tecate = 148
Mexicali = 204
Tijuana = 805
Beginning wages in a maquiladora:$6.70 a day
Minimum wage across the border in the US:$6.75 an hour
Border crossing statistics (2004):
Number of vehicles that cross from Tijuana to San Diego each day =43,000
Number of persons who cross from Tijuana to San Diego each day = 171,000
Number of persons who cross at all California ports of entry each day = 280,000
Number of undocumented immigrants apprehended each day in Calif. =208
Number of undocumented immigrants apprehended each day along Mex. border =2409
Estimate of undocumented immigrants who cross the Mex. border each day without being apprehended =2,500
US Hispanic population growth as percentage of total population:
2000 = 12.5%
Money sent back to Mexico by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans living in the US:
2001 = $6.6 Billion
2004 = $16 Billion (Second only to sale of oil as top foreign income.)
Church growth in Baja California (evangelicals as percentage of total population):
2000 = 10.6%
We are heartened by the good growth among the evangelical churches in Baja California and look forward to our continued ministry with our Mexican sisters and brothers. For the most part life is not comfortable nor easy for our colleagues, yet they cling tenaciously to a sustained hope that is rooted in their personal faith in Jesus Christ, one that finds expression for them in the ever-relevant words of the Psalmist:
I will praise God's name in Song
And glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord
More than an ox;
More than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
The poor will see and be glad –
You who seek God, may your hearts live!
The Lord hears the needy
And does not despise his captive people.
Of course, all that we've mentioned in this short journal is but the tip of the iceberg.If you are interested in a more detailed discussion that includes some historical and contemporary commentary please see Tim's longer article, "A Missionary's Perspective on the Borderlands of the Californias."
Serving our Lord in the crossroads of two nations,
Patti and Tim