For all of us in short-term ministry, there are defining moments. Here is one of mine.
I made the call early one October morning to some ministry partners in Ensenada, Mexico to see how they were doing. As I was bringing a short-term team in a few weeks, I wanted to make sure everything was still on schedule.
When Eduardo answered the telephone, I asked how he was doing. Now Eduardo was a positive kind of guy so I was unprepared when he told me stuff was not going well. He said that the government was in the process of evicting every resident of Santa Rosa, a small village where the Mexican Baptists had planted a church about three years earlier.
I listened as he told me that apparently there had been a land dispute, and the people of this tiny pueblo were caught in the middle of it. He told me how the government of Mexico, backed by federal troops was in the process of going door to door, telling the people to get what they could carry in five minutes, and get out.
Over the next few days they entered the houses and threw everything that was left into the back of a semi truck. House by house they went until the village was empty of people and belongings. They then drove the truck about 5 miles away, and dumped all the belongings along the side of the road, leaving what for many were a lifetime of memories shattered and broken.
Then the bulldozers moved in. Systematically they demolished every single house there. Then they crushed the school house that had been built by the federal government, toppled the pole that the day before had flown the Mexican flag and turned to the church, which I had helped build over the last year. It was gone in a few minutes.
Once everything was gone, they strung barbed wire around the area and posted armed guards at the former entrance so no one could reenter the area.
As a bit player in this drama that playing out in front of me, I got on the telephone to one of my board members who was well connected with the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles. At his urging, they looked into the situation and found that at the very least, the way the federal troops were acting was a clear violation of Mexican law.
They said that if one of the leaders of the village would swear a formal complaint in Ensenada, they could stop the action, save the peoples belongings, and maybe their houses. I relayed this info to both the American missionary and the Mexican pastor serving there and received the same answer.
Their work was concerned with souls. Fighting for the rights of the very people they were serving was not their calling. That was government work.