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The Youth Cartel

The opportunity Baja presents, Part 1

Let’s start here. 

A complicated relationship exists between the United States and Mexico.

As a resident of Southern California I’m well aware of this.

We love Mexican culture. The language, the decor, the food– many elements of Mexican culture are fully integrated into American life. An entire day of the week is now synonymous with Mexican food, Taco Tuesday.

The United States and Mexico are inter-twined with economic and political issues. Illegal immigration, guns smuggled from America on Mexican streets, drugs smuggled through Mexico on American streets, drug cartels, stories of crime related to both sides of the border, on and on.

Nevertheless, we are neighbors. Just like the relationship with the people you live next door is complicated our nations relationship with our neighbor to the south is complicated. It’s not purely good. It’s not purely bad. Elements of both exist at the same time.

A Complicated Relationship with Short-Term Missions Also Exists

For the past few years I’ve been talking to our missions partner, Praying Pelican Missions, about the possibility of offering week-long missions trips in Baja, California. (The region of Mexico immediately south of San Diego.)

And, as a SoCal resident, I’m fully aware that this is a complicated proposition:

  • Parents are generally afraid that Mexico is too dangerous, so they are resistant to sending their kids.
  • Churches on both sides of the border became increasingly uncomfortable with the popular ministry model.
  • Questions arose on whether short-term missions were helping American participants.
  • Questions arose on whether short-term missions were helping Mexican churches.
  • Changes at the border… like requiring everyone has a passport… made crossing the border less convenient, expensive, and time consuming.

And as a result of some combination of all of this short-term missions in Baja has really slowed.

It’s with this cocktail of known knowns that I began asking Praying Pelican Missions to consider working with The Youth Cartel on doing short-term missions for youth, adults, and families in Baja.

[Voice from stage left] “Wait… you just listed a whole bunch of reasons why short-term missions don’t work out too well… why are you doing this?

Precisely. This is what faith looks like sometimes. Insane.

I’m working with PPM on this because I’ve seen their work in other places in the world where their unique ministry model helps overcome some of the same exact problems.

Pastors in Haiti, Jamaica, Bahamas, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua… they faced similar challenges (and abuses, frankly) in the past with short-term missions.  And yet in our working with PPM in those places we see a level of health we’ve just not experienced with any other agency. It’s based on legitimate partnership, where the local church’s ministry is amplified because the visiting teams are serving under their authority, under their name, to work on things that are priorities for the local church. (Sometimes this is a challenge to visiting American teams who love to have a project to complete, a picture to take, and a box to be checked… but real life ministry isn’t like that, is it?)

And so we begin…

With this as background, we agreed that the time was now and we took a trip to Baja last weekend with an eye toward launching things in the Spring of 2018 where I wouldn’t just cheerlead the effort, I’d literally help lead things to the point where we can hand them off to local leadership.

More on that in Part 2 of this series.

Right now we’ve got several churches ready to partner with groups starting with Spring Break 2018. (Summer dates available, too) If you’re interested, drop me a note.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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