I drove the scenic route from Agua Prieta to Nogales. Actually, there are only a few ways of getting between the two cities. All are scenic and the Border Patrol has become a part of the scenery. When you go through their check points, it is clear being an anglo gives one privilege.
I arrived in Nogales, AZ at the office only a few minutes late and met up with Dr. Jorge Pasos. Dr. Pazos was first a medical doctor. Kimberly met him in 1992 when she was a Young Adult Volunteer with Pueblos Hermanos in Tijuana. Since then he earned a seminary degree and also became a pastor moving to Hermosillo. When Compañeros en Misión (originally "Nogallios" pronounced No-ga-yee-os with long "o's") was founded, Dr. Pasos became the Mexican coordinator.
I had learned a couple of days earlier that his daughter-in-law was in jeopardy of losing her baby and asked about her. Turns out she has a cyst on her kidney and the infection is subsiding and further treatment may not be necessary. He took me with him to see her and to do a few other things in the city.
Nogales, AZ has bout 20,000 residents while Nogales, Sonora, MX has 2.5 million. It has chenged markedly from the time I last saw it, nearly ten years ago. As with all of Mexico, the infrastructure is improved and much development—new shopping centers and housing developments the most obvious. In the past alomost all houses were being self-built out of whatever folks could find. Today, companies are building and the people buying. The government gurantees the loans and even has a program for payment of the loans which are withheld from paychecks.
I stayed in the ministry office where there is a bedroom and full bath for visitors. It was comfortable, but one thing clear is that all the activity is in Mexico. Nogales, AZ has almost no restaurants except fast food and few bars. Want a good meal, cross the border.
The first day in the area, we went to Caborca, a village 3 hours drive west. If you think St. Augustine is hot in the summer, you've seen nothing and being dry heat just changes the context from steam room to sauna except there is no water to poor on the rocks or over you. It had to be 115 in the shade.
On the way we visited Magdalena KIno which is famous for several reasons. First is the Cathedral where a Priest is buried who defeneded indigenous rights in early colonial days. The second is that the cemetery where Presidential Candidate Colosio Murieta is buried. He was assasinated while running for office in 1994, a tragedy in the minds of most Mexicans. Sadly, his wife died shortly after from cancer.
We were received graciously by the commissioned lay pastor, Julio Zunun, who is actually an elder in Lily of the Valleys Church in Agua Prieta. We had stopped for lunch and Dr. Pasos called to let him know where we were and he said, the women were preparing lunch. When we arrived, the women came and served us a wonderful stew with rice and refried beans. Then I interviewed the pastor and the women. The little church has benefited greatly from work groups, one of which I am familiar with as I lectured at First Presbyterian Church of Wichita, KS last year and the people told me of their work in Caborca. However, the response to my question, "what is most important to you about the groups coming from the U.S.?" was the same—the relationships we build. They remembered names and also appreciated that when the group comes from Kansas, people from Lily of the Valleys church also come.
The next morning we set out for Hermosillo. Compañeros has ministries as far away as Guayamos which is about 5 hours drive from Nogales. I met with the pastor,Rev. Ramon Amntonio García Sánchez, saw the facility of the church which is also modest. New construction is underway to put a second floor on both the church and the pastor's house right next door. The pastor needs it. He has two teenage children now and a baby is on the way. They have two small bedrooms and barely enough room to turn around in the house. We had soup for lunch which was tasty. Until I had lived in Colombia, I never had eaten soup when it was hot, but oddly lots of people in hot climates eat soup regularly. It was 110 in Hermosillo that day.
The pastor told me there was little violence in Hermosillo that was uncommon, meaning the kind of crime one can expect in a city of nearly 2 million. Hermosillo is an industrial town of mining, butcher houses, and other manufacturing.
Dr. Pazos was the first Presbyterian minister in Hermosillo and the work goes slowly but is growing. That is the good news and the improvements to the buildings are a sign of the success.
On Wednesday we stayed in Noglaes and visited various people. The first was the woman who ran the dining service for deported migrants and children. She had done the work for ten or more years when it had to be shut down because of finances. As with all the PBM sites, reduction of groups has led to reduction of contributions. Another factor was the economy in the U.S. which other than many Mexicans returning home because they have no work in the U.S. has had little affect on the Mexican economy which continues to grow rapidly maybe due to heavy government investment in infrastructure. One reason it is doing well is that the banking and investment crisis we suffered could not have happened in Mexico. Despite our prejudices, much of the economy of Mexico is closely policed.
We visited HEPAC where Dr. Pazos' daughter, Jeanette, works with her colleague Tito. The program is not Presbyterian, but works closely with Compañeros and other church ministries to provide services to the communities including after school, children's activities, health education and the like.
Then we attended the church where Dr. Pazos is now pastor. At one time, it was led by Jocabed Gallegos who was permitted to be a licensed minister, meaning she could do everything a minister does but was not ordained. It seems it will be years before the Mexican Presbyterian Church will approve the ordination of women.
The service was a prayer service and pray they did. First we sang some songs from memory, a common practice in Mexico. Then we prayed for the joys of people, going around in a circle. Then we sang more, read the Bible, and then went around asking about the concerns people had. Then each person prayed.
It was not until I got to Pasadena that I was able to speak with Dave and Susan Thomas who served for 6 years as the U.S. Coordinators of Compañeros.
On Thursday, I went to Tucson to interview Bob Seele whom I net in 1992. Bob was serving as Presbytery Executive of De Cristo Presbytery in the early 80's when PBM was founded. He then served until the mid 90's so he was involved in every step taken by PBM and is a wealth of knowledge. We had a great time talking about his memories. I am glad I recorded these using an APP for my iPhone.
That afternoon I took a little R&R and drove to the top of St. Caltalina Mountain and bought the biggest chocolate chip cookies I've ever seen. The mountain rises to 8000 ft. or about 6,000 ft higher than Tucson. It is a beautiful drive and gave me opportunity to use the tread on the sides of my tires.
I stayed at Border Links, a program founded by Rick Ufford-Chase a former moderator of the General Assembly. It does education on the border. I went there to meet a friend of Kimberly's who has lived and worked in Colombia and now lives at Border Links and raises funding for their work. He has also worked in Nogales. We had dinner at a Guatemalan restaurant where the highlight was our desert—fried banana con mole. Mole is a chocolate sauce used for many things in Mexico like chicken. You not eaten good chicken until you've had Chicken with Mole sauce. The desert was simply amazing.