While it is not clear yet whether I will be accompanying my mother-in-law this week as she drives to the border (at least 2 people will be with her on the trip regardless, plus at least 2 more people in another vehicle), we typically don’t just pack luggage and hit the road. There is quite a bit of preparation in advance of such a trip.
Primary in our border trip preparations is following our mission’s guidelines for taking this trip. Such guidelines were a new thing to us back in the fall of 2010 as the drug war situation in northern Mexico deteriorated to the point of the mission actually considering banning all travel within 200 miles of the northern border.
As it is, we continue to follow strict and detailed guidelines for any trip within that 200 mile zone. That’s not to say that travel throughout Mexico is safe outside of that zone, but this is the most readily identifiable area and the one through which Mexico-USA border travel must always include.
I won’t post all of our guidelines, but one of the routines we have is to monitor all possible sources for information about the various routes we might take and which may be considered safer at the present time over another route. Sometimes this is difficult to ascertain, but usually, we can come to certain conclusions. For example, a route we took a number of times from 2007-2010 is no longer even considered an option for us due to the prolonged and unpredictable violence day or night that has occurred along that route.
Source of information is the key. Mexicans who travel for business on a routine basis is probably our best source for accurate and timely information. News from mainstream media outlets is probably the easiest to find on the Internet but probably is our worst source of information. Both the Mexican and American governments seem to have an impact on what is reported and how it is reported. We will consider such sources but we usually search for alternative sources to back up or debunk that information. At times, what is reported is obviously false or misrepresented in some way…these days I would say most likely under-reported.
There are a couple of “narco blogs” that are helpful for their continual streams of info. However, I would not post a link to those as the writers behind those put their lives in grave danger for running those reports. Not that those blogs are a secret. The greater reason for not naming them here is that they are extremely gruesome and I would not even ask someone to look at them. They’re as rough as they get for images and even videos of victims killed or in the act of being killed. Horrific stuff.
Why would these be worth reviewing? They contain good information on location. This does help confirm our current selection for route and border crossing decisions. Valuable.
Anything can happen anywhere, even in the USA. We’re in God’s hands and we do not fail to pray and to realize that we’re missionaries who live by faith. We are human. We can fear things. We know we should not fear but rather trust our God.
That said, we also know He gave us brains for a reason, He commands us to walk wisely and to avoid foolish behavior. Sometimes those are hard to define. Sometimes Christians and even missionaries will disagree on just what is wise and what is foolish.
It does make sense though to do some research and make sure the path ahead of our trip is a wise choice as far as we can discern. Other than that, we pray and ask for the Lord to protect our way. I can honestly say He never fails to answer those prayers regardless of how He answers them.
It’s odd how this post meandered to this point. I was doing some of that pre-trip research and found a statement I wanted to share here. That triggered me to preface that published statement with all the above.
The statement doesn’t even have anything to do with the above. I just thought it would be interesting to share why I happened to come across this. It really is more for those of you NORTH of the border. An interesting statistic about the drug war and the cartels:
The infiltration of the Windy City shows the extent to which Mexican drug syndicates have made inroads in the United States — the Associated Press and others have reported that cartel cells are operating in Atlanta, Ga., Louisville, Ky., Columbus, Ohio, and rural North Carolina. In fact, according to an excellent National Post infographic based on data from a U.S. Justice Department report and other sources, it’s much easier to list states that don’t have a drug trade tied to Mexican gangs.
There are only twelve that haven’t reported the presence of one of four Mexican cartels since 2008: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Mexican drug trade is everywhere else.
Interesting, no? Normally, I would give attribution to a quote from a news source, but this is from one of those websites that is too gruesome to share. This article was not offensive, but the articles found elsewhere on the scrolling page do range into the extremely gruesome. Won’t offend you with that link.
On a bright note, a caravan of four missionary vehicles went up on this same exact route just 2 weeks ago and the trip went as smoothly as it ever has or could. Absolutely no problems. The biggest threat noted was a very thick patch of fog in the mountain pass between Monterrey and Saltillo. As we always do take the toll roads rather than the “free” roads that accompany them, they encountered only the stress of the dense fog travel. I was watching the news sources around the time of their trip then as well and noted that just around the exact same time as they were driving along that stretch of toll road, there was a massive accident involving 70 vehicles and 7 seriously injured on the free highway that was just a couple hundred feet below them. Due to the fog, they never even saw it nor did they know it was there on the highway below them. God kept them completely safe from even the sight of it!
Well, back to a bit more reading before bed. ¡Buen Viaje! (“Good Trip”)