David Sitton is the President of To Every Tribe, a ministry which has been planting churches among unreached people groups of Papua New Guinea and Mexico for many years now. The ministry is led by a distinguished board of directors and three executive officers. As it happens, they are seeking to hire a Director for their Center for Pioneer Church Planting.
To Every Tribe is hosting a conference this October 22-23 entitled Reckless Abandon: For Jesus and The Nations. In light of this conference, and as a means of spreading the word about To Every Tribe, I’ll be posting a four part interview with David Sitton. Part 3 was posted last week, Part 2 the week before that, and Part 1 the previous week. Here’s Part 4 (and the final installment):
There is a lot of buzz in the news lately about Mexico and the escalating drug lord violence? What’s going on in Mexico? Has Mexico gotten more dangerous in recent months in the areas where To Every Tribe is working?
David: I’m passing this question off to A.J. Gibson (To Every Tribe’s Mexico Field Director and Assistant Director of The Center for Pioneer Church Planting). A.J. has spent much of his life in Mexico as an MK and as a missionary himself.
AJ: Up until the last few months, most of the drug-related violence has kept to the west of where To Every Tribe works in the extreme north-eastern corner of Mexico. But a recent turf war between two major drug cartels has brought the war closer to home. The Gulf Cartel, based in Matamoros, Mexico, just a few miles from the To Every Tribe headquarters in south Texas, has controlled the drug trafficking routes along the Mexican gulf coast for over a decade. But in recent months, the Zetas, a mercenary army made up of former elite military commandos has begun to encroach upon the Gulf Cartel’s territory. As the war between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has escalated, the battle has drawn nearer to the Gulf Cartel’s home city of Matamoros—the city that we at To Every Tribe pass through every time we enter Mexico. Shootouts between the Mexican military and the cartels as well as between members of the two cartels have made this area increasingly dangerous and unstable. Road blockades, kidnappings, and execution-style murders have become increasingly common. In the last month there have been several major shootouts along the highway that we travel to access the villages where we’re church planting. Just two weeks ago an ambush was set up by the Zetas for the Gulf cartel at an intersection that we pass through on a regular basis. The result was a major gun and grenade battle just a few miles from a small fishing village where we do much of our work. When I passed through two days after the battle, I could see clear evidence of the fight—a pickup riddled with bullet holes.
At this point we haven’t decreased our activity in northern Mexico, primarily because the cartels haven’t primarily been targeting civilians. But things have certainly become much more dangerous and we’ve been forced to take more careful precautions as we travel and work south of the border. Unfortunately the violence in Mexico is not limited to the drug wars, nor is it limited to northern Mexico. Local and regional gangs and criminal organizations involved in all kinds of extortion-related crime have run rampant throughout all of Mexico for decades—even centuries. And it seems that the increased activity of the drug cartels has served to embolden these other smaller gangs and organizations. Kidnappings, assassinations, robbery, police corruption, and many other kinds of violent criminal activity is a normal part of life for almost the whole country. When my family and I lived in Monterrey, Mexico, we had several close friends and many friends-of-friends who were victims of kidnappings and robberies. This kind of violence will always be a threat for missionaries in Mexico. And it’s not limited to northern Mexico. A couple of months ago international news organizations reported an ambush and assault on a caravan of human rights observers on a major highway in the state of Oaxaca, just a few miles south of where To Every Tribe bases its southern Mexico church planting operations. The caravan of journalists and activists was headed to a nearby village that had been held hostage and terrorized by a local crime organization. That organization made sure the rescuers never reached the village.
So how do we react to all of this? Well, we certainly don’t stop our mission. We take precautions (like avoiding travel at night and keeping away from known centers of violence), but at the end of the day we continue to make disciples of Mexico’s unreached people groups while leaving our safety in the hands of God. Jesus promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That’s our great comfort.
David: Exactly! We will never “not go” into a place for Christ simply because of the danger. Like the apostle Paul, I “consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).
Thanks again, for spending some time with us. It’s been fun talking to you again, Alex.