Tijuana, Mexico. Playas de Tijuana.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:10
Last week, I received a text from JC, my life mentor and best friend, asking me if I was available to film an interview at All Peoples Church Tijuana. Instantly, I said "I am there." There is a certain feeling I get when the idea of missions crosses my mind. My heart starts racing, I am filled with every joyful emotion and my soul screams with excitement. As we pack our gear, JC says one thing to me that made reality hit me in the face, "For all we know, we may not come back." I looked at him for a moment and he smiled and said, "But Jesus has us." We laughed and a few minutes later found ourselves across the border.
Walking through the streets of Tijuana is definitely an eye opening experience. It is a totally different world just over "the fence." Not only is there a huge separation of economic wealth from the US to Mexico but you can definitely see it in the neighborhoods as well. Imagine on your right, you see huge beautiful homes with a tall beautiful fence around the community. On their driveways, you see Mercedes Benz's and BMW's while children ride their bikes up and down the street. On the other side, you see hundreds of houses built of sheet metal and wood all packed together dangerously close to one another. You see rusted vehicles from the 90s being driven and making the loudest noises on the street as if they will die at any moment. You see children and adults walking back and forth on the street selling goods to passing travelers. In between these two communities is a freeway. In between this developing country and the land of opportunity is a fence.
In this reality, one would think joy is hard to come by however, not in Tijuana. As we began to help set up the church for the fiesta that afternoon, I did not see sadness or sorrow or even resentment. Everyone in the community was joyful because of Jesus. As more and more people from the community around us came in, they gave us a smile and offered a helping hand. Love does not have a language barrier. Love defeats hardship. During the fiesta, I walked down the alley that goes into the church and closed my eyes. I heard laughter of children, joyful conversations of men and women, and the sound of worship music that can be heard for miles. I opened my eyes and smiled. I saw joy. I saw men, women, and children eating at the same table. I saw the hungry being fed and the willing serving others. No one was thinking about the stresses of the world. No one was thinking about tomorrow or what to eat for dinner or the score of the game playing but everyone was enjoying community and the presence of the Lord. On this day, in this very moment, the Lord's peace transcended the troubles of everyone there, including myself.
At the end of the day, as JC and I were on our way back to the states, his words to me from that morning came back to my thoughts, "For all we know, we may not come back." This reminds me of Matthew 5:10. This is a reality to many missionaries around the world. In fact, this is life to many believers. There is beauty when you live fearlessly and joyfully for the Lord just like the people here in Tijuana. In the midst of troubles and hardships, your spirit holds on to the promises of Jesus. I believe this is what drives many to do ministry. I believe this is what drives many to follow Jesus. That drive to live in freedom. The desire to be like Jesus. As Jesus gave up His place in heaven to live life with us and give us a fighting chance to eternity with Him, may we give up our place of privilege to see and walk with those unseen, living on the margins. That was when I came to the realization:
"I don't think I was made to live in America, bro. I want to see God's glory in places that are forgotten."
Here is Carlos Cortez's amazing redemption story: