By Sondra Rodriguez, Page Editor
The Spring Break Campaign scheduled to travel to Casa de la Esperanza, an orphanage located one hour west of Chihuahua, Mexico, was forced to change its destination to Atlanta because of dangerous conditions in Mexico.
Mexico is in the midst of a drug war. More than 1,000 people have been murdered this year in addition to the 6,290 who were murdered in 2008 because of the war. Drug cartels, particularly cocaine cartels, are rising up against President Felipe Calderon, who has been sending Mexican troops to fight them since late 2006. Uprisings have resulted in abductions and the murder of both Mexican and foreign civilians through public beheadings, home invasions and hand-grenade attacks. Much of the violence this year has happened in Juarez, Mexico, but is spreading quickly to Phoenix and southern Texas.
The group would have driven through Juarez to get to Casa de la Esperanza, and Mark Lewis, director of Student Life and Spiritual Life, Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for Student Life, and Jen Rogers, director of Student Ministries, decided Wednesday the trip was too dangerous.
Lewis, Rogers and Thompson were aware of the violence in Mexico through “state updates.” These are safety-related news briefs for both U.S. and international campaign locations, Rogers said. The three informed campaign members Thursday that the location was too dangerous.
Rogers said she still has high hopes for the new campaign to Atlanta.
“If you have the eyes to see, you’ll find that there’s need everywhere,” she said.
Campaigners will not be with orphans in Mexico, but they still will find ways to serve those in need, Rogers said.
Curtis Smith, junior psychology major from Atlanta and co-leader of the campaign, said leaders were aware of the situation in Mexico and knew the administration had hesitations regarding whether the campaign was too dangerous.
“We had been planning for a plan B,” he said.
Plan B was to go to Atlanta, largely because it is Smith’s hometown, and he and co-leader Katherine Lewis were able to arrange lodging, accommodations and service work on short notice.
“We are working with Atlanta Inner City Ministry (AIM),” said Lewis, junior social work major from Wichita, Kan. “We don’t know exactly what we’re doing yet – it just depends on when they need us. We just know that we are working with this ministry Monday through Friday.”
KrisAnn Christian, junior psychology major from McKinney, is a member of the campaign and said that although she is disappointed about not working with the children in Casa de la Esperanza, she is comfortable with the administration’s decision.
“The school made a wise decision for saying they didn’t want to put our lives in danger, which this trip would have,” she said. “You put your trust in God and know he’s going to take care of you, but you also have to know not to make stupid decisions and trust that God will still take care of you.”
Although they are no longer traveling to Mexico, the campaign still is supporting Casa de la Esperanza financially by mailing a check for the amount that would have been spent.
“We can’t do the labor, but at least they have the money, and we’re not saying what they have to do with it,” Lewis said. “We’re still supporting them financially and prayerfully.”
Members are disappointed to not work with the children but anticipate the trip to Atlanta.
“It’s frustrating to see all of my work go to ‘waste;’ however, it’s reassuring to know that my God is able to do far more than I could ever imagine,” she said. “That’s the tension I’m living in.”
Smith said the group is keeping spirits raised.
“We were excited about working with those kids, but overall there’s a spirit of being excited about what God has for us in Atlanta,” he said. “We’re looking at the possibilities and who we can serve – rolling with the punches.”
Lewis said knowing the group is supporting both locations has helped.
“We were going to Casa de la Esperanza; now we’re going to Atlanta, so I like to call it ‘Caslanta,”‘ she said. “We’re still doing both, and that’s where my heart has settled.”