Asked & Anticipated Questions
Questions and answers of general interest not directly addressed on the Tijuana in Turmoil page are found here. We will supplement this page as new questions emerge.
I am not sure why Westmont is putting our children in harm’s way.
This quote from one parent reflects the need for us to be more clear and complete in articulating how it is that Westmont students may be in Mexico for a Potter's Clay trip.
Although for grammatical convenience it is commonly said, even by Westmont, that we send student groups out for ministry, strictly speaking we do not "send" anyone on a missions trip. Rather, we have offered support and guidance for students who have volunteered to pursue off-campus ministries, both locally and around the world.
Westmont has no requirement that students or others participate. Because we have seen the Potter's Clay program produce life-changing benefits for people on both sides of the border over the years, we see value in assisting the students who choose to participate. It is crucial to recognize that each participant is a volunteer who has been apprised of the information available to you and us, and is making an independent informed decision in choosing this opportunity for ministry. We specifically encourage students to involve their families in their decision process.
A number of students have elected to withdraw from the program due to safety concerns, and others are free to do so at any time. If the program ends up "smaller", then a consequence may seem, by human measures, to be a less effective ministry. However, our gracious sovereign God is able to feed 5,000 people with five loaves, so no student need feel they're letting God or their peers down if in their personal judgment the risk of harm outweighs their sense of calling. That's completely fine. We don't want a single student to participate due to a sense of obligation that eclipses their concern for personal safety. May it be only a joyful and glad occasion for those confident in their calling to participate.
The media paint a pretty bleak picture.
We recognize that abundant media attention has been given to the very real problems in Mexico, and those reports are alarming—to us as well. That's why we've invested a great deal of effort in looking behind and beyond the headlines. We have consulted people who live and work in the affected areas, and who are able to offer insights not commonly represented in the news.
On occasion, when Westmont has observed that a particular location for a missions trip has untenable risks associated with it we have withdrawn our support. Our conviction—given all the information available to us at present—is that this is not the case with Potter's Clay. That could change. We will continue to be very diligent in actively discerning the many factors involved and sources available (news; government; international travel specialists; and so on).
If the State Department is saying you shouldn't go, why are you going anyway?
The most recent message issued for Mexico points out many concerns about which the prudent traveler should be mindful. However, the State Department recommends not that visitors should not go, but rather that if they do, they should take appropriate precautions. The plans we have put in place significantly exceed the measures recommended by the US Consulate. Even though the current advisory level for Mexico is to "Exercise Increased Caution," it still stops far short of directing people not to go or, if there, that they should leave.
Why don't you send students in buses rather than cars?
It would certainly be more convenient to get the students all the way to Ensenada in just a few buses rather than the 70 or so cars usually driven. However, once there, the students split off every day to over twenty ministry sites all over the Ensenada area—many of which would not be accessible to large buses. We have also considered vans instead of cars—but again there are logistical complexities that argue against that solution. Many of the sites have only five students present, and their start/stop times are variable, and even unpredictable—sometimes from day to day. With a carful of students, each site can have a vehicle readily present in event of emergency; otherwise, a group of students who'd been dropped off by a van (or bus) could be stranded in a time of need. We considered busing students down and then renting cars in Ensenada. This was deemed a less than optimal stewardship, as it would cost much more and yield no gain in security or convenience in Ensenada, not to speak of the coordination effort involved in arranging for dozens of rental cars to be checked out, checked in, and so on.
Will participants always travel in caravans?
The group travel to and from Ensenada within Mexico is always by caravan. Whenever possible, we encourage and expect caravan travel within Ensenada. However, a number of the ministry sites are serviced by single-car teams. In other cases, errands will be run, security monitors will operate, and other occasions will arise where travel will be in single-car mode. To the extent feasible, we aim to limit solo travel to daytimes. Because of the dynamic nature of the work it is impossible to predict or control circumstances that involve single-car travel within the Ensenada area. However, this has been the practice for many years without notable incident, and we have no indication of a change in the crime scene in Ensenada that would warrant more than normal caution this year.
Will participants be safe?
We don't know. We think so and we expect so, but we simply don't know.
We apply our best judgment to the risks we face. Usually things turn out fine, or better. Sometimes they don't. We don't mean to be cavalier or flippant. But the reality is that each participant on Potter's Clay or any other venture needs to take personal responsibility for assessing the pro's and con's of involvement and make a free and independent evaluation of the degree of risk that is appropriate to them.
Are you going "come heaven or high water"?
We will monitor the situation, consult among ourselves and with good counsel, pray, and exercise prudence in determining what seems wise to do. We will also continue to provide participants (and their families) access to input that can inform their own individual choices. We are willing and able to adjust as circumstances warrant. Determining the balance between risk and reward is a matter of judgment about which different people will differ. We earnestly intend to be thoughtful, attuned and prayerful, and we appreciate your prayers for wisdom.
Under what circumstances would the college decide to withdraw its support?
Here are some examples of things that would prompt us to consider curtailing the trip:
- if we saw evidence that ministries such as ours were being targeted
- if a specific threat were made against one or more participants or other similar groups
- if a change in the pattern of violence indicated a notably increased likelihood that it could affect us
- if the US State Department specifically said that we should not go, or that we must depart the republic
These items illustrate but do not limit the kind of input that could affect the outcome.