|MATAMOROS, Mexico – Inmates in a Mexican prison admire the painting of Christ placed on the prison wall by Missouri Baptist missionaries. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger|
Missouri Baptists minister to Matamoros
Prisoners, ‘squatters’ in Mexican city presented with Gospel
By Bob Baysinger
August 3, 2004
MATAMOROS, Mexico – An eight-member missionary team from Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, recently spent a week in Matamoros, a sizeable Mexican city located just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.
While there just a week, the workers were motivated by the fact that their work could have eternal implications.
The Concord team worked closely with Steve Smith of Heartland Baptist Church, St. Louis. Smith coordinates the work of Focus on Missions in the Matamoros area, concentrating on a Mexican prison just outside Matamoros and a settlement on the city’s outskirts known as “Squatter’s Camp.”
Thousands of Hispanic people migrate to Matamoros in hopes of crossing the border into the United States. Brownsville is the southernmost U.S. city. When the migrants are unable to cross into the U.S., they “squat,” living in conditions most Missouri Baptists would describe as deplorable.
The Missouri missionaries focused most of their efforts on the prison – preaching, witnessing, painting and building relationships with inmates.
The painting effort involved transferring scenes and Bible verses from the Evangicube (a Rubic’s Cube-like device that enables one to share the plan of salvation by twisting the object) onto a concrete wall behind the home plate area of the prison baseball field. Smith noted that God’s plan of salvation will confront Mexican inmates and the hundreds who visit the prison each week long after the Concord group returned to Jefferson City.
Gayle Skaggs, a Concord team member, painted an 8 x 12-foot picture of Christ standing with outstretched arms on 4 x 4 masonite sheets. The picture was painted in Missouri and hauled to the prison site. The second day in the prison, the “puzzle” painting was put together high on a 20-foot cellblock wall.
Using Spanish, Christ’s words, “All ye who labor and are heavy laden come unto me and I will give you rest,” were painted under the picture.
The Concord team also transported several hundred pairs of children’s shoes to Mexico. The shoes were distributed to children in an orphanage located near the prison. Most of the children housed at the orphanage live there while a parent is in prison.
What some mission team members said was a highlight of the trip was the worship service conducted in the prison chapel. Following an evangelistic message, 10 men responded to the invitation to make Christ Lord of their lives.
“When I think back on our time with the Concord mission team, I praise the Lord for the impact that was made on a daily basis at the prison,” Smith said. “So many people come in and visit, they want to help and they want to be involved in ministry. But so many groups simply look and express their desire to help and do something and then do nothing.
“Concord was at the prison for four days straight. There were relationships formed, friendships formed and lives of prisoners were changed as well as lives of those from Concord.”
Smith especially noted the salvation decisions.
“It was evidenced on my return trips to the prison when men came to me and told me of their decisions when the Concord team was there,” Smith said. “With salvation comes a new life – a life of hope. These men are in a terrible place on the earth. They need hope! Concord helped share that hope.”
Smith added that he hopes the trip to Matamoros helped fuel the missions fire at Concord.
“Not just to come back to this area,” he said, “but to see missions expanded and the Concord church become out of control in missions!”