It’s a seas
on of violence that has scared all but the most intrepid American teams away from the Gateway. The drug wars have spilled
over onto the streets of Matamoros and into the newspapers of people who love the place. And so, it was with sadness that last week we laid off many of the Gateway staff.
It made me think back to the beginning. In 1991, I felt God whispering to me about starting a missions training center called The Gateway somewhere on the Mexican border. Starting the Gateway took all the faith I had at the time.
Mexico afforded the perfect venue for a short-term missions trip. Just across the border was a different culture and people living in slums who needed help. And so, God and I dreamed about building a launching pad for missions there.
For a co
uple of years I had my kids praying that God would show us a piece of property to buy. It had to be close to Matamoros, have access to water and electricity and roads, and it had to be cheap enough that we could buy it. Elma Fonseca combed the border area for us and then one day, she found the perfect property – 72 acres ten minutes from the border and 15 minutes from Matamoros.
1994, we felt God leading us to build a camp on the property. My good friend Rob Finney was the mastermind and driving force behind
it. We had a thousand people scheduled to come on short-term teams that
summer and three months to build enough of the camp to house them. We had to build a bridge, a road, and string electric lines in. Somehow, Rob and his team pulled off what seemed to be an impossible task; we were all amazed.
On a project to Mexico in 1997, I felt God strongly saying that we were to begin training Mexicans to become missionaries. Through a series of miraculous events, we did so. And since then, the Missions Training Institute
has sent hundreds of graduates out, many to the middle east.
Today, if you take Highway 2 to the dirt road at colonia Buena Aires and drive by okra fields for about a mile, you’ll see the stuccoed, warehouse-looking
buildings called the Gateway. For tens of thousands of visitors, it has facilitated one of the most transforming
experiences of their lives.
It was the fulfillment of a dream. But today the buildings sit empty and the future seems uncertain. We don’t know what’s next. A few intrepid church groups have said, “We’ll come this year no matter what happens.” And we still welcome those who feel the call. We can’t predict if the drug violence will stop. But our prayer is that one day, the dream can live again.