We know as trip coordinators, participants and parents one of the questions you will likely receive (or ask) is "Is this trip safe?". Your safety is a responsibility we take very seriously. Our camps and trips are safe, low-risk, and 'entry level' missions experiences.
Read below the official YUGO Statement on safety and also some helpful articles/thoughts addressing safetly in Mexico.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear & timidity, but a spirit of POWER, of LOVE and of SELF-DISCIPLINE.
Written by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy
We report this, to encourage you, that although there continues to be a fair amount of negative media coverage about Mexico, which stokes a spirit of fear & trepidation, Mexico continues to be a safe, secure & strategic place to engage in missions activity.
Most people who are concerned about the safety of Mexico Missions tell us they aren't as concerned with where we are carrying out ministry activities, but in the travel. Which is understandable based on the news stories that talk about “Border Violence” in the Mexican border states. Most of the time these stories are exagerated, generalized, or both. Actually, the comparitive saftey of the YUGO ministry sites in Mexico vs. several cities in the Unites States can be staggering. (Please see the statistics at the bottom of this page)
We regularly travel through Tijuana 4-5 times per month, at all times of the day & night. We have never seen nor heard of a single instance of the “drug war” violence occurring anywhere remotely close to where we (or teams) drive. We travel on heavily used “freeway” style roads through Tijuana, that are used by thousands & thousands of Mexicans & Americans daily.
We live in Mexico with our families. As husbands and fathers, we take the safety of our wives and children very seriously. We feel very safe and secure with our families living in Mexico, and we would not invite you or your team into a situation that we did not feel was safe.
With all this being said, I would submit that we are in a fierce battle here in Mexico, but "not a battle of flesh & blood, but against the powers of a dark world." (Ephesians 6:12) Every one who comes to serve with us in Mexico, comes as a beacon of light into a dark world, and this is not without its enemies.
In the past 40 years, more than 250,000 people have served with YUGO Ministries on the mission field, participating in the transformation of thousands of lives, and we have NEVER had one instance of violence toward a person in YUGO or a person attending a YUGO missions trip. Yet, the enemy wants you to stay home! The Enemy would like nothing more than to paralyze the Body of Believers with a spirit of fear, to the point of inaction. We encourage and even exhort you to stand firm with a spirit of Power, Love & Self-Discipline; as we know that God is calling us, and Jesus is with us to the end. There is no place safer than where God is calling you to go with his son Jesus!
We look forward to serving with you in Mexico, and keep praying for all who will come together as the Body of Christ in Mexico this year.
Peace & Blessings in Jesus' name,
Scott Wester and Nathan Alpert
A LOOK AT THE REAL STATS:
Homicide Rates in 2012
Ensenada, Mexico.....<1 per 100,000
Rosarito, Mexico...2 per 100,000
Stockton, CA.....24 per 100,000
Birmingham, AL.....33 per 100,000
Tijuana, Mexico.....33 per 100,000
Memphis, TN.....34 per 100,000
Washington, DC..... 35 per 100,000
St. Louis, MO.....38 per 100,000
Flint, MI.....63 per 100,000
Baja, California - Mexico, one of the world's great travel destinations, is often singled out for violent crime without telling the whole story. While there is sporadic violence along parts of the U.S. border, the majority of Mexico's key tourism areas are not only safe, but safer than many other popular tourism areas.
While the media often portrays Mexico as the most dangerous place on earth, it is statistically quite safe. According to NationMaster.com which uses U.N.-based data, Mexico doesn't even make the list of the 36 nations with the highest murder rates. Mild-mannered nations like Sweden and Switzerland top Mexico for murders on NationMaster.com. The assault rate in the U.S. is nearly 5 times greater than that of Mexico in the independent Prominix report adjusted for under-reported crime.
Even when we add on independent estimates for unreported homicides, Mexico ranks 21st behind many popular vacation destinations. Places we think of as idyllic Caribbean retreats have double, triple, even quadruple the murder rates of Mexico. Mexico's famous vacation areas are even safer than the averaged statistics, and even safer still for tourists.
The Yucatan is as safe as rural U.S. states.
The magnificent beaches and ancient ruins of the Mexican State of Yucatan are among the safest and most spectacular resort beaches in the world. Yucatan's low homicide rate is slightly lower than the rural U.S. States of Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Maine.
Mexico is safer than many cities in the U.S.
More than 150,000 Americans safely visit Mexico every day. And while the media sensationalizes stories of violence in Mexico, Mexico is safer than many major U.S. cities. Travelers feel relatively safe visiting popular U.S. cities like Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington D.C, or Atlanta. Visitors from around the world enjoy these vibrant cities in relative, reasonable safety. Yet each of these cities is statistically less safe than Mexico.
Mexico and politically charged Media Bias
In the debate on immigration reform in the US, the facts on safety in Mexico have become a casualty of politics. To change public opinion and policy, politicians sometimes throw fuel on the fire. If you make up an exciting story about "severed heads in the desert", it gets a lot of attention and people believe it. The governor of Arizona admitted this story was baseless, but only after months of damage was successfully inflicted to the image of Mexico. The homicide rates above are facts from the FBI, not political fabrications.
Media Favoritism versus Facts
New Orleans is beloved and its renaissance is showcased in the news. The FBI reports the murder rate of New Orleans is declining, but it is nearly 4 times higher than all of Mexico and over 5 times higher than Mexico City. New Orleans is still an amazing place to visit and the Media is right to champion this inspirational city. But Mexico is at least as remarkable and there is a clear difference in how each of these storied destinations is portrayed in contemporary news.
Every city and country has places that are safe and dangerous. Mexico is no exception. The areas that are dangerous should be avoided. And those that are safe should be enjoyed and celebrated.
Understanding the size and scope of Mexico
Mexico is huge, ranking 14th in the world, and spanning over 2,000 miles from end to end. Mexico is a nation of 31 states as diverse as those in the U.S. and is larger than the states from Texas to Maine. Canceling a vacation to Mexico because of isolated border violence would be like canceling a vacation to Orlando because of the Boston Bombings. People didn't cancel trips to Dallas or New Orleans in the aftermath of mass shootings in Arizona, Colorado or Connecticut, because they simply aren't related. Yet Dallas and New Orleans are closer to border violence than many of Mexico's peaceful tourist areas.
Mexico City is 4 times safer than Washington D.C.
The U.S. State Department in Washington issues warnings about Mexico, yet Washington D.C. is four times more deadly than Mexico City. Washington's murder rate has been cut almost in half in the last 10 years, but it still averages 24 per 100,000 vs. only 8-9 per 100,000 in Mexico City. How do you suppose the U.S. State department would feel if the Mexican government posted travel warnings for the U.S. capital? Mexico City is a cultural treasure that is larger than New York, London or Paris. In fact, it is about the same size as London and Paris combined.
"Mexico's violence not as widespread as it seems."
After months of sensationalized stories about Mexico's border violence, USA Today published a story about the media hype. While the story itself became an opportunity to re-tell some sensational tales, it did set the record straight by finally comparing U.S. and Mexican homocide figures.
Mexico has very low violent crime rates.
The U.S. Assault rate is 5 times higher than Mexico's. Mexico's violent crime rates for Assault, Kidnapping and Rape are substantially lower than Canada's and yet the U.S. State Department issues no such warnings for Canada. The rate for Rape in the U.S. is more than double the rate in Mexico. The numbers in the charts below have been adjusted for unreported crime from the respected 2012 Prominix report and are the most accurate statistics available on this subject.
Unless you are involved in the drug trade, you are statistically safer in Mexico than anywhere else in North America. Even though the U.S. murder rate of 4 per 100,000 is lower than Mexico's, tourists and visitors are statistically safer in Mexico and much less likely to be a victim of violent crime than in the U.S., Canada and many other countries regarded as safe.
After reading our thoughts on the safety of Mexico Missions, please take a moment an read this excerpt from the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan....
"Haven't we all prayed the following prayer? Lord, we pray for safety as we travel. We ask that no one gets hurt on this trip, Please keep everyone safe until we return, and bring us back safely. In Jesus' name we pray, amen. The exact wording may vary a bit, but that is the standard prayer we recite before leaving on mission trips, retreats, vacations, and business trips.
We are consumed by safety. Obsessed with it actually. Now, i'm not saying it is wrong to pray for God's protection, but I am questioning how we've made safety our highest priority. We've elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God's best it, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world.
Would you be willing to pray this prayer? "God, bring me closer to you during this trip, whatever it takes..." People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their pesonal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress."
Francis Chan, Crazy Love (2008)
Published by David C. Cook