Steven Eng, advocacy director of the National Association of Evangelicals, works with NAE leaders, constituents and others to help advance the principles of the NAE document, “For the Health of the Nation,” as they use their God-given influence to bless our nation. Eng served for three decades as an ordained evangelical pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church. He received a degree in political science from St. Olaf College and a M.Div. degree from North Park Theological Seminary.
IGLESIA MISIONERA CRISTO VIVE IN SAN JUAN, TEXAS
On a recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, and I joined Yonathan Moya, founder/director of Border Perspective, and his sister Jennifer Moya, their regional director, and Pastor Eunice Moya on a tour of their new church and ministry center.
The Border Perspective story began back in 2017, when Yonathan and his brother Jordan embarked on a 2,000 mile, 9-day photographic journey along the U.S. southern border to explore their own family’s story and see for themselves this complex region. Along the way as they talked with people and heard their stories of joy and heartache, they sensed a movement of God. Border Perspective was born from this journey, mobilizing people of faith to engage the border from a biblical perspective.
Wanting everything to point to Jesus, they began creating immersive border experiences where participants can listen to people’s stories, love and serve others, restore relationships, and discern Christ’s presence in these interactions.
“When we get this right,” Yonathan says, “we help people experience unconditional love and care for one another through the lens of Jesus Christ.”
Galen and I met Yonathan and Jennifer’s mother, Eunice Moya. Eunice and her husband, Pastor Hugo Moya, co-founded Iglesia Misionera Cristo Vive (Christ Lives Missionary Church – part of The Missionary Church, a NAE member) in the late 1990s.
The son and granddaughter of Mexican pastors, Hugo and Eunice sensed the Lord calling them as young adults to move from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas to share the gospel and minister to migrants and residents there. But as they shared this vision with their parents, they replied, “Why do you want to move across the border to San Juan? It’s not beautiful at all! And it’s no place to raise a family!”
This area in South Texas is sometimes referred to as the Borderlands — sandwiched between the U.S.-Mexico border and Texas state highway checkpoints two hours to the north — barriers that prevent many undocumented immigrants from travelling further into the interior of Texas and the United States. Some choose to pass through these checkpoints and move into the interior. But many others stay for years in the Borderlands or even settle there. For their first 20 years of ministry in the United States, Pastors Hugo and Eunice held church services in people’s homes, under a canopy in their front driveway, and even in a tire shop. Meanwhile, Hugo supported his ministry and family of seven kids working as a full-time janitor with the local school district.
Over the years, Iglesia Misionera Cristo Vive has served the community through teaching, prayer, evangelism, church planting, missionary work in South Texas and Mexico, family support groups, pastoral training, providing humanitarian relief to asylum seekers, and partnering with Border Perspective to lead and host mission teams from around the country.
In 2019, Pastor Hugo ran across an abandoned building and land on the edge of their community in San Juan. Immediately, he sensed the Lord saying this would be the new location for their church and Borderlands ministry.
Yet when he asked around the neighborhood, no one knew that this overgrown property once served as a community center with an outdoor pool. During the past 20 years, the pool was filled in, and piles of trash inside revealed evidence the building was used for dark purposes.
Yet Pastor Hugo and Eunice were convinced this space could become not only a worship center, but a hub for community outreach, a refuge for the weary, and a tool to meet the needs of area families.
Eventually, Pastor Hugo tracked down the absentee owner, who agreed to sell the property for $140,000— provided they raise the funds in six months. But their congregation had only 50 low-income people, including children. The Moyas had no idea how they would raise this kind of money.
Over the next six months, with much prayer and effort, God enabled them to raise $80,000 from supporters, locally and around the country. They learned later the owner had fallen seriously ill, but he agreed to meet with them.
When they arrived, they found the owner flanked by his realtor and his attorney, who then asked them, “Are you ready?” They had prayed and done all they could, the pastors explained, but had only raised $80,000 of the $140,000 asking price.
Again, the owner asked, “Are you ready?” Not knowing what he meant, they again explained they had raised only half the necessary funds. The owner asked again, “Are you ready?” And when they replied, “Yes, we are,” the owner announced he would accept their $80,000 as the full purchase price.
Since early 2020, volunteers and sub-contractors from around Texas and as far away as Seattle and Minneapolis have donated time, labor and materials to make this vision a reality — hauling out 30 truckloads of trash, demolishing suspended ceilings, clearing the grounds, sheet-rocking, cleaning and staining and polishing concrete floors, installing windows, painting and more.
But in April 2021, while working on facility’s roof, Pastor Hugo fell 16 feet through an opening onto the concrete floor and died instantly. Only 58, he left behind Eunice, seven young adult children, a grieving congregation — and the fledgling Border Perspective ministry where Hugo had served as primary border host and ministry partner.
In the days following, all seven children and Eunice began to grasp God was calling them to pick up and carry Hugo’s torch to continue God’s vision and to lead the congregation and international border ministry.
Yonathan took on greater leadership responsibilities for the ministry, Jennifer quit her position overseeing over a hundred Salvation Army offices in Texas to become Border Perspective’s regional director, and other siblings and church members stepped in to support the church and ministry.
Meanwhile, donations and labor continued to pour in to complete their new ministry site. And over the past two years the number of service-learning participants increased significantly along with new partnerships, helping the ministry serve even more families with a message of hope in Christ.
We hope many evangelical pastors and leaders will be able to visit the border with the help of ministries like Border Perspective. We want the larger story of the gospel to inform our conversations — beyond what we hear from the media or politicians. We want to see God do what only he can do, as we learn more about the confounding, challenging and hopeful complexities of immigration at the border, and the blessing immigrants can bring to the Church and our nation. We also want to better serve and support border ministries and discover ways to care for the needs of immigrants in our own communities.Read the next article
Responding to Migrant Needs
With so many people and needs at our border, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Steve Eng, NAE advocacy director, offers four ideas for us to consider.Get Started