MONTERREY, Mexico — Pastor Andres Garza had told the American evangelicals to stay away from his troubled city. The drug war made it too difficult to guarantee their safety.

But now they were back, in their golf shirts and sensible shoes and halting Spanish, happily milling around Monterrey’s new headquarters for evangelical Presbyterians, [established by the PCA’s Mission to the World].

Garza smiled at his old friends. Al Couch, 81, a retired pharmaceutical salesman from Nashville, had come here so many times in the past that he’d earned the nickname “Monterrey Jack.” But this was his first time back since Garza had warned the Americans early last year that the violence had grown too intense.

Retired [PCA] pastor Rod Whited had made the trip from Jacksonville, Fla. When his church learned it was unsafe to send church groups across the border, it hosted a “reverse mission,” welcoming Mexican teenagers to the U.S.

A pastor from Guadalajara led a prayer over the coffee and chilaquiles. The visitors, about 15 of them, dug into breakfast in the small courtyard, chatting with a few missionaries and Mexican preachers, before touring the city.

The way Garza saw it, the Americans’ return on this September weekend was part of an epic spiritual battle for a city, like Babylon, that had fallen into decadence and was in need of salvation. There was also a little of Jesus’ story in their visit.

“They came from a very secure place, the way Jesus came from heaven, to a place that isn’t very secure,” he said — and they had come to save souls.

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