U.S. Missionary Dies after Shooting in Mexico

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According to the McAllen Monitor, a missionary from a Pennsylvania church was shot in Mexico Wednesday. The woman, Nancy Davis, 59, was driven to the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge by her husband late Wednesday morning. According to the Monitor, the truck had been “riddled with bullets” from an apparent attack. An ambulance took her from the international bridge to a local U.S. hospital.  Davis died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Davis’ church Beavertown God’s Missionary Church sent a message on Twitter this afternoon with the following: “Long time missionary Nancy Davis has gone to Heaven.  Serving in that country for over 35 years, she has now given her very life for her people.  Our prayers and sympathy to her husband, Sam, and to all her family at this tragic loss.”

Not all of the details of this tragic story have emerged yet. And it’s still not known whether the shooting incident occurred in Reynosa or possibly neighboring Rio Bravo or another small town in Tamaulipas. (Update) The Pharr Police report that the shooting happened on the highway near San Fernando, about 70 miles south of Reynosa. San Fernando has been plagued with cartel violence in the past year including the massacre of 72 migrants in August by the Zeta cartel. Also, a UT Brownsville student was killed on this highway during an alleged robbery on the bus he was riding. Several Mexican motorists have also reported having their SUVs and trucks stolen at gunpoint near San Fernando. According to the police, armed gunmen attempted to stop Nancy Davis and her husband on the highway. When they kept driving, the gunmen opened fire hitting Nancy Davis in the head. The Monitor has the full police press release here.

I have been afraid that something like this might happen. In the last year, I have received phone calls from time to time from people in the interior of the United States wanting to do missionary work on the Mexican side of the border. They always ask whether I think it’s safe to go to Reynosa, Rio Bravo or other small towns in Tamaulipas to do volunteer work. For decades church volunteers and missionaries have been visiting Mexican border cities to build orphanages, homes and to donate food and provide other much needed services. Often they bring their teenage children with them to volunteer as well. These volunteers contribute wonderful and valuable services to these communities. In return they also gain meaningful life experiences and make lasting friendships with people in the communities where they are working.

When they ask me whether they should go, I always tell them I am by no means a security expert, and I only have my own experiences to draw upon from visiting and working in Tamaulipas. The last time I was there was in August. The gist of my response is usually “wait until things get better.”  Things are too unpredictable right now.  When I was in Tamaulipas the cartels had checkpoints at the entrances of many of the cities. Also, there were lookouts for the cartels everywhere in Reynosa. Some churches have left it up to the volunteers to decide whether to make the trip. These volunteers feel the calling to go because as Mexico reels from the economic crisis and the devastating cartel violence these communities need their help now more than ever. But should they take that risk? It’s a tough choice for a person of deep faith to make.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.