Four Life-Changing Days in the Valley
Bishop Janice Huie, the TAC Cabinet and Provisional Elders headed to the border this month to minister in community in the 'colonias' within the desolate county of Hidalgo. Several participants reflect on this life-changing time together.
Other conference leaders may spend a day in ministry together, but the Texas Conference is possibly the only one with a leadership group that devotes four+ days in service together. For the 4th consecutive year, dozens of our servant leaders traveled to the south Texas border to build relationships and buildings with eternal impact. Three teams: ministering in three homes that would not even qualify as a shack in most people’s estimations.
Reflections from Lay Leader Stephanie Griffin: Team 3
How do you get people involved in mission? It was a question I asked Reverend Justin Coleman two years ago and his reply has settled in my brain and heart since then. He said, “I believe that people get involved in mission when they have experienced the pain or they get so close to the pain that it breaks their hearts.” This week I watched as God broke the hearts of a team of ordination candidates and members of the Cabinet of the Texas Annual Conference to minister to Hidalgo County.
My team drove up to a structure that was a jigsaw puzzle of chipboard with gapping holes (where windows and doors should go) leaving the family open to the elements and the insects. We were stunned by the amount of work needed, considering we had only three days and a handful of people with limited skills. Then Lydia and Raul greeted us with the youngest of their five children, it was obvious they were excited, hopeful, and ready to go. Lead by Curtis Matthys and Drew Weber, the team went to work. Our team member Ingrid Ackers started to speak with Lydia in her own language and the relational connection was solidified. By the end of the first day, we had two windows, two doors, and the siding started across the front of the house.
Then it happened. The big yellow school bus drove up and we could hear the squeals and excited voices of four elated children before they piled off to run into our arms with huge smiles and laughter. That was the day I saw Jesus in the faces of those precious children. The team never imagined that we would get this house to a state that would protect these children from the elements but we pressed on, and did not count on God giving the family’s dad, Raul, the skills to help us out. It was like the shoemaker and the elf. We would leave the site in the evening and the next morning we would return to find siding finished or a window framed out. On Saturday morning, the team climbed on the van ready to finish as much as we could. As we drove up, the children met us like a swarm of bees -- wanting to paint. Tori Butler and Drew put rollers in their hands and helped them walk around the house painting it a brilliant “robin’s egg” blue. No other color would work for this house. It was the color of hope, the color of life, the color that united a team of minimally skilled workers with heart, to a family that believed their life was getting better. When we left, the little house looked like a home surrounded by flowers and painted with love.
What I learned in Mission, TX was that four walls, two doors, three windows, siding, and a ridge cap on a tin roof does not make a home. Jesus made that “home” come to be with the love of a momma and poppa who live with hope of a future for their five children and a team from the Texas Annual Conference who fell in love with this family. We had our hearts broken for what breaks His -- and it was life- changing.
All Were Touched
“Our team’s homeowner was a mother of two whose husband works out of the home for 6-8 months at a time as a migrant worker. We were blessed to be a blessing to her and I pray that the improvements that we made to her home will bring her some comfort and safety. Carmen is a courageous woman doing all she can to live a simple righteous life,” notes Rev. Louis Ramirez, Cedar Bayou Grace, Baytown.
“We saw poverty that is almost unimaginable,” notes TAC Missional Excellence Director Rev. Diane McGehee. “Water is such a luxury there, so you can imagine the scene we were blessed to observe when one of our families put water in a construction cone and made a makeshift bathtub for her 4-year-old.”
Among Diane’s favorite moments:
· “the popsicle party that we had with the area children”
· “seeing several of our team members playing drums and singing special songs during worship time with the community”
· “being the recipient of a fiesta meal prepared by the community as a thank you”
· “reconnecting with former families we had worked with in previous visits”
· “standing along the border wall on the Rio Grande listening to verses in Matthew that remind us that God is calling us to care for the poor among us”
Adds Southwest District Superintendent Jay Jackson, “I found the trip to be an eye-opening experience. I had no idea of how difficult life was for so many in the valley. I was equally impressed with the faithful response of so many who recognize the face of God in the countless lives of those struggling for a better life in this part of our world. “