Partnering with Manos Juntas: Mission Focus Adds Vitality

Date Posted: 1/26/2017

Local and global mission involvement invigorates individuals and congregations such as Clear Lake UMC, sharing recent experiences with Manos Juntas in Mexico.
Mindy Ridley’s first trip to Mexico was unforgettable. “Our newly-formed group of 11 disciples headed for Manos Juntas VIM, Mexico in November,” she shares. “This diverse group attends different United Methodist churches and represented several countries including Columbia, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, and the U.S.  Together we were unified by the power of prayer, a desire to serve, and a goal of extending the hands and feet of Christ.”
Mindy, a nurse, believes the group was united, despite any differences, by the infectious joy of leader, Evis Serrano. “Her nickname became Clicker because everyone clicked with her laughter, love, and contagious smile and each evening she asked where we had seen Jesus as we gathered together to share.”
Evis Serrano, currently serving CrossRoads UMC in community outreach, made the trip a family affair, with her three young adult children assisting in all areas. Shares Evis, “I know many are afraid to go to Mexico these days, but in my heart I know that we must come out of our comfortable life and keep going to the mission field.” Adds Evis, “Oh my goodness, when we had group devotionals and I asked where people were seeing Jesus, the stories were wonderful.”
The teams began their service at Centro Comunitario Vamos Tamaulipas and on the second day they worked at Luz Del Evangelio Rio Bravo Tamaulipas, both sites in two different communities with many needs.  Retired doctor, Jean Ivy, helped set up a clinic and assessed the health care needs of several hundred people of all ages, providing medications as needed and hundreds of healthy kid hygiene bags. As family members waited to be treated by the doctor, the children gathered for VBS activities including a Spanish song and video one of the group members had on her phone called “Tu estas Aqui” by Marcela Gandara. Shares Mindy, “The children gathered closer and closer as they repeatedly pushed the play button to hear the sweet music over and over again. They began to reach out and try to touch Jesus in the video and then started singing the song together as they learned the words by heart.”
Another team of men worked on construction sites and spent a majority of their two days painting. While painting, a local man joined their group and began painting while sharing his testimony. “He shared how prison ministries have been influential in changing his life,” adds Mindy. “This story also became a Jesus moment when we gathered to share at the end of the day.”
After working, the teams broke bread together and enjoyed meals prepared by the hands of the women who work at Manos Juntas. Mindy shares another Jesus moment about meeting a man named Ismael from Ohio. “He came to our hotel with just a small mesh bag holding his few belongings,” she says. “Pastor Willie, the director of Manos Juntos, introduced him to our group and then offered him temporary lodging. Ismael began to eat with us, serve with us, and pray with us as we relaxed in the evenings. We felt the Holy Spirit use us to comfort and encourage Ismael. He began to connect to us, and shared his overwhelming sense of belonging and desperation about our inevitable departure. He did not want us to leave on Sunday. We were able to share that we had the same feeling about each other and our new group. We told him that we had just gotten to know each other on this trip and now we would be separating and going back to our own church homes and different towns. He was in total shock as he thought we were lifelong friends.  Through Ismael and his unexpected arrival during our few days at Manos Juntas, we saw Jesus at work. We welcomed him in our group. He belonged. Ismael completed our group and became the 12th disciple.”
Pastor Willie shared some of his goals with the team, including the completion of a community center in Progresso with an auditorium, schools for learning a trade, and a playground.  The auditorium will sell popcorn and show local productions in which Pastor Willie and his staff can share about Jesus. The community center will be a safe place for families to gather and learn new skills, with a small fee, to help provide opportunities and hope for a better future.
According to Diane McGehee, the Texas Annual Conference Missions Committee has provided a grant to Manos Juntas to finish the community center. “The community center is greatly needed as a safe place for families to gather for recreation and education and even a children’s program with singing, skits and children evangelism activities,” shares Diane. On the first Sunday of each month, they will also offer communion and a special concert open to parents and children.” Other activities will include conferences, concerts, community events like school graduations, government-sponsored cultural activities and others that require the use of an auditorium. According to Diane, the Community Center, is planned to be self-sufficient, as income will be generated by the cafeteria, and other activities.”
Missions Fuels the Vibrant Church
CLUMC’s Rev. Alberto Williams gets more excited about Hispanic ministry following a trip like this. “We have worked as a partner in Manos Juntos for more than eight years and we arrive happy to do whatever they ask us,” he says. “These kinds of experiences unite us, and make us aware of the poverty and need where we can participate in life changing ministry. As a pastor, I am encouraged and blessed to see trips like this give our churches a sense of commitment to making disciples locally and globally. When our people see that we are fulfilling the Great Commission, they will donate, and work, and support more mission activities locally.”
Missions Training This March
The TAC Missions will host its first immersion 50/50 partnership missions training March 28-30 on the U.S./Mexico border.  We are looking for at least one church from each district to send two of their laity for training and to learn about partnering with churches on both sides of the U.S. Mexico border in a 50/50 mission partnership. Representatives will be asked to go back to their local church and share what they have learned and invite the church to consider such a partnership. Cost per individual is $100. The TAC Missions Committee will cover other costs. Contact Ana Robles or Christine Riggle for further information or to apply.