PLYMOUTH, MI – Her story was gripping. The country where she was born and raised had entered into a crisis that continues to this day. She was near the end of studies in college and facing forced service in the military - a situation that for her was untenable. This woman in her early 20’s told how she waited for the right moment and fled - fled everything for Argentina with only $300 in her pockets. I was moved by the inner strength she possessed to make such a courageous decision. Her words only faltered when she shared how difficult it was to leave her family, especially her mother behind.
She started her new life. Starting over in a new country is filled with challenges, but she was thriving in her adopted homeland. She was doing so well that she managed to save enough money to get her mother to move in with her. Her new life was taking shape, but things started to change after a chance encounter on a bus. She met a man who offered her a job. It sounded interesting so she shared her resume and contact information with him.
A pleasant first encounter quickly turned sour. The phone calls started immediately, and grew in frequency and intensity. He started to stalk her and followed her on the bus to work. She realized that she had made an incredible mistake. As she shared, my mind feared that the story was heading toward human trafficking. She knew her situation was precarious, and made the decision to flee again. She got on the metro and waited until the last possible moment. She stepped out and the door closed before he could follow.
We met her in Mexico, just across the Texas border. She has a valid passport and is following the process to present her case to legally immigrate to the United States. Her story was riveting to hear. Two things stood out to me as she shared. First, this intelligent, courageous, and hard working woman will be an incredible addition to any country that accepts her. Second, I am extremely grateful to the brothers and sisters in Christ in the River Ministry who are meeting needs in the name of Christ.
Bob Wood, Sue Hodnett, David Roberts and I were able to see the River Ministry firsthand during a vision tour in the border town of McAllen, Texas. Because the River Ministry missionaries were gathering for their annual meeting, we were able to meet them and hear about their work. We were inspired by their passion, dedication, and creativity to serve people and share Christ. Doctors, dentists, pastors, church planters, and others shared how lives were being touched by Christ.
About our time in Texas, Sue Hodnett shares: “The needs are so great and opportunities to minister are limitless. It was enlightening to see that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of these families seeking refuge. From the news stories reported, it seemed as if coming to help would be met with great difficulties and challenges. I don’t see that as the case. There are many pipelines to serving, and it is a very organized ministry.”
Bob Wood writes, “The ministry at Senda la Vida stands out to me. The director left a profitable job in Plano, Texas, and returned to Mexico to minister to the needs of migrants. Senda la Vida has a compound where they provide a clean and safe place to live and sleep, regular meals, and a daily worship service where they can hear the Gospel. They minister to people in transition who have nowhere to live, but on the streets. There are many who are awaiting immigration hearings in the U.S., or who have been deported from the U.S. While we were there, we met people from Venezuela, Cuba, and Central America.
David Roberts challenges Michigan Baptists to: “Pray about whether God would want you to be on a team going down there to do things such as medical clinics, feeding ministry, first aid training, evangelism, construction, VBS, sports camps, church leadership training, etc. Consider whether you would go together as a group from your church, association, or go with a group made up of Baptists from all over Michigan.
There is a huge need there providing almost limitless opportunities for service. Texas Baptists desire for us to serve alongside them, to learn from each other so that, by working together, God will open doors and amplify and multiply the work He is already doing there.”
I am grateful that this team and I had the opportunity to see this incredible ministry and the needs. There are multiple ways Michigan Baptists can serve Christ through the River Ministry. Two areas stood out to me; the Colonias and the shelters. Colonias are communities, often on the edge of cities, where hundreds and sometimes thousands of people live. As we drove by row after row of houses, the need for churches to proclaim the Gospel was obvious. Numerous opportunities exist for Michigan Baptists to partner with church planters as they start new churches, and with pastors to strengthen existing churches. The shelters or Respite Centers meet the needs of people in transition. We discovered many ways for mission teams to make a difference: Family festivals, job training, soccer tournaments, crafts, and worship services. The opportunities are endless.
If your church is looking for a great place to serve people and share Christ, contact any member of our team. This is an excellent mission opportunity and is part of our partnership with Texas Baptists.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.