May 31st, 2012 at 6:00 am
When major violence began to appear about three years ago along the Texas/Mexico border due to rivaling drug cartels, several Texas Baptist churches resolved to stand next to their partnership churches in Juarez, Piedras Negras and Ciudad Victoria. They had committed to walk beside these churches in their ministry, and the new circumstances would not change this.
Two of these churches, First Baptist Church in Arlington and Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, began partnerships with Mexican pastors and churches along the border through the Texas Baptists River Ministry office more than a decade ago. Both churches said their missions philosophy is a church-based partnership where they as a church connect with a Mexican church and both then work together to encourage each other and further the gospel in that Mexico community.
From the beginning of the partnership for Lake Pointe Church, they took direction from the local pastor on how they could further the efforts there and when they should bring mission teams to help. Much of the partnership has been about leadership training, Vacation Bible School, construction efforts, a Christmas outreach program and compassion ministry through dental, wheelchair and eyeglass clinics. Families, students, adults and medical professionals have participated in the mission partnership since its beginning.
When the violence spiked, not much changed in the partnership. Lake Pointe still took direction from the pastors on when to come and when not to come and on what would be helpful for the partnership.
“There has never been any question whether we would stay partnering with the church or not. That was never a question. Even if we couldn’t go (due to violence), they would remain our church partner,” said Steve Radney, pastor of mission operations at Lake Pointe Church.
The Mexican pastors began to say that mission teams coming into Mexico should consist of adults and medical professionals rather than families with young children or students and that they should stay in Texas each night. Lake Pointe then looked at additional partnerships in the Texas Valley where families could participate, and two new partnerships were started with Baptist churches in Elsa and Brownsville.
“As far as the two Mexico partners, we really haven’t changed a whole lot there,” Radney said. “It’s more specialty teams now. We do compassion ministry when we go. That consists of dental, wheel chairs and eyeglasses. We’ll take somewhere between 20-25 people, but it’s a very specialized group of people and a very seasoned group of people.”
Also through the partnerships, the Lake Pointe missions office has stayed in contact with each of the partnership churches a few times a month, checking on the churched and getting a list of prayer requests that Lake Pointe can lift up to the Lord.
In 2012, Lake Pointe will send more than 200 people on 11 trips to help with the partnerships in the Valley. They also will send 100 people on eight trips to help with the two partnerships in Peidras Negras and Ciudad Victoria.
“Praise the Lord, we have been able to continue working in the midst of all this crisis down there,” Radney said.
Because partnerships also have been key for FBC Arlington, their Mexico partnerships have consisted of sending mission teams when possible, consistently praying for the partnership church, staying in contact monthly and sending supplies when needed.
The church has partnered with a pastor and Mexico church in Juarez for many years. So when the violence peaked in Juarez three years ago and the local pastor said that it was not safe to bring mission teams for a time, they listened. But this did not mean the end of their partnership.
FBC Arlington continued to pray for the Juarez church, connecting with them a couple of times a month and sending food, clothes and other support when needed. Four men in the church even came forward to say that they felt called individually to go into Juarez to check on the pastors and to help in their ministry efforts during short-term mission trips.
Because the church still wanted to have a place where families and children could serve along the border, FBC Arlington also began a partnership with a church in Brownsville. Now the church takes trips there several times a year to host Vacation Bible School and to help with other outreach efforts with the partnership church.
Though some of the methods have changed through the years of violence, the partnerships remain strong and there is no thought on ending these efforts anytime soon. Both Lake Point Church and FBC Arlington are committed to ministering beside their partnership churches during safety and unrest because that is what the Lord has called them to do – to faithfully serve Him in these areas.
“I would really encourage churches to consider long-term church partnership. They can go deeper with the churches they are partnering with. Even in the midst of crisis they can be there. That indigenous church recognizes that the partner church is praying for them, supporting them and will come when it is possible,” Radney said.
Please pray about ways you and your church could begin a partnership with a church on the Texas/Mexico border. To learn more about partnerships, contact Daniel Rangel in the Texas Baptists River Ministry office – 888-244-9400.