The partnership of Glen Ellyn Bible Church (GEBC) in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with a church in La Paz, Baja, Mexico, has been of mutual benefit to both churches. TEAM helped us first connect with the La Paz de Cristo church and El Camino Ranch eight years ago.
Then a church of about 750 adults, we were looking for a place to send a team of adults on a short-term trip. What we had in mind was a place where we could have sustained involvement over a period of years, building relationships with both the nationals and the missionaries, having an impact that would outlive our brief time there on each trip.
Since TEAM is networked with churches all around the world, we asked Jim Rathbun, TEAM's Church Connections Facilitator, and one of our church elders, where we could go. Jim proposed several options to us, and we seized upon La Paz. Our first trip was a real hit. (It didn’t hurt that, with great missionary sacrifice, we left the frigid winter temperatures of Illinois in February for the sunny climate of Mexico!) We worked to refurbish a rented apartment used as a shelter for abused women and their children. That included plumbing and electrical projects, painting, sewing, and decorating the stark facility to make it a warm home for those hurting women and young children. We also helped with remodeling projects for the church building. Two years later, GEBC went back, and my wife was on that trip. Based on her enthusiastic report I went down there myself within a month. That was the first time I can remember thinking that I could picture myself as a missionary! At our next Elders retreat, I proposed that we have a partnership for compassion ministry there in La Paz.
Over the course of our partnership, what began with La Paz de Cristo ("The Peace of Christ" – the name of the church), and the women’s shelter has expanded to El Faro ("The Lighthouse" – a daughter church), El Camino Ranch, and local outreach in a barrio (neighborhood) devastated by drugs and alcohol. Consistent with our vision to be a church that sends out disciples, we have found ample opportunity to engage in the growing ranch ministry by deploying both youth and adults. Over the past years, we have sent six larger teams of 15 to 25 people including adults, a men’s work team, and youth teams. We even had an opportunity to connect professionals from our church, like a counselor and an architect – both of whom have had on-going ministry over the years. Some of the most gratifying aspects of our long-term partnership have been to see the children of those adults who went on our first trip now going themselves!
Lives in our own congregation have been transformed as we have engaged in this ministry. For several men, their marriage and family dynamics have been re-energized through the life-transforming effects of their experience. One man was so moved by the plight of the children with violent alcoholic and drug-addicted fathers that he and his wife recently adopted a young boy from another country in order to invest in the lives of orphans. Three of our young people from our youth trip returned the following summer as interns. They and other interns have been able to participate for two to three months alongside young Mexican interns from the La Paz de Cristo church-based theological education program.
Our partnership has also equipped our congregation to grow in the grace of giving. Several individuals have begun to invest in financial support of the long-term missionaries there, and our church budget reflects an annual contribution of $5,000 to the ministry in La Paz. One year, God blessed our congregation’s giving so much that at year-end, we ended up exceeding budget by more than $52,000! Our Elders determined to give that as a special gift for the purchase of property for the La Paz women’s shelter. It has been an encouragement to me as pastor to watch our congregation become better stewards of God’s resources for global Kingdom purposes.
One of the most significant outcomes for our church was the realization that we have hurting people right in our own neighborhood to whom we can reach out. Formal partnerships with two local compassion outreach ministries were formed as we began to realize that we didn’t have to go to Mexico to reach out to hurting and needy people. They are right in our own community – whether refugees from other nations or those native to our suburbs! In that sense, it is not just that we have served the church in La Paz, but they have served us! I would definitely recommend that you look into this kind of reciprocal partnership for your church!
Senior Pastor, Glen Ellyn Bible Church
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2012]Download This Issue of TEAMHorizons