By George Henson
Baptist churches and ministries recently joined forces to provide food and Christmas spirit to impoverished families along the U.S.-Mexico border. Their goal: to prevent as much hunger and despair as possible among the region’s adults and children facing hardship as Dec. 25 approached.
“I don’t care how much effort you have to put in it, it makes it all worth it to see the gratitude and the need of the people you are helping,” said Perry Rollins, a member of Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas. Rollins also runs a ministry providing venison for a number of Mexican orphanages.
The “Taking Christmas to the Border” mission trip was waged by several Concho Valley Baptist Association churches, along with a congregation from Lubbock, Texas. Their focus was on Del Rio and Eagle Pass on the Rio Grande.
The 62-member mission team partnered with La Esperanza Community Church in Del Rio, where Jim Wilson is pastor, and First Baptist Church in Eagle Pass, where Jeff Oliver is pastor. In Del Rio, the group lodged in dorms furnished by First Baptist Church.
They distributed food — about 1,800 canned goods, 1,000 pounds of flour and 800 pounds of sugar and miscellaneous items — donated by Concho Valley supporters.
The group also delivered about 800 pounds of ground venison and 200 pounds of ground zebra. Jim Roche, one of the leaders of the mission group from Glen Meadows Baptist Church, is a hunting guide and trophy hunters donated the meat.
Many of those hunters from around the country not only donated venison, but also provided money to pay the way of people who wanted to go on the mission trip but could not afford it.
Director of missions Jeff Box ground some of the meat.
“It’s exciting to see them doing things like this,” said Box. “Our goal for the association is all of us coming together and joining hands where we can to build the kingdom.”
The team also held a concert, cookout and a gospel crusade twice in Del Rio — at the city amphitheater in the afternoon and at La Esperanza that evening — and again Sunday at a block party in Eagle Pass.
Organizers wanted to provide food “and at the same time, give them the gospel, give them some hope,” said Adam Rodriguez, youth minister at Oasis Baptist Church in San Angelo. They wanted to let “them know that people care and that there is a church where they live that wants to help them.”
All remaining food was donated to Loaves and Fishes Food Bank directed by Gisela Lenz, which feeds more than 1,500 families a month.
The Texas Baptist Men disaster relief food service unit in San Angelo provided all the paper goods for the cookouts, as well as the use of their trailer and a case of chili for hot dogs.
Randy Balderaz led a group of university students from Alliance Baptist Church in Lubbock to provide the contemporary music concert. Youth team members also painted faces, incorporating a gospel witness to their artwork.
The group delivered 1,000 Bibles — 400 of them in Spanish.
They brought toys for the children.
“Our purpose is to share the true meaning of Christmas,” Roche said.
Scheduling the events at the churches was intentional, he added. “Hopefully, it will also give the churches a little bump,” Roche said.
Organizers also expected the trip to make an impact on those who ministered, he added.
“We’re so blessed that we don’t know what it is to be hungry,” Roche said. “You go down there, and you will see the face of hunger. You will see the faces of children who are scared because they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.”
Scott Weddell, a deacon at Water Valley Baptist Church in Water Valley, agrees. His great-niece recently was baptized, and he saw transformation begin when she served in the ministry last year. The first year they went to the border, only three volunteers from his church — he, his wife and great-niece — participated. This year, eight from the congregation of about 30 planned to go.