Northwest and Michigan Baptists learn about River Ministry

Vanessa Quintanilla-Lerma, River Ministry missionary in McAllen, gives a tour to leaders at the Migrant Respite Center in McAllen. (BGCT Photo)

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McALLEN—Representatives from the Northwest Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of Michigan traveled to McAllen to learn about potential partnerships with Texas Baptists’ River Ministry.

During the three-day trip in early September, the ministers and convention staff met with River Ministry missionaries, toured unincorporated colonias outside of Edinburg and visited the Migrant Respite Center in McAllen.

Several individuals also traveled into Reynosa, Mexico, to view the ministry to migrants and refugees there. Thirteen River Ministry missionaries attended the meeting and shared stories of their ongoing ministries and ways churches could join in the work in Texas and Mexico.

“It’s such a joy to have our partners from the Northwest and Michigan to come here to work with us along the river,” said Tom Howe, Texas Baptists’ associate director of missions and director of church starting. “This is truly a reciprocal partnership where we can each share our strengths.”

Visitors hear from River Ministry missionaries

River Ministry missionaries detailed their work in church planting, partnerships with local schools, feeding ministries, medical and dental work, training for church leaders and many other ministries. Each missionary partners with local churches in ongoing ministry and also coordinates service opportunities for volunteer mission teams to support the local work.

“I was moved by the passion, dedication and creativity of the River Ministry missionaries to share Christ,” said Mike Durbin, state evangelism director for Michigan Baptists. “Love for Christ is clearly on display.”

Durbin traveled with several others into Reynosa to visit the Senda de Vida migrant shelter, which is equipped to care for about 250 migrants, but currently cares for more than 450. River Ministry Director Daniel Rangel and missionary Pedro Munoz guided the visitors around the shelter so they could witness first-hand both the humanitarian needs and opportunities to serve.

“Our visit to the shelter in Mexico demonstrated the incredible mission team opportunities that exist,” Durbin said. “Teams could help with family festivals, job training, sports clinics, crafts, worship, Bible study and so many other ways.”

Sue Hodnett, executive director of Michigan Woman’s Missionary Union, was inspired by the passion and love she saw through the River Ministry missionaries.

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“The needs along the border are so great and opportunities to minister are limitless,” Hodnett said. “It was eye-opening to see that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of these families seeking refuge.”

Three-year partnership

Guillermo Lozano (3rd from left), River Ministry missionary in Matamoros, Mexico, visits with Baptists from the Northwest—John Souza (left), student ministries pastor at Soundside Church in Tacoma, Wash.; Kevin Perry (2nd from left), youth pastor at LifeWay Church in Federal Way, Wash.; and Tim Howe, church planting catalyst for the Northwest Baptist Convention. (BGCT Photo)

Tim Howe, church planting catalyst for the Northwest Baptist Convention, met Abraham Cervantes, who serves as a River Ministry missionary in Monterrey, Mexico.

“His approach to ministry and scope of the work seems to be something which inspired me,” Howe said. “He has a clear sense of what his ministry should be and is moving along several fronts to accomplish his goals.”

In the fall of 2018, Texas Baptists announced new three-year partnerships with both the Northwest and Michigan state conventions, with plans to assist their church planting and mission strategies. The partnerships are reciprocal, with Texas Baptists traveling to the two areas to provide training events and support, and Northwest and Michigan Baptists also coming to Texas to help with mission efforts along the Texas/Mexico border.

“The Northwest Baptist Convention has already been greatly blessed by the partnership through vision tours and Texas Baptists churches partnering with our churches,” Tim Howe said. “An important aspect of this partnership is simply having other churches and ministries aware of and praying for you. Our churches and church plants have an additional sense of this emotional support as a result of the partnership.”

After returning home, visiting representatives from both conventions made plans to share stories with convention leaders and local churches for potential mission partnerships. Howe noted Northwest Baptists have at least three trips planned for 2020 to send teams to serve alongside River Ministry missionaries.

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