MCALLEN—More than 200 participants at the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting ventured out of the McAllen Convention Center to pray for people in need, care for the hungry and share the hope of Christ.
Convention planners offered local missions opportunities during the meeting to allow visitors and messengers from around the state to participate in sharing the gospel in the Valley and explore new ministry partnerships.
“In coming to the Valley, it was very important that we send a positive message to this part of the state, that we are here to make a difference and to partner with them to reach this area with the hope of Christ,” said BGCT President David Lowrie.
“Since we are focusing on Hope 1:8, we hope our churches would become more active in the Valley. We hope this would be a good time to go out and build some relationships so that we can continue in the future.”
One of the largest efforts of the morning was No Child Goes Without, a partnership with Angel Food Ministries to feed about 1,700 children for a month through food boxes. BGCT Community Care ministries gathered $24,000 through donations to fund the food box project.
A group of convention participants and local organizers traveled to Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, where pallet loaders, SUVs and trailers were abuzz as boxes of nonperishable foods were stuffed with multimedia gospel compact discs and packed for delivery.
“There’s Beanie Weenies, granola bars, cereal bowls and shelf-stable milk,” said Pamela Barnett, one of Angel Food Ministries’ territory managers for Texas. “What you’re doing will make a lasting impact. We’re not just giving a box of food to some children. We’re giving the love of Christ to them.”
Volunteers began by praying over the boxes, as well as the churches who minister to the elementary schools served by the No Child Goes Without effort. Then the 1,750 boxes were loaded into vehicles so 11 Rio Grande Valley churches could distribute them to 12 low-income schools and colonias. The distribution to school children is the first of its kind for Angel Food Ministries, a nationwide entity that hopes to launch the effort across the country in December.
Jacob West, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Stamford, came out to work for the morning with his wife, Emily.
“I think since I come from a county with so much poverty, I can just imagine the need here on the border,” he said.
Loading boxes with CDs wasn’t the only thing Jeannette Lawrence accomplished Tuesday morning. Lawrence, a member of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, said she also gained a vision about taking the No Child Goes Without effort back home with her. Her church already packs Angel Food boxes monthly for families, but she sees this as a great next step.
“I’ve worked with kids my whole life, and I hate to see them go hungry,” said Lawrence, a retired school counselor. “I think this is a great ministry.”
Another group of 25 people gathered cloth-ing donations and 200 of the Angel Food boxes and delivered them to the Indian Hills colonia near Mercedes, an area filled with shanties—many having tarp roofs, broken windows and dirt floors. Volunteers walked up and down the streets inviting the families to gather for free food and clothing.
Two Christian clowns from Hereford made balloon animals for children, telling Bible stor-ies about their creations in the process. Others led children’s songs in Spanish, further engaging the children in the colonia.
While the two feeding outreach events were taking place, other groups built bookcases for LiteracyConnexus’ Books for the Border minis-try, prayer-walked at the Hidalgo International Bridge to Mexico and participated in ministry vision trips to colonias through Buckner International and River Ministry.
“For me personally, at least in our event, I met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Lowrie said. “By doing work together, I think we built some relationships that we can build on in the future. It strengthens our bond of Baptists. We had people from East Texas, the Metroplex, McAllen and all other parts of the state, and it was almost like a mission trip experience that was captured in a few hours.”
Those who weren’t able to participate in the projects away from the convention center had an opportunity to participate in an Acts 1:8 prayer experience as well as visit a missions fair to see ways they can get connected with Valley ministries, Church2Church partnerships and outreach projects through Texas Baptists’ efforts around the world.
“As far as those who participated in the mission projects, I gather that it changed a lot of perceptions of the significant need here, and it put a face to the need,” Lowrie said.
“It’s one thing to talk about statistics, but when you drive through a colonia and stand on the international bridge and pray for the people here, it changes the way you see the need here.”
As Texas Baptists from other parts of the state experienced a little of what life is like for many in the Valley, Steve Martinez, pastor of the Church of Acts in Elsa, said he hopes they were affected by what they saw and won’t leave the Valley the same, now having a desire to partner with ministries in the region.
“We just want people from up north to see what’s going on here,” Martinez said. “We want them to have an opportunity to see the need. Many churches want to go to Mexico to help, but there is such a need here in the colonias. Here in South Texas, so many people need Jesus.”