As a young adult, Anna Edgar lived in Peru, serving vulnerable communities with Food for the Hungry. When she returned to the United States and became Director of Missions and Outreach at Emmanuel Community Church (ECC) in Fort Wayne, Ind., she looked for ways to implement the principles she had learned overseas.
“Poverty is spiritual, physical, social and mental,” she explained. “It involves the whole person. We as a church needed to grow in this understanding.”
Edgar looked to Food for the Hungry to develop a partnership with the church. “Food for the Hungry is one of the unique organizations out there that sees development as something much deeper and broader than the physical,” she explained. “This has informed our perspective for ministry.”
ECC had been deeply involved with missions before, but never in a way that emphasized direct exposure to the mission field for church members.
“With other partnerships, we had been honored to serve with them through prayer and financial giving, but we determined it was also important to give our church exposure to another culture and give them an opportunity to enjoy hands-on service along with cross-cultural relationship building.”
In 2010, Food for the Hungry introduced ECC to Nicaragua, a Central American country where the organization had been working since Hurricane Mitch devastated much of the country in 1998. ECC honed in on a cluster of communities where Food for the Hungry had recently begun to work. They began to partner by sending short-term teams and sharing child sponsorship with their congregation. In this way, they were able to engage everyone in their church.
Deepening the Relationship
ECC continued to deepen their relationship with Nicaragua. “Once the majority of the children were sponsored in our three partner communities in Nicaragua, we began emphasizing communication with them,” said Edgar. “We plan letter writing parties each year where we provide various fun supplies for people of all ages to stop by and write a letter to their sponsored child during service times one weekend. This has created a lot of excitement for sponsorship and allows individuals and families to connect while participating in this event.”
ECC created a short film of a man traveling to Nicaragua to meet his sponsored child. The film, “Meeting Angeline,” was shown in a local art museum.
ECC continues to send up to four short-term teams annually to Nicaragua. They also receive visits from Nicaraguan and American staff members of Food for the Hungry who speak during church services and spend time with their members.
Edgar explained that this year, ECC will send a specialty team of 18 women to Nicaragua. “They’ll be teaching women within our three partnering communities how to sew dresses for girls. We are all hopeful that this will help the women provide clothing for their children and also offer them an opportunity to begin small businesses of their own. The women on our team would like to build upon this initial training by teaching the Nicaraguan women how to sew shorts and bags.”
The trip will not only offer an opportunity for ECC women to teach a skill, but also for them to learn. “ We believe we have a lot we can learn from them,” Edgar said. “We see this as a special opportunity to connect with them relationally.”
Thinking about adding a partnership to your church’s missions program? Contact Food for the Hungry to learn more about church partnership opportunities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.