Can a church integrate local missions, international missions, and their own congregation’s spiritual growth? In the mountain town of Cedar Crest, New Mexico, that is exactly what’s happening. Mountain Christian Church (MCC) has been partnering with Food for the Hungry (FH) in Bolivia since 2009. But MCC’s missions philosophy does not only focus on their international impact. Marvin Procter, ministry leader at MCC, said that they are seeing transformation at home too.
Marvin has been leading MCC’s partnership with Bolivia since the beginning. He said that the focus on partnering in one community has made a difference in the impact they have been able to witness.
“We really feel like the members of the community in Bolivia are part of our family, our church,” MCC leader Marvin Procter said.
“Returning to the same community again and again has allowed us to see God’s restoration in members of the community,” said Marvin. “We would miss that in a ‘one and done’ mission trip. We really feel like the members of the community in Bolivia are part of our family, our church. After every trip members of MCC will ask about specific people in Bolivia they have met. The folks in Bolivia do the same thing when we are there.”
Some of the same church members have visited Bolivia on multiple trips. They have discovered a calling on their lives to make long-term career and lifestyle choices. One team member, Sami, is pursuing a medical degree.
“Sami wants to be a medical missionary,” Marvin explained. “She cites the FH trips as the reason she’s listened to God’s call to be a missionary.”
Another young adult, Chloe, is majoring in Family Studies and Counseling at University of New Mexico. She credits her experiences in Bolivia for her desire to minister to children and families.
A third team member, Stephanie, decided to become a long-term missionary after experiencing trips to Bolivia. She is currently serving in Southeast Asia.
Marvin explained that the relationship between MCC and Bolivia has also impacted the way the church does local ministry. They have adopted Food for the Hungry’s emphasis on personal relationships.
“We are much more relational in meeting physical needs in our community,” Marvin explained. “One ministry that supplies firewood to the needy has a component that connects with those we work with to help them restore the broken relationships in their lives.”
Some of the same church members have visited Bolivia on multiple trips. They have discovered a calling on their lives to make long-term career and lifestyle choices.
Child sponsorship allows MCC members to communicate with, support, and pray for people in their Bolivian partner community on a daily basis. Again, Marvin sees the value of child sponsorship as tying back to relationships.
Child sponsorship allows MCC members to communicate with, support, and pray for people in their Bolivian partner community on a daily basis.
“The FH sponsorship model is much more relational than others,” he said. He explained that letter writing is a way for child sponsors to connect with their sponsored children, even if they do not participate in mission trips.
MCC has also invited Food for the Hungry staff members from Bolivia to visit their church. Marvin has shared the church’s experiences on a national webinar for church leaders. Recently, he visited the Food for the Hungry Global Service Center in Phoenix, Ariz. and presented to staff on the impact the partnership has had both on MCC and in Bolivia.
Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello
In 2015, Food for the Hungry and MCC exited the community where they had partnered since 2009. Although saying goodbye was bittersweet, it was a celebration that the community was now self-sustaining in their own development. They no longer needed outside help in order to overcome poverty.
MCC, however, did not pause in their commitment to Bolivia. At the same time they were saying goodbye to one community, they said hello to another Bolivian community that was just beginning to work with Food for the Hungry.
Marvin envisions ways to continue growing MCC’s involvement with Bolivia. “There is a goal to increase our congregation’s connection to the community,” he said. “We want to find ways to increase the engagement among those who have not made the trip. The goal is to increase letter writing and prayer between MCC members and their sponsored children, the staff, etc. And we want to get more and more MCC people on the trips.”