In 2011, Marc Daniels was praying for the Lord to reveal His plan for his church’s missions program. As the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Avondale, Louisiana, Marc had been on mission trips. He struggled to find the right fit for his church’s capacity.
God answered Marc’s prayer by putting a Food for the Hungry (FH) staff person in his path, and what followed was a journey of change for the church.
After a God-appointed conversation at a pastors conference, Marc Daniels and his church developed a deep partnership with Janlay, Guatemala.
A Conference Encounter
Marc and the church council prayed about their missions program for two years. Marc found the answer when he attended the Desiring God Pastors Conference in January 2011. One morning at the conference, he was specifically asking God to reveal His plan.
“Later that morning, I passed by the FH booth on the way to the booth next door,” Marc recounted. “Dick Mulhern (an FH staff person) basically grabbed me and steered me toward the FH booth. I was irritated with him since I really don’t enjoy being accosted at presenter booths, but something told me to listen to what he had to say. Dick gave me a quick overview of FH and what their ministry philosophy is, and I found myself wondering if this was the Lord’s answer to our prayer.”
After the conference, Marc decided to participate in a pastor trip to Guatemala with FH. On that trip, said Marc, “the Lord made it clear that this was where our church was supposed to be.”
Research and Prayer
To decide on a partnership, Marc and his church council spent time in prayer and research. They found a few characteristics that convinced them that a partnership with FH was the next step for their church.
1. Ministry Philosophy
“First, we truly believe in the ministry philosophy of investing in an entire community and not just in single children and their families,” Marc explained. “Our church believes in community transformation and all our ministries in our own neighborhood reflect this approach. That FH practiced what we already believed in was very exciting to us.”
2. Cost Effectiveness
Marc found that FH’s model of partnership, which includes child sponsorship as the year-round source of funding for community development, was workable for the church’s budget. “We’re a small, poor church and we just can’t afford to partner with many organizations in missions,” he said. “We work hard to raise our support, and we needed to be able to stretch our money as far as it could go.”
3. Financial Accountability
“We checked out FH using all the ratings systems we could find and were impressed by the percentage of income that goes directly into the field,” Marc commented. “ The organization is well run and shows good stewardship of their resources.”
On mission trips with FH, visiting team members work hand-in-hand with local community members.
A Thriving Partnership
Since 2011, First Baptist Church of Avondale has partnered with FH in Janlay, Guatemala. They have joined with two other churches to share the partnership.
“A deep relationship has formed between our churches,” Marc said. “Our three churches have sponsored many children along the way and it is an absolute joy to be able to visit those children each year, get to know their families and visit their homes. For the sponsors who don’t get to go on the trips, we take photos and videos of their sponsored children and our visits. These sponsors truly feel like they get to be a part of their child’s life and pray for them and their families regularly. It has made the annual mission trip something very intimate for our church members and has given it an importance churchwide that other trips simply don’t have.”
Marc commented that bringing Scripture to Janlay has been one of the most exciting parts of the partnership. One of the greatest things we’ve been able to do in the village is to bring the Word of God. “We’ve donated Spanish Bibles to the elementary school, which they use in weekly Bible readings to the students,” he said. “We’ve also tried to give the Pastors the resources they need to be effective in the Pulpit. One year, we were able to buy some inexpensive used laptops that we loaded with a free Bible software program. It has hundreds of resources, and we were able to train the Pastors how to use the program. Although they have no theological training, now they at least have some tools to be able to rightly divide the Word for their congregants.”
Everyone in the church participates in the partnership, even those who can’t go on a missions trip, by sponsoring children, helping to fundraise and supporting the community in prayer.
Team members have opportunities to visit the homes of local community members. On last year’s trip, team members saw the personal impact of water filters they had donated.
Transformation at Home
After five years of partnership, Marc has seen the lifestyle of missions make a difference on his own family. Through multiple trips to Guatemala, Marc’s son has sensed the Lord’s call to career missions, and is now preparing for his next steps.
Marc’s daughter, age 19, has also been deeply impacted. “Every year she has an incredible experience with the Lord while on the trip,” Marc explained. “Each year she questions whether she should go. Her walk with the Lord is often at a crawl. But, once she steps foot on the Guatemalan soil, away from her cell phone and all the distractions of life, she comes alive with the Spirit of God! It’s one of the most amazing things to witness, year after year, and I thank the Lord for providing FH and the chance for her to meet with God in this way.”
Like Marc, are you asking God about His plans for your church’s missions program? Consider joining a pastors trip or inviting a conversation with an FH staff member. You can fill out our contact form to learn more today!