If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Tina Schuler and her family knew the answer was Bolivia, a mountainous country in South America. Why? Because a trip to Bolivia would allow them to meet their sponsored child!
The Schulers’ church, Arizona Community Church (ACC) in Tempe, Ariz., has been developing a relationship with the community of Belen, Bolivia for just over a year. Over 100 children were sponsored in the first weekend when the church shared child sponsorship with their congregation in 2017. The Schuler family sponsored Margarita, now 12, through the church’s partnership.
The ACC team received a warm welcome from their Bolivian friends.
When a family sponsors a child, they initiate a relationship with the child’s entire family. Their monthly or annual donation allows Food for the Hungry (FH) to assist the child’s community to provide food, a better education, clean water and medical treatment. What’s more, when an American church partners with a community, families in that church are sponsoring the neighbors and classmates of one another’s sponsored, children. The relationships forged by church partnerships run deep, both in the American community and the overseas community in which they serve.
The Schuler family found just such a relationship when they sponsored Margarita. “We sponsor a child because God has blessed us to share with others and we have a heart’s desire to give and help when we can and when we are called to,” Tina said.
The Journey of a Lifetime
When ACC invited its members to participate in a mission trip to Bolivia, the whole Schuler family signed up. The team would be fencing and preparing a garden for a family. They’d also be teaching English in the school and connecting with the community’s church. Perhaps most exciting was the opportunity to meet their sponsored children. For the Schulers, this meant that they would have the opportunity to meet Margarita.
On the trip, the Schulers visited Margarita’s home. “We were excited and anxious to begin a more personal relationship with Margarita and her family,” Tina said. “They were all very shy!”
The Schuler family met their sponsored child, Margarita, who treasured the photo book they gave her.
“At first I wondered if she was happy to see us and meet us because it took her awhile to have the courage to come greet us,” Tina explained. “She came over with her sweater covering half of her face, she was so shy and nervous! But, after spending some time together, talking and praying together, she became more relaxed and was smiling from her heart. Margarita is a quiet soul without much to say in words, but so much communicated in her actions and through her eyes.”
The Schulers brought a photo book for Margarita with pictures of their family, their home state of Arizona, and the ocean in California. “The entire time we were there, she clung to that book!” Tina said. “She and her family were very grateful and humble people. Despite their shyness, they were kind and welcomed us into their home.”
Partnership in the Long Term
Now that the Schuler family is back home, they continue to pray for Margarita, her family, and the community. Their donations to child sponsorship ensure that the community is being transformed year-round, not just during the week that ACC visits annually.
Returning to Arizona, the Schulers knew that they wanted to do something more. “As soon as we got home, we sponsored another child!” Tina said. “After making that personal connection we knew we wanted to help support the community more through another sponsored child.”
“With our church being in the ‘Community to Community’ partnership with FH, we will be taking more mission trips to Bolivia so we can continue our personal face to face contacts with the community and our sponsored children. We look forward to meeting our new sponsored child, Edgar, this year in October and seeing Margarita again.”
The team worked with community members to fence and plant a garden.
Advice for Church Leaders
For churches considering a partnership with FH, the Schulers shared some advice. “First, pray about where your partnership will be,” Tina said. “I would also encourage the pastor to go on the first trip to experience the work the FH staff does, meet the community leaders, and be a part of the face-to-face connection.”
“Finally, remember that the work FH does is first Biblical,” she said. “If given the opportunity to partner with an organization whose motivation stems from spreading the Gospel, being the hands and feet of Jesus, and offering sustainability to communities, why wouldn’t you want to partner with that?”
Are you ready to start a Community-to-Community partnership at your own church? Contact our Church Engagement team to learn more!