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Staff Spotlight: Maricela

Faith Ministry to me means the hope for tomorrow. Here I find light & love, but above all, I find support based in the love of Jesus Christ.

StaffPhotos_MaricelaSay hola once again to your favorite cook, Maricela! Maricela Cruz Vázquez has been working for Faith Ministry for 16 years. Originally from a small town called Tempoal in Veracruz, a central state along Mexico’s coastline, she moved to Reynosa with her husband 21 years ago to live closer to her mother-in-law. She brought her two children, Naomi and Trinidad, who were four and three at the time, respectively. A neighbor named Veronica told her about Faith Ministry and the home building project, so she went to the ministry’s office to apply for her own home. On June 2, 2000, her home was completed with the support of a church from Indiana, roof and all! By November of that year, at the age of 29, she became an employee of the ministry, working in the kitchen and tending to the needs of the complex grounds.

About her experience with Faith Ministry, Maricela says, “I have met many Americans over the years and have received many great blessings. For me, it has been a great help because I have not only received spiritual support, but also blessings for my children.” All three of Maricela’s children have received scholarships through the ministry’s sponsorship program for nearly their entire education. Her oldest child and only daughter Naomi is 26 years old now and has two children of her own with a third one on the way. Her middle child Trinidad is now 25 and also has two children. Her third child is Edgar, who is 21 years old.

Everyone who has had the opportunity to visit Reynosa knows Maricela by her delicious food, and Maricela is happy to serve the ministry as the cook. “I have always loved the kitchen, and the most important part of the ministry to me is to be able to tend to the American mission groups by serving them the best food,” she says. And we can all agree that she does her part well!

When asked what the ministry means to her, Maricela responded, “Faith Ministry to me means the hope for tomorrow. Here I find light and love, but above all, I find support based in the love of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to the Lord and brother Deantin Guerra (Faith Ministry founder) for introducing me to the love of God.”

Favorite Bible verse: “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” Psalm 31:3

Posted in Staff Spotlight

Breaking the Language Barrier: English Classes in Reynosa

This summer, five people applied and were accepted for internship positions here at Faith Ministry—positions normally reserved for young persons aged eighteen or older. However, during her second trip here in March, sixteen-year-old Lizzy Herod knew that she wanted to make it work. A rising high school junior, Lizzy is spending the next year studying abroad and will not be able to accompany her church on their annual trip to Reynosa.

However, nostalgia for the incredible community here wasn’t the only driving factor behind Lizzy’s desire to be a summer intern. A member of the nonprofit organization Girl Scouts since the age of six, Lizzy plans to fulfill her Gold Award Project by creating an English curriculum for the local volunteers of Faith Ministry. She says, “I was planning on doing something with Ministerio de Fe no matter what…the Girl Scouts organization requires that we create something original for the whole community, something that they don’t already have. So I talked to Colleen and she said that many people teach English classes but the ministry doesn’t have a set curriculum.”

With that, Lizzy’s project was born. She has wrapped up her first week in Reynosa, during which she test-piloted material for her curriculum. Each day she taught two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with students ranging from the age of twelve to thirty-five. The afternoon class garnered an average attendance of around eighteen people, mostly local volunteers who attended after a long day of work. Lizzy’s students have “received [the material] very well, and picked up a lot more than expected” and Lizzy notes that oftentimes class would end early for this reason. Overall, she says that her students “really want to learn and really show that, and it’s very inspiring.”

One might question, however, the reason for this determination to learn English. Sure, it would be useful for communicating with the American teams, but the language barrier has yet to prevent any houses (or relationships) from being built. The vast majority of conversations in the lives of the local volunteers are in Spanish, not English. And yet, in the makeshift classroom located in the ministry’s church, there is an undeniable excitement about learning the language. One student in particular, Faith Ministry’s cook and caretaker Marisela, is picking up the language fast—largely due to her regular attendance and diligent studying. On one occasion, Marisela was found in the kitchen rewriting and organizing her notes from the previous class. She reported that she uses her “free time” to study and that her determination to learn English stems from a desire to converse with the American teams. Although it is very possible to form strong and lasting friendships here in Reynosa with or without a mutual language, it’s true that deeper conversations could be had—with topics other than the spiciness of a salsa or the position of a block. The willingness and excitement to learn, as displayed by Marisela and the rest of Lizzie’s students, could turn these potential conversations into reality.

After Lizzy’s time here this summer, she will return home and begin to finalize her project. Colleen Cook, the communications coordinator at Faith Ministry, reveals that Lizzy’s curriculum will be offered as an option to future teams and volunteers that may want to teach English in addition to (or instead of) construction work. During the weeks when a team is not available to teach, the curriculum can also be utilized by the English-speaking staff here at Faith Ministry.

Due to the dedication of Lizzy, her students and the staff of Faith Ministry, the local volunteers here in Reynosa may soon be saying “goodbye” to the language barrier once and for all.

Written by Emily Jones of Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, Indiana

Posted in Reflections

3 Ways to Celebrate #GivingTuesday

CLICK TO DONATE

This #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to the generosity of giving, we want to remind you how much your support matters.

It matters to people like Julio. If you’ve been to Reynosa, you know Julio better as “Chuky.” He’s a prankster who has become a beloved member of our community. And he is the first of our foreman apprentices, a program we started this year to teach construction skills.

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When Julio was 14, his mom Leonor applied for a house through Faith Ministry. Unable to work for the house herself, she asked Julio to work on their family’s behalf. He hadn’t been to school since he was in kindergarten, and he didn’t have a job. He didn’t want to come and work with us, but his mom convinced him.

He’s been there ever since, and now he doesn’t want to leave,” says Leonor. That was over 16 years ago.

Around the same time Julio began working with us, he started getting seizures. With the help of support from friends like you, we were able to connect Julio with a specialist and provide the funds for his medication. That support was crucial for him and an enormous blessing to his family.

As he threw himself into the work, he began bonding with American teams (click here to see an especially moving video testimony of that bond) and was mentored by our foremen, Ezequiel, Angel and Lupe.

Julio has grown up at Faith Ministry; he has matured from a teenage boy to a bright, hardworking young man. He has made our mission teams’ experiences better (and block rows straighter), and he is now pioneering a program we started that will dramatically change his future employment prospects and better help him use and apply the gifts God gave him.

Stories like Julio’s are made possible because of your support. But he is not alone. There are many more families that count on Faith Ministry’s programs every day.

This is why your support matters.

chukyfam

Here are 3 easy ways to celebrate #GivingTuesday:

1. Make a one-time donation

Donate online here or mail a check (payable to Faith Ministry) to PO Box 756, McAllen, TX, 78505.

2. Sign up for monthly giving

Monthly gifts are essential to the work we do, and it’s super easy! Sign up here.

3. Give Christmas gifts that make a difference

Want to give your loved ones meaningful gifts this year? Give them gifts that make a difference through our Alternative Giving Program. Shop online here!

Posted in Reflections

One Student at a Time: Raul

Raul1Raul was like any other nine-year-old boy. He liked playing soccer and hanging out with friends, and he had a pet cat. He had good grades and a big smile. Like many families in the colonias of Reynosa, his family struggled to make ends meet. The burden of paying for school uniforms, supplies, books, shoes, bus fare, and food for not only him, but his three siblings as well, was too much. So, Raul and his parents filled out an application to join our scholarship program. He was matched with a woman from North Carolina named Renie.

He continued on to graduate from elementary school and entered junior high (secundaria), an important milestone for the students in our community. He finished junior high and enrolled in high school (preparatoria), another big step. Many of his classmates, like so many others in the colonias, dropped out after junior high, or even elementary school. These students dropped out not because of an unwillingness to learn, but because their families needed them to work instead or because they just couldn’t afford the costs of schooling anymore.

Raul2

Renie in North Carolina kept supporting Raul as he continued to advance to the next grade level, . She visited with him and his family and friends whenever she was in Reynosa, and they sent photos back and forth to each other throughout the years. She watched him grow from a young boy into a handsome teenager, and she watched as he achieved his biggest milestone yet: graduating from high school and enrolling in college to study business and marketing.

The financial support Renie provided Raul over the years helped to relieve the heavy burden of increasing schooling costs for his family, but more importantly, she provided constant encouragement and faith that he would succeed. Raul knew that his friend Renie in North Carolina believed in him, and that is a powerful thing for a child to know.

Last month, Raul graduated third in his class from Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas, and he accepted a job as a marketing coordinator. About his experience in the scholarship program, he said, “I give thanks to God because He put in my path a very special person named Renie.”

Raul3

Renie, who spent the past eleven years sponsoring Raul in school, could not be any prouder. She said, “I had no doubt that Raul would grow up to be a difference and to make a difference. My heart explodes with joy!”

Are you interested in sponsoring a child like Raul in school? Click here to learn how.

Posted in Reflections

Meeting Others’ Needs and Our Own

Originally posted at http://www.myersparkumc.org/mission-mexico-meeting-others-needs-and-our-own

In August of 2015 I created a spreadsheet of twenty two internships that I would apply to over the next few months. Many thought it was far too early to be planning for the next summer considering the ninety degree temperatures hadn’t even begun to subside, but as one resume-building summer had come to a close I knew I must start preparing for the next. That’s what I do. I plan, I work, and I achieve. So when I accepted the prestigious internship of my dreams in December of 2015 for the upcoming summer, I was filled with satisfaction. I had reached my goal. I had locked down, what I believed to be, one of the most important steps in my career path. That job was the most important thing I could be doing with my summer.

But God soon did what he always does: take the plan you’ve so artfully crafted and throw it to the wind. My plans, my important plans, came crashing down. I would not be spending the summer across the world with a prestigious internship, one that was sure to hand me a ticket into the competitive job market post-grad. I would not be updating my LinkedIn profile. I would not be creating change in the world. I would return home to live with my parents in search of a part-time job to pass the time.

As I stood in the midst of the rubble from my shattered plans, I signed up for my fourth trip to Reynosa, Mexico. And in all honesty I paid that deposit just so that I’d have a week out of Charlotte; a week out of sitting at home lamenting over my foregone success. I boarded the plane, I crossed the border, and I went to sleep sweating in the heat of the Mexican night.

Before I knew it, and without even trying, I fell back in love with a place I once called home. A place full of joy and jokes and songs and friendship. A place where language is unimportant but laughter is. The only place on Earth where heat, labor, and exhaustion cannot get you down.

Ask anyone who has been to Reynosa and they’ll all say the same thing: They do not need us there to build the house. If anything, we slow down the skilled Mexican foremen. We dump over wheelbarrows, we misalign the cinder blocks, and we drop cement buckets. However they need us to come. They need us to be God’s symbol of love and commitment to the overlooked in the world. They need us to show up, to sing, to eat, to pray, to play and to love. But more than they need us to come, we need to go. We need to face the harsh reality of inequality. We need to listen to the stories of the unheard. We need to be uncomfortable with our privilege, and we need to be disappointed by our priorities.

It’s impossible to return from Reynosa and not be humbled. It’s impossible to drive through Myers Park and not think of the family of seven living in the one room house you just built. It’s impossible to think about what unpaid internship you’re going after next when your friends south of the border are eating only one meal a day.

I look back on my hubris in December 2015, and thank God that I have been brought back down to Earth. I thank God for helping me to realize that there is no job more important than passing cinder blocks; that there is no meal more delicious than homemade tamales; that there is no song more beautiful than Este es el Dia; and that there is no one more important than my brothers and sisters in Reynosa.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

-Matthew 25:40

Written by Anna Weddington of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina

Posted in Reflections