Five-year partnership benefits three congregations in multiple ways
By Myra Holmes
USMB congregations representing three cities, two districts and two languages, teamed up for a week of outreach in an Omaha, Neb., community July 15-20.
Iglesia Agua Viva (IAV), Omaha, Neb., a Spanish-language church in the Central District Conference (CDC), hosted about 10 people from Grace Bible Church, Gettysburg, SD—an English-language, CDC congregation—and about 20 from Mission (Texas) MB Church—a Spanish-language church in the Latin American Mennonite Brethren (LAMB) district. In addition, individuals from other Omaha USMB congregations served in specific areas.
One participant noted that the three churches have a history of serving together and added, “They speak both English and Spanish—sometimes simultaneously!”
This outreach effort was the outworking of a sister-church relationship between Mission MB and Grace Bible Church that began in 2009. Iglesia Agua Viva joined summer outreaches in Texas in 2012 and 2013; this year the three churches chose to work together in Omaha.
“There is something powerful about going somewhere else on a mission trip, even if it is only for six days,” says Moises Tagle of the LAMB district. “People are willing to try some areas of ministry that they would never volunteer for at their home church. This gives us an opportunity to stretch our boundaries and expand our comfort zone. Many times participants are more apt to be involved in ministry back home because of their experience.”
In addition, he says, relationships are strengthened when the churches work together—on many different levels. The friendships that have developed have even resulted in at least one engagement and one dating relationship between young people from Grace Bible Church and Mission MB.
Activities for the week included a daily Scripture challenge, service projects and vacation Bible school in two locations: at Iglesia Agua Viva and in a city park.
Outreach begins with time in Scripture
Stephen Humber, discipleship pastor at Stony Brook Church, Omaha, Neb., spoke each morning on “Being a Follower of Jesus.” Small group sharing and prayer followed each message. Humber said via email during the week of outreach, “What I hope they take away from the talks is truth that gets lived out this week while they are serving in the community but also as they return home and keep going.”
Humber says he was drawn to participate in the week’s activities because the teaching could have immediate, practical application as the teams served together and because of the cross-cultural unity and relationships built between the three churches. “This kind of love accomplishes something enormously precious in the body of Christ and helps us all hold together going forward,” he says.
Service projects show love
Stephen Stout, of Faith Bible Church, Omaha, set up service projects. Stout is director of Good Neighbor Ministries, a community and service-oriented nonprofit with close ties to Faith Bible. Volunteers worked on two homes in need of repair and at the Good Neighbor Ministry Center.
One project was fixing up the home of a disabled, single woman whose entire house was in need of painting in order for her to get insurance. Stout says, “We had 30 people all there working at the same time, and that was really neat to see.” Volunteers served cheerfully, according to Stout, even staying longer than planned in spite of hot weather.
He says the homeowner visited with the volunteers to share her story and express appreciation. “She was certainly very touched,” he says.
Vacation Bible school results in commitments to Christ
About 50 children from the church and community attended vacation Bible school at IAV, and about 25 children from the community attended the vacation Bible school in the park. Daniel Rodriguez, pastor of IAV, says that a number of children made first-time commitments to Christ. IAV is following up with those children and with parents who expressed interest in attending church or Bible studies.
Rodriguez says IAV will host a Bible study in the park through September to gauge neighborhood interest. “We are praying that we can have more people from that neighborhood to come to know Jesus,” he says.
Neighbors attend community festival
The week ended with a community festival on Saturday at IAV. Festival activities included moon jumps, face painting, puppets, skits, music led by a team from Grace Bible Church and IAV and testimonies from individuals from Grace Bible Church and Mission MB. Free hamburgers and hot dogs were served to all who came. Families who attended were asked to complete a short survey, which allowed them to express openness to a visit from someone from IAV.
The teams worshiped together at IAV on Sunday morning. Worship was led by a combined team from all three churches. Rafael Nunez, pastor of Mission MB, preached. After church, the teams enjoyed a meal together before going their separate ways.
“The real work starts now”
“It seemed the week was busy with a lot of work to do,” Rodriguez says, “but the real work starts now with the believers and the families that want to know more about Jesus. Pray for us that we have the wisdom to keep on showing God’s love and that we can stay strong on God, because we know that Satan, our enemy, is going to try to do something to keep us from reaching more people, more families that need God.”
Tagle, of LAMB, says that, while nothing specific is yet planned, the three churches are likely to work together again next summer. “The blessings are too many to let the program finish. We will pray for God’s leading and continue planning,” he says. “Wherever he leads, we would be foolish not to follow.”
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