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Have you ever wanted to be involved in global missions but are unable to join an international mission trip? Are you financially and prayerfully supporting a global mission organization but do not feel connected to whom you are partnering with? Since poverty consists of broken relationships, how do we be in a righteous relationship with the “least of these”, our brothers and sisters in need around the world?
A group of twenty families at First Presbyterian Church of Houston have adopted a unique “global to local” approach for their mission engagement. They are partnering with Plant With Purpose, a Christian nonprofit that partners with small-scale farming families around the world who are living in rural areas deeply affected by environmental degradation. The group decided to partner with the Coatecas region in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico given their proximity as neighbors. Through Plant With Purpose, rural farming families are equipped to change their circumstances and transform their lives and their land.
The Coatecas Sponsorship Group is focused on strengthening their own local community at the same time as empowering the communities in Coatecas. The sponsorship group meets quarterly for fun gatherings focused on fellowship with each other, while hearing updates from Plant With Purpose about their Oaxacan partnering families. These informal pot-luck gatherings are a relaxed environment providing an opportunity to invite neighbors, family and friends who may not be connected to church.
A few members of the sponsorship group, on behalf of all the families, traveled with Plant With Purpose on a Vision Trip to the Coatecas region last year. The purpose of a Vision Trip is to walk alongside local staff and partnering families for a week and learn how they are using their God-given gifts and talents to transform their communities and watershed. The mission starts when you return home and become an advocate for the rural poor and the importance of caring for God’s Creation.
The trip participants returned home inspired by their Oaxacan neighbors and challenged to learn more about poverty and restoring God’s Creation in their own city of Houston. What better way to connect with rural farmers from afar than putting your own hands to work in the dirt? The sponsorship group was inspired to organize regular volunteer days in the garden of a local nonprofit, Main Street Ministries. More families with young children are joining the sponsorship group as they have a tangible activity for their children to connect with the rural poor and better understand the lives of Oaxacan farmers who depend on the land for survival.
It can be challenging to have a reciprocal relationship with our brothers and sisters in need around the world. Supporting them financially and through prayer is extremely important. But let’s not stop there. Find ways to come alongside them in your own community. Get to know other people supporting the same global mission effort and build fellowship together locally. Find ways to learn about a global issue that is similarly impacting your local community and take action together. This is the beauty of God’s Kingdom that we can be in relationship with our neighbors near and far.
By: Mary-Floye Federer, Director of Ministry Partnerships & Engagement, First Presbyterian Church of Houston
Jenny Sommer, Member & Coatecas Sponsorship Group Leader, First Presbyterian Church
Valerie Foulkes, Regional Representative – Texas, Plant With Purpose