By Rev. Tommy Holder
Being a part-time local pastor in a small church in the LaGrange District, I knew that the chances of being on a mission team from my church were slim. My thought was that only larger churches could afford to send mission teams to “Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” That was before the North Georgia Conference began the Bridges Initiative. That was before LaGrange District Superintendent Rev. Carol Cook shaped the idea of a Bridge to El Salvador made up primarily of members of small churches.
To date, the LaGrange District has sent five mission teams that has drawn its members from 16 different churches (more than 80 individuals) to Ahuachapan, El Salvador. Most of the churches in the LaGrange District have contributed to the El Salvador Bridge, providing much-needed resources (funds, medicine, clothing, laptop computers, and school supplies) for the Methodist Church in El Salvador. LaGrange District United Methodists have contributed mor than $30,000 to support their mission and ministries.
Teams have participated in church construction projects at three different sites in Ahuachapan over a four-year span. They have built a home for a needy family and have bought/distributed food to families in the local neighborhoods. They have offered and engaged in vacation Bible school for children around the church sites. The LaGrange District and individual team members have donated money to pay for the administrative costs of the Salvadoran Evangelical Methodist Church’s Annual Conference for the past two years. Most importantly, however, these teams have shared the love of Jesus with the Salvadoran clergy and laity, building a relational bridge of mutual respect and love.
The teams discovered that the colonial conquest mentality of many past mission opportunities are not valid or productive. We were not bringing our American Jesus to the lost world of Central America. Jesus was already there! Our task was (and is) to connect where Holy Spirit is already working and to experience Christ in and through each other. This experience is transformational and the excitement is contagious! The church I serve has now had 6 people engage in one or more of the mission trips to El Salvador, with my wife Vicki and I planning to return for our fourth time in February 2016! This, among other things, proves that when we do not limit God by setting our visions too low, God is faithful in allowing us to achieve what would be impossible for us to do on our own.
We are praying that God will continue to use us to bring glory and honor to His Name through the bridge between the LaGrange District and the Salvadoran Evangelical Methodist Church!
Rev. Tommy Holder is pastor of Whitesburg UMC and serves as the LaGrange District Bridges Mission Coordinator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.