Stepping Out in Faith, From Montana to Mexico
To celebrate the opening of the 2019 Kaleidoscope Fund grant process, we will be sharing past recipient’s stories over the next two months. -LCEF Editorial Team
Ask Lutherans in Montana why they “stepped out in faith” on behalf of a new orphanage outreach ministry in Mexico, and you hear about children – boys and girls “coming out of bad situations, horrific situations.”
“We go down and the kids are playing kickball and asking us to push them on the swings and turn the jump rope and you’d think they’re the happiest kids in the world,” said Rev. Mark Christensen, a member of First Lutheran Church, Missoula, a longtime partner in mission outreach south of the border.
“We see the power of Christ’s love in the lives of those kids. It’s awesome,” said Christensen, whose congregation is helping reach even more children and families with that transformational love with the support of an “enormous blessing” made possible by LCEF investors.
Serving more orphans, young adults
During a mission trip about five years ago, Arturo shared the couple’s plans to start another ministry in nearby Benjamin Hill to serve orphans and young adults with developmental disabilities. Work had begun on the church that was to be the center of the ministry, and Arturo took the Montana Lutherans to see it.
“We could just feel God wanted us to reach out to this community and help them have the ability to care for and serve more children,” Christensen said.
When the group took this new ministry opportunity back to Missoula, their congregation, after much prayer and discussion, agreed – even though the First Lutheran mission account had less than $200.
“Talk about stepping out in faith!” said Christensen, who estimates the congregation will spend some $180,000 to help build the new ministry. “We had absolutely no idea where the money would come from or how we could possibly raise it.”
Familiar faces at worship
Today, people are worshipping at the new Benjamin Hill church. Many are familiar faces: widows, mothers and children who received food baskets and Bibles distributed by the Montana Lutherans; local workers who have helped with construction projects at the orphanage.
With the 30-person capacity dormitories nearing completion, several youngsters already are living temporarily with house parents in the ministry director’s home.
By fall, the dining hall should be finished and, if all goes as planned, serving meals that include food grown and raised at the new Kids Kingdom’s-Farm in the Dell in Benjamin Hill. To help provide food and generate income, the ministry raises chickens, goats and meat rabbits and has planted fruit trees and a small vegetable garden.
LCEF grant ‘enormous blessing’
How have these Montana Lutherans managed to help Arturo and Lilia turn their vision for another ministry in northwestern Mexico into a reality? “God literally has provided every step of the way,” Christensen said.
When work began on the new hall, First Lutheran mission funds had dropped to $300. Around that time, a $1,000 donation arrived at the church office; five days later, another $1,000 check appeared – the exact total needed to pay for the dining hall foundation!
Then there was the LCEF presentation after the Sunday service at Zion Lutheran Church in Bismarck, N.D., where Christensen and his wife were worshipping. An LCEF staff member told the couple about the LCEF Kaleidoscope Fund grant opportunity and urged First Lutheran to apply.
“To say that the LCEF grant has been an enormous blessing is truly an understatement,” Christensen said. “I see it as God’s continued provision for the work and the future of serving children with developmental disabilities and young adults.”
Power of the Holy Spirit
The Montana Lutherans look forward to their October mission trip to Mexico. Plans include laying tile and painting the dining hall and, of course, spending time with the children.
“I’m sure we’ll take them out for pizza, have a swim party and barbecue, maybe take in a carnival,” Christensen said in a happy tone that sounds like the Montana congregation has no regrets about their leap of faith.
To learn more about the mission trip, contact Pastor Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They also are thankful that other churches have joined in the work on behalf of Kid’s Kingdom.
“You just can’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit as it moves through the folks at First Lutheran and works through the staff and directors at Benjamin Hill and Imuris to touch lives,” he said. “We are blessed beyond measure to be a part of this mission and ministry.”