Republic County VIM team serves in New Mexico
By Marty Westphal
The costs for travel and materials was raised by private donations from the area, especially from the members of the First United Methodist Church in Belleville. The team was hosted by Elston and Renée Bingham and Kelsi Chandler, missionaries for Hands and Feet Ministries, an interdenominational, non-profit organization based in Adairsville, Ga.
The team painted and landscaped the First Indian Baptist Church and led a Bible school on a reservation.
UMVIM exists to promote, encourage and enable Christians to exemplify “Christian love in action.” The aim is to achieve the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) through short-term mission opportunities.
The team originally had planned to travel to Piedras Negras, Mexico. However, concerns surrounding the H1N1 virus and drug-cartel violence convinced organizers and the team members to delay that trip for a year and travel to New Mexico instead.
“We are not sorry we switched,” said Pastor Lennie Maxwell, one of the team leaders. “We feel we delivered a message of hope and made lasting friendships among the people of Gallup.”
According to the 2000 Census, there are an estimated 2.1 million Native Americans, who are among the most impoverished of all ethnic groups. An estimated 400,000 Native Americans reside on reservation land, and, according to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 1 percent of Native Americans own and operate a business. Almost 40 percent of the approximately 20,000 residents of Gallup are Native American. Crime rates, which are almost double the U.S. average, and homelessness are two of the major concerns in the area.
The Bible school, which was organized by Tandy Rundus of rural Belleville, was entitled “You are Special” and delivered a message of self worth as God’s creation to the Native American children, who often feel outcast by society.
After the mission trip, Kelsi Chandler, a local missionary in New Mexico, said, “[Your team] made a huge impact on those kids, and they continue to talk about all of you, replay the skits and sing the songs you taught them.”
She added that one of the local boys has started asking questions about the Bible and what a Christian really is.
Reflecting on her experience in New Mexico, team co-leader Carolyn Maxwell said, “There are people in underprivileged situations everywhere. But until you travel away from all the creature comforts of home and immerse yourself in the reality of the lives of people who live without all the things we take for granted, you will never truly be motivated to help your neighbor.”