“Your love has given me much joy and comfort...for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” Philemon 1:7
Let me take a moment to introduce myself to those who do not know me yet. My name is Heather Johnson. I am quirky, sometimes too serious, sometimes silly, compassionate, and slightly awkward...or maybe more than slightly awkward. I love God and I love people a lot. I am not always good at it though. I am a work in progress. One of things that God has placed on my heart...
“Your love has given me much joy and comfort...for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” Philemon 1:7
Let me take a moment to introduce myself to those who do not know me yet. My name is Heather Johnson. I am quirky, sometimes too serious, sometimes silly, compassionate, and slightly awkward...or maybe more than slightly awkward. I love God and I love people a lot. I am not always good at it though. I am a work in progress. One of things that God has placed on my heart as an ongoing ministry, whether it be official or unofficial, is the ministry of uniting people. We are better together. I believe God created us to be in community and when we are connected with others, we grow, we thrive, and mutual transformation occurs. Therefore I invite you to keep reading to hear some ideas I have for seeing moms grow in their connection with one another and with their Creator. I can’t do any of these ideas on my own, but I think that if someone else will catch the vision with me, some really beautiful things can be planted and the blooms of which we may see for years to come.
There are a few different elements I would like to integrate into MCC’s mom's ministry. Though the acronym for MOPS is “Mothers of Preschoolers”, I hope to be able to bless and encourage moms of many seasons of life. I do not want moms to think that they age out of having a mom's ministry simply because their kids are now school age. So, moms...of ALL stages...we want to hear from you! We want to serve you and be here for you too. One of the things that drew my family to Mountain Christian Church was how much people looked out for one another. We have experienced so much love and support from many families. I want other moms in our community to feel as welcomed and loved as I did. Let us continue to love one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds! Let us look out for each other and intentionally look for ways to encourage one another.
God created me with a specific passion to see people of diverse backgrounds united. So when I stepped into the MOPS coordinator position this summer, it wasn’t long before I started thinking about how I could combine the moms ministry with my love for people from other countries. I personally believe that when we are serving in any ministry capacity it is important that we think about how God created us and what passions He has given to us and to integrate our passions into our ministry. For me this was to integrate our church partnership with International Students Incorporated (ISI) with MCC’s moms ministry. I have been an international student before and I know the loneliness, the culture shock, the vulnerability that comes with that and I also know the power of kindness from a local person to refresh the heart and bring so much joy and comfort. I’m imagining the friendships that develop between moms of the east mountains and moms from all around the world, who are currently living in Albuquerque, could lead to a ripple effect of transformation that we cannot even fathom spreading to all ends of the earth. I see an image of a map with arrows going from East mountains to Albuquerque and from Albuquerque shooting out every direction to all over the globe. We cannot underestimate the transforming power of intentional relationships.
Another emphasis that another mom on the leadership team wisely suggested we pursue is recruiting more mentors. We want to set up a mentor-mentee partnership for moms to grow in their connection with moms that have more life experience. How valuable is it for moms to have older or more experienced moms to learn from and to be encouraged by! This is something that the Titus ministry is doing so well. My hope would be to have one mentor for three moms.
Connection with God and with others is what leads to positive transformation. When we connect with others, we thrive in our roles.
A call to action
There are so many ways you can get involved in making this ministry effective in reaching moms in our community and be a part of the transformation that takes place when moms are encouraged and empowered to thrive in their motherhood. Maybe you are a mom yourself or maybe you were highly impacted by a mother and you want to support moms to know they are valuable and to be supported in growing in their role. Here are some ways you may be able to help:
- You can become a friendship partner to an international mom (If you are a mom yourself)
- You can sign up to be a mentor mom and encourage moms weekly through phone call, email, in person, letters or any other way you think of to show your care.
- You can make homemade gifts or baked goods for the moms in our community and drop them off with the MOPS coordinator.
- You can become a delivery person to deliver gifts or baked goods to moms
- You can host mom and her family for Thanksgiving or Christmas at your home
- You can be a motivational speaker at a moms event
- You can bring a meal to a mom who recently delivered a baby or is facing some difficulty.
- You can donate diapers for our moms with infants
- You can serve on the MOPS leadership team
- You can help recruit other moms to be friendship partners for our international moms.
- You can be a volunteer driver for our moms who do not have cars.
During a trip to South last year with Genesis of Hope we visited a children’s center called Shahabad Dairy. That evening after returning, I reflected on what I saw and decided to look the community up on the internet. What I read was alarming. It described a community of violence, crime, and unrest; a place that even the police did not like to go and would only go into as a group. It is an area where children are said to be especially vulnerable as the number of abductions is unusually high. Many of the homes do not have their own bathroom and so they are forced to use public bathrooms where groups of violent people reportedly wait with bad intentions. One article...
During a trip to South Asia last year with Genesis of Hope we visited a children’s center called Shahabad Dairy. That evening after returning, I reflected on what I saw and decided to look the community up on the internet. What I read was alarming. It described a community of violence, crime, and unrest; a place that even the police did not like to go and would only go into as a group. It is an area where children are said to be especially vulnerable as the number of abductions is unusually high. Many of the homes do not have their own bathroom and so they are forced to use public bathrooms where groups of violent people reportedly wait with bad intentions. One article described that parents would often withhold dinner from their children because they did not want them to have to use the public bathrooms in the dark hours; afraid they would end up missing. But sadly, both parents often work outside the home in order to have sufficient income, leaving children without a safe place to go or an adult to stay with; making them even more vulnerable.
Can you imagine living in this place and raising your children like this? The living conditions alone would be unbearable, but imagine that this was also a society where there is a system that dictates, from birth, what class of people you are in and you are at the very bottom. You are one of the forgotten ones. Although the caste system was officially abolished from South Asia many years ago, it is still deeply ingrained in the culture and society. Your parents were at the bottom. Your grandparents before them also. In this system you are forgotten because no one believes that anything will become of you. Based on certain belief systems people may not even think you should rise higher in life.
Now imagine that you are a mother with children who are destined by this same society, in the same community, to share this same hopeless fate. Your entire community is overlooked and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for you or your children.
It’s hard to fathom because here in America we choose how or where are children are educated; at the school of our choice, at home, or some other kind of program. Ultimately, we all want our kids to have a solid education so that they will have the possibility of a successful life in the future. We consider school ratings, test scores, the school’s reputation, the quality of the facility, the diversity of programs offered, the quality of teachers, and the list goes on (and on). But this is actually a luxury that we likely take for granted. For the families in Shahabad Dairy, families simply want their children to receive an education, period. They want their children to be safe. They do not have the luxury of choices. Often, they are forced to go without any education. Although the government provides free schooling, there is a required uniform to attend and many times this expense is to great.
"Genesis means beginning,
for these families Genesis of Hope
is truly where hope begins."
Genesis of Hope bridges these gaps and offers a light in these communities in several ways: they provide a school uniform once a year, they tutor children in core subjects so they might succeed in a typical classroom, the provide one daily meal, and perhaps most importantly they offer children a respite from the rigors of daily life, giving children a chance to thrive under the encouragement of GOH teachers. Genesis of Hope centers are intentionally placed right in the middle of the community, allowing children to receive instruction right in their own community.
Genesis means beginning, for these families Genesis of Hope is truly where hope begins. Genesis of Hope offers an oasis for kids who may otherwise be unable to have their mental, physical and emotional needs met. It gives them a chance to believe that they could have a bright future after all.
Click here to learn more about Genesis of Hope and get involved!
In 2006, I traveled to South Asia for my third time. I had volunteered in South Asia with various mission organizations in 2003 and 2004 and kept coming back because I was captivated and heartbroken by the region, its people, and the cultures I encountered. From the bustling city to the remote jungles in the foothills of the Himalayas, my heart was broken by the depth of poverty and the countless numbers of idols and false gods being worshipped in sacrificial devotion...
In 2006, I traveled to South Asia for my third time. I had volunteered in South Asia with various mission organizations in 2003 and 2004 and kept coming back because I was captivated and heartbroken by the region, its people, and the cultures I encountered. From the bustling city to the remote jungles in the foothills of the Himalayas, my heart was broken by the depth of poverty and the countless numbers of idols and false gods being worshipped in sacrificial devotion.
During that third trip, I traveled with my church from Grapevine, TX. It was a vision trip to seek-out partners to minister among the lost in South Asia.
Ramesh, a field operative with World Vision, had accompanied many American workers to the remotest parts. On one particular trip, he felt challenged by the Lord to pursue the least-reached in his own country. This led him to found COI in 1991. Since then, the home-grown mission has grown exponentially and now includes 10 children’s centers as well as vocational training centers throughout South Asia, mainly in poverty-stricken slums.
Their work in the slums resonated with me. COI was providing educational opportunities for children living in some of the poorest conditions. They also offered life-changing skills training for women through sewing centers and computer training. But they were doing so much more, they had church-plants and pastor training, as well as micro-enterprise endeavors and well-drilling projects. Additionally, COI produces a TV broadcast that answers the forbidden questions Muslim have about Christ. By 2016, COI had formed Genesis of Hope (GOH), a distinct organization, to encompass their children’s center ministry.
During that whirlwind trip in 2006, my team visited a site called Shahabad Dairy Center. I did not know then the plans that God would lay on my heart, and the hearts of many at MCC, for Shahabad Dairy.
In 2018, I returned to my beloved land, in faith and friendship, to assist friends with the final aspects of the adoption of their son Ravi. While there I was able to introduce them to another ‘Ravi’, on fire for God and orchestrating many of GOH’s efforts. We also visited one of their many children’s centers. The visit eventually led to MCC’s remarkable support of a 1,000-child Vacation Book School in the heart of Hindu and Muslim slums.
"While there is still heart-wrenching poverty
in this slum, within the walls of the center
there is an undeniable joy and peace."
Bolstered by generous donations at our local Vacation Bible School, we were able to provide many board games to several of the centers. As I helped deliver those games and gifts, I was awed that one of them was my Shahabad Dairy.
To me it felt like my journey had literally come full-circle; something wonderful and exciting had begun. The impact of GOH in this area is undeniable. While there is still heart-wrenching poverty in this slum, within the walls of the center there is an undeniable joy and peace. One of the same pastors I met so long ago continues to labor here and the effects of the gospel are apparent in the smiles and laughter ringing through the halls of the children’s center.
MCC’s recent partnership with the children’s center comes at a much-needed time for GOH. GOH was receiving much of their funding for the children’s centers through an organization no longer allowed to operate by the government. That organization did many extraordinary things and the loss of support meant that GOH had to cut many services they offered. Thankfully, GOH has been able to continue to serve the children.
MCC’s partnership will fill in gaps in funding for the Shahabad Dairy center to:
• Tutor children in English, math, science, and history
• Serve a mid-day meal
• Celebrate birthdays, festivals, field trips and events such as VBS
• Perform health check-ups
• Provide school uniforms once a year
For me this journey has proven to be circular. My prayer is that it will become so for our church, as well. We look forward to bringing opportunities to minister to these precious children and teachers in Shahabad. You can do that now through the Hope Campaign. Visit genesisofhope.org to assist.
** Due to certain cultural, political, legal, and logistical complexities, we have chosen to provide this personal narrative with the utmost sensitivities to real-world concerns expressed by our partners and within the media policies of Mountain Christian Church.
As your MCC Missions team, we are thankful for your continued support, resources, interest, encouragement, and most especially your prayers. We are also thankful that God opens hearts and minds, that He guides us in what He wants us to do and where He wants us to do it. During the first half of 2019 the MCC Mission’s Team has seen and felt God at work, especially opening new opportunities for us to spread the Gospel throughout His kingdom! Here are a few highlights from the first half of 2019.
As your MCC Missions team, we are thankful for your continued support, resources, interest, encouragement, and most especially your prayers. We are also thankful that God opens hearts and minds, that He guides us in what He wants us to do and where He wants us to do it. During the first half of 2019 the MCC Mission’s Team has seen and felt God at work, especially opening new opportunities for us to spread the Gospel throughout His kingdom!
Here are a few highlights from the first half of 2019.
First, we are still at work in Ethiopia, locally with ISI at UNM and Juntos in the international district and have a number of upcoming opportunities with ISI and Juntos as a new school year begins. Watch for information about these ministries in the coming months.
Next, we've had three significant mission trips during the first half of the year to Bolivia, India and Peru.
In January 2019, MCC sent Vince Tidwell to visit our Asociacion Ministerios Fuentes de Agua (AMFA) team in Peru. During the week he was there, Vince helped drill a well, visited indigenous churches, and connected with the local missionaries we help support; Jorge and Victor. Vince was encouraged by the strong relationships Jorge and Victor have developed with the isolated and marginalized Indian communities and was blessed to see how wells drilled over the years have improved lives in these impoverished communities.
Moving forward, MCC is hoping to begin sponsoring indigenous couples to attend local Bible Seminary for three-years of intensive study. The plan is for Jorge and Victor to identify couples from communities where wells have been drilled whom MCC can sponsor. These couple will attend Bible seminary and upon completion return to their village, establish and pastor a new church. Our goal is for the first couple to begin seminary January 2020!
In addition, Pastor Victor continues to evangelize in the communities where wells are being drilled and follows up with villages where wells were drilled in the past. Since January, Victor has held week-long meetings in seven different communities, reaching 50 to 100 Indians in each village with the Gospel Message!
Read Vince Tidwell's blog for more on this trip and join us in giving thanks for the work God is doing in Peru!
Watch for Part 2 of our "Missions Mid-Year Update" next week for an update on the India and Bolivia mission trips.
Think back to your first day at college. For some of us it may be longer than we want to admit. It was a time of big changes in your life. You were no longer the “big” person on campus. There was a whole new schedule and vibe to college. And, to make matters worse, they expected you to study. For those that went off to college, you had the added challenge of a new city to navigate and no mother to cook your meals or do your laundry. Now consider what it would be like if you were studying in a different country...
Think back to your first day at college. For some of us it may be longer than we want to admit. It was a time of big changes in your life. You were no longer the “big” person on campus. There was a whole new schedule and vibe to college. And, to make matters worse, they expected you to study. For those that went off to college, you had the added challenge of a new city to navigate and no mother to cook your meals or do your laundry.
Now consider what it would be like if you were studying in a different country. You would have the extra challenges of having to adjust to a whole new culture, new foods and a new language. All of this with your support group thousands of miles away. You are particularly reminded of this as you step off the plane, sleep deprived, needing to find the campus and a place to live.
This is why International Students Inc. (ISI) exists—to share Christ's love with international college students during a time when they need it most.
Since 1953, ISI has been training Americans to meet international students' needs. These Americans befriend international students and help them adjust to American culture. ISI staff and volunteers are working on 677 campuses across the country, including the University of New Mexico, to orient and acquaint international students to their new home and cultural experience.
In fact, many universities encourage students in their acceptance letter to reach out to ISI for assistance in acclimating.
In 2018 alone, the UNM ISI Team:
- Served 1,600 lunches,
- Picked up 120 students from the airport,
- Hosted 105 students for temporary homestays,
- Helped 65 students find housing,
- Helped 190 students get furniture for their apartments, and
- Hosted almost 300 students at the Welcome center.
ISI is touching the lives of countless students, helping them to settle into life in Albuquerque. But ISI’s reach does not stop there. Seventy students participated in hiking and sightseeing groups. Over 125 students were paired with Friendship Partners who meet at least monthly with the student to have fun and assist with life’s little challenges. Additionally, twenty-five students participated in Bible Studies, fifty students attended Home Groups and four made a profession of faith.
The impact of this work is multiplied when these students return home to share their faith, literally all over the world.
Maybe the coolest part of it all is that God lets us be a part of what he is doing. There are so many opportunities to get engaged, all with the opportunity to have some fun, meet some really interesting and energetic students, and to do something eternally meaningful. In fact, ISI will be looking for help in a number of ways, including:
- Picking students up at the airport,
- Hosting short-term home stays (2-5 nights) where you simply need to get the student to the Welcome Center each morning and pick them up a the end of the day,
- Assist student’s in finding an apartment,
- Picking up and delivering furniture,
- Organizing and leading hiking and sight-seeing trips,
- Become a Friendship Partner (monthly activities with the same student throughout their stay at UNM)
- Assisting with English classes,
- Donate meals or furniture, and
- Most importantly, you can pray.
All of this is starting now! Stan Schug and I get constant requests for volunteers. If you can help just let us know your interest and when you are available, we will help get you connected. If your not sure bring your questions to us, or better yet, join us on an ISI event—you won’t regret it.