Mission team paints, plays its way into Mexican hearts, lives

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 12:57
  • Madelyn Bistodeau, 15, applies an eye patch to Nana’s House resident Isabella during a vision screening March 30 at the mission team’s house. More than 20 of the Nana’s House children received vision and hearing screenings during the team’s short-term mission trip to Tepic, Mexico. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)
  • Adin Krumanaker, 16, applies the first of many coats of paint to the walls of a bar in San Blas, Mexico, March 28. The team worked to help transform the building into a church, which will open for its first worship service in September. (Photo by Mary M. Rall/Community Covenant Church)

Nine members of Community Covenant Church returned April 1 from a short-term mission trip to Tepic, Mexico, where they helped meet the needs of developing churches and a children’s home.

Located in west-central Mexico, Tepic is the capital of the state of Nayarit and the home of La Fuente Ministries, which includes more than 20 church plants and Nana’s House children’s home among its many ministries.

The teens and adults serving on the team all hailed from Eagle River and spent a little more than a week in the Tepic area, where Community Covenant Lead Pastor Todd Michero said they had an opportunity to worship alongside local residents; paint and make repairs at Nana’s House and La Fuente’s flagship church in Tepic; provide hearing and vision screenings for the children’s home residents; and help transform a bar into a church.

Michero said this is the third year in a row Community Covenant has sent a short-term mission team to Tepic in an effort to build long-term relationships with the communities La Fuente serves.

“Ministry is built on relationships. Our long-term relationships with the ministries we partner with through short-term missions enable us to truly understand the ministries and missions of those we support,” Michero said. “The result is that we’re able to serve their needs, as opposed to providing the assistance we think they need. Ours is not a ‘hit and run approach.’ The impact of our participation is cumulative.”

Michero’s wife, Lori, has been a part of the team annually and said the most challenging part of the trip is transforming the team members’ mindsets.

“We’re not there to tell them how to do their mission, we’re there to assist them in their mission. We’re not there to tell them how we think things should or shouldn’t be done,” Lori Michero said. “When in Mexico, it’s the Mexico way, the Nana’s House and the La Fuente Ministries way, not my way.”

While Todd Michero said the group spent a significant amount of time painting and making repairs at several different locations, the emphasis of the team has always been Nana’s House children’s home, which provides full-time care for about 27 boys and girls from elementary through high school.

La Fuente Co-founder Mary Jo Hansen said the children in the care of Nana’s House have known extreme abuse and neglect that’s left Mexico’s version of Child Protective Services unable to place them with traditional foster families.

“I was blessed by every one of these children. I was incredibly impressed with the joy that radiated from each one,” said first-time team member Chrissie Hoover. “There’s a drive to succeed and a hope for the future that one wouldn’t expect from children from severely abusive backgrounds.”

Hoover is a registered nurse, who provided vision and hearing screenings for more than 20 of the Nana’s House children, several of whom needed glasses or new prescriptions and had hearing issues identified.

“Due to their traumatic pasts, these children aren’t used to prioritizing their needs,” Hoover said. “Although they’re having issues with basic functions, such as seeing or hearing, they don’t communicate their needs. Identifying issues will help them succeed.”

Heidi Porter has served on the mission team all three years, which she said has made spending time with the Nana’s House children familiar and comfortable.

“We’ve established relationships with the girls and the house moms. They greet us with open arms. It’s like coming home to family,” Porter said. “The kids like to hug, laugh, play and tease us and each other. It’s easy to love them.”

Brad Bistodeau returned to Tepic for the second time this year and said spending time playing with the boys and girls and making repairs at Nana’s House has helped strengthen connections with the children and La Fuente Ministries.

“Each time we go, we solidify our relationship with them and show them we’re in it for the long run,” Bistodeau said. “Those deepening relationships with both the children and staff make me feel like more of a family member. That relationship continues to grow and makes me even more excited to go back again next year.”

Todd Michero said the impact of the projects and the differences made in people’s lives become more tangible each successive year as well.

“The first year we visited Nana’s House, our team helped repair an outdoor play area for the children,” Todd Michero said. “In following years, we’ve not only been able to see the children enjoy the equipment, but have been able to play on it with them. To experience their joy and hear their laughter as they play is incredibly gratifying.”

While the team spent plenty of time investing in the Nana’s House children and projects, Todd Michero said they also spent two full days remodeling a bar into a church in the town of San Blas, about 40 miles west of Tepic.

The endeavor wasn’t a small one he said, explaining the interior of the building was decorated with a giant Ghostbusters logo on one wall, sported neon polka dots, had vibrantly painted glass bottles embedded in the walls and featured cement benches that were covered with aged fabric.

Over the course of two days, Todd Michero said the team worked alongside members of La Fuente Ministries to paint the interior with gallons of paint, to build walls to create several classrooms and to strip and paint the benches in an effort to help get the building ready for worship services beginning in September.

“Stepping into the nightclub for the first time, I couldn’t imagine us being able to make much of a difference in two days,” Bistodeau said, adding the interior of the building looked significantly different after a lot of hard and dirty work. “We were able to see a huge transformation into what I now can imagine as a wonderful church for the people of San Blas.”

Todd Michero said he hopes a long-term commitment to Nana’s House and La Fuente Ministries can likewise transform people’s lives.

“It’s a global expression of Community Covenant’s mission of bringing Christ’s hope, healing and wholeness to our community and to our world,” Todd Michero said. “Our prayer is for God to expand our vision of His kingdom beyond the boundaries of ourselves, our families and our community.

“The Great Commission makes it clear that Christ’s followers maintain a global perspective and engagement,” he continued. “It’s humbling to realize that ministry to the ‘least of these,’ in this instance to orphaned children at Nana’s House, constitutes ministry to Christ himself. What could possibly be of greater value?”

The 2017 Nana’s House mission team included the husband and wife duos of Todd and Lori Michero and Tim and Heidi Porter; the father and daughter team of Brad and Madelyn Bistodeau; Chrissie Hoover; Adin Krumanaker; and the author, Mary M. Rall.

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