At a time when immigration reform is again at the top of the national consciousness, the relationships which are being formed through ministry at Forest Park Ministry Center pose an important question for us: could we somehow assist those who are undocumented but in our community and desiring to contribute, to achieve the status of legal residency and productive citizenship? Many of our Montgomery residents are Mixtec, and although they desire to work and be productive, the language barrier is a hurdle difficult to overcome.
Anna (not her real name) was brought to the U.S. many years ago as a young teen and left in the U.S. Anna is bright and intelligent, has a young family, and has managed well in spite of not completing school. Over a year ago, Anna began coming to the ministry center to improve her conversational English. She persevered all year and did so well that in the fall of 2012, she moved to the classes at First Baptist.
Recently, a teacher at one of the local elementary schools was attempting to contact and communicate with the parents of a Mixtec student in her class. The aforementioned language barrier was making even the simplest task so frustrating! Anna willingly stepped in and assisted to translate from Mixtec to Spanish, and a resource teacher translated from Spanish to English. Communication from the English speaking teacher was then relayed to Spanish and then to Mixtec via Anna. In many cases, Anna can translate directly from Mixtec to English!
She has made a powerful impact on these teachers and professionals. Anna is an example of one of our residents who will make valuable contributions. We are praying for her as she desires to complete her education and to attain citizenship.
As believers we have received the gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. This gift is the basis for our hope at life's end; it is our comfort when loved ones who know the Lord decease. Our hope of life eternal in Christ's presence is also a comfort when experiencing our human trials and life's hardships. Many a time, there are those who visit Forest Park Ministry whose circumstances can only be described as "hell on earth" and yet as believers in eternity with Christ, our hope of heaven - no more tears, no more night - is a promise that keeps us looking to God for comfort while here on earth.
We are also recipients of another incredible gift, one that enhances our walk here on earth. As Jesus's words in Acts 1:8 promise, power from the Holy Spirit is available to us. That power is what enables our lives here on earth to be impactful for Christ's kingdom. It is what enables us to do what we fear we cannot do. It empowers us to go places that we have never gone. It gives us strength when weariness threatens to overtake us. And the Holy Spirit gives us words to speak when, on our own, words won't come.
It is then that we trust Him to give us words to say and and to know when to speak. A member of one of our MBA churches, "Mary", knows that well. She has found a calling to a new type of ministry. Already an active worker in many ministries through her church, the association and the Montgomery community, Mary has wanted to plug into the ministries through Forest Park, and has helped with many special events. But Mary sought more, an ongoing ministry that she personally could plug into; yet, her already heavy schedule did not permit another day or even half day to work at the center.
Several months ago, there was a young woman who visited the center and had questions about her faith. Not having a home church, she was open to having a pastor contact her. However, because of the nature of her questions and her timidity, I asked her if a mature Christian woman could call her, and she said yes. Mary seemed thrilled with the opportunity, and she was able to talk with the young woman, to pray with her, and invite her to church. Since then, at Mary's request, we have referred others to her, and she recently told me, "This is the ministry that I feel called to, both for the center and for my church. I can do follow-up"; sometimes it is a one time visit or phone call. Others that she contacts are grateful to connect with someone who cares, will listen, and are encouraged it.
And that is what life change is all about. As we deepen our walk with Christ, He will lead us to paths we may not have considered before. He opens our eyes to see needs and hurts that we may not have considered before. He equips us with courage and strength to step out of our comfort zone into a backyard that is different from our own. He sustains us so that our fears are overshadowed by His goodness and grace.
This summer, volunteer missionaries working through Forest Park Ministry Center will once again have opportunities to invest in the lives of childen and their families through multiple outreach efforts. Please pray that as relationships are formed, the hope and love of Jesus will be conveyed, and that those lost will come into a saving relationship with Christ. THAT will be the ultimate life change.