by Sergio Guardia, Hispanic Consultant for SBC of Virginia
What happens when four congregations work together to reach an unreached population right here in Virginia?
Nuevo Amanecer Campus Church (Lynchburg), Iglesia Bautista Nueva Esperanza (North Chesterfield), Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg), and Kingsland Baptist Church (North Chesterfield) joined people and resources to reach an unreached Mexican indigenous population in Richmond.
The Mixtecos are an indigenous community originally from Mexico. They are considered an unreached people group even in their own country. Some time ago, Pastor Fernando Mangieri (Iglesia Bautista Conexión) shared with me that there were an estimated 3,000 Mixtecos living in the Richmond area and how difficult it was to reach them because their main language is neither English nor Spanish, but Mixteco. Pastor Fernando mentored a leader from that community, Odilon Mendoza, but he needed more hands.
God truly works in mysterious ways. I shared with Fernando that we had three leaders in our congregation (Nuevo Amanecer) who were from that area. I then shared with our congregation the great need and opportunity we had.
One of our Mixteco leaders began driving to Richmond every two weeks to join and support a Bible study of 15 Mixtecos. God also spoke to Daniela Ortega’s heart about this mission opportunity. Daniela is from Colombia, is an optometry doctor, and is currently getting her master’s degree in public health at Liberty University.
Daniela began organizing a medical fair in Richmond, for which we would need to send volunteers from Lynchburg.
The event had three main purposes: 1) Medical Service – Daniela recruited general doctors and nurses to do screenings for blood pressure, body mass index, optometry, cholesterol, and bone density; 2) Community Service – This group prepared a basketball tournament and food and recreation for the children; 3) Evangelism – This group met every Sunday to learn evangelism tools to reach the Mixtecos.
A group from Lynchburg traveled every week for three months to the neighborhoods where the Mixtecos live and invited them to the medical event. They also spread the information through radio and newspapers. These weekly visits helped the group from Lynchburg understand even more the great need among the Mixtecos.
Daniela shared, “They live in extreme poverty. Their average household has eight children living with only one income. The children go to school, which is where they have their most nutritional meals. We found a trailer where 20 people lived, and that was an eye opening. These people need help urgently. Most of them have never visited a doctor because of lack of money.”
Finally, on December 5, the efforts paid off. Brothers from Nueva Esperanza and Nuevo Amanecer were working as one church to welcome the Mixteco community. Kingsland Baptist Church opened its building for the event. The gym became a medical facility, the kitchen was busy all morning, and the other rooms were used for evangelism and children’s lessons. Thomas Road Baptist Church provided transportation for 70 volunteers from Lynchburg to come to Richmond. The service team prepared food for 200, but amazingly, all 400 who attended from the community were fed. Many decisions were made for Christ! There was surely a big fiesta in heaven!
Pastor and coach Fernando Mangieri and lay church planter Odilon Mendoza (and his wife) are following up with those who attended, and a small group Bible study has begun. The group has grown so much that they are no longer able to meet in their current space. To God be the glory!