Landis church members make new friends during mission trips to Argentina

  • Posted: Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Saturday, May 18, 2013 12:30 a.m.
First Reformed Church mission team tours one of the public housing units under construction i n Argentina.
First Reformed Church mission team tours one of the public housing units under construction i n Argentina.

The mission committee at First Reformed Church in Landis decided that they wanted to go to a new area for a mission trip.

“We contacted several organizations, and they were just lukewarm to us,” said Carmen Carter. “But then we contacted Will Herndon of ‘Words of Life’ Missions from New York.

“He was excited and knew immediately that he wanted us to go to Argentina.”

First Reformed Church is active in the mission field.

Currently 12 missionaries are working in various areas, and a team from the church has worked in Haiti.

Still, the first group headed to Argentina was excited to go, though not quite sure what to expect.

“That is the way it happens for us,” Brad Hunter said. “We have this idea of what will happen, and then it doesn’t turn out that way.”

Hunter, his wife, Lynda, and mother, Sylvia, and friend Rick Dunlap along with the husband and wife pairs of Lynn and Carmen Carter and Neil and Ann Pifer, signed up to make the trip.

They immediately set about raising funds to help finance the trip and plans were finalized.

The destination for the mission work was Morteros, Argentina and a church named Iglesia Christian Evangelical.

The church was already under construction.

The First Reformed workers put down a tile floor, painted walls, and installed lighting, all provided by a love offering back in Landis.

In the afternoons and evenings, they conducted vacation Bible school for the children of the church and the community.

“One day we were working on the building and a man came and started to collect the only chairs the Iglesia church had,” Hunter said. “We asked why, and found they were rented.

“Our group made arrangements to pay for the chairs so that the church could keep them.”

While in Monteros, the original mission group found out that the church they had chosen was the only Evangelical church in the city of about 20,000 residents.

Most who practice religion are Catholics and Catholic churches are supported by the state, while protestant churches are not.

All eight of the First Reformed members kept up a hectic schedule from their Sunday arrival until their departure Friday.

They worked on construction of the church from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then got cleaned up to provide two Bible school sessions.

Next came a worship service with the adults and community, followed by more construction work.

“We often didn’t quit till midnight, then we were right back at it early the next morning,” Hunter said.

After arriving back in Landis, team members couldn’t forget their new friends in Argentina.

Inglesia Pastor Christian ‘Pepi’ Belletti came to Landis in 2012 to visit First Reformed.

Although there were no requirements for follow-up from the 2010 mission trip, members of both churches continued to stay in touch with each other through e-mail and Facebook.

“We have grown our church family,” Carmen Carter said.

Senior Pastor David Franks agrees.

“God has connected our churches,” he said.

As plans were formulated for First Reformed to send a second team, Lynn Carter said, “We need to show them how to train up and lead a church.”

The group set trip dates of April 25 to May 6 of this year and fundraising got under way.

Details began to emerge for the agenda of the trip. Pastor Franks would lead six services.

The others would work to train the leaders of the church though they worried that advice from outsiders might be rejected.

They were concerned that Pastor Belletti was not compensated for his work, and the church had no budget.

Throughout their time in Monteros, the mission team wanted the Iglesia church members to see the First Reformed group as a solid front rallied around Pastor Franks, saying, “This is not just God’s responsibility for us to do this work.”

The mission team left Rowan at 8 a.m. April 25 and landed in Monteros at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Group members immediately went to work. Lynn Carter shared about the need for a budget, and David Roberts spoke on tithing.

“They wanted to pay their pastor,” Roberts said. “Sometimes he was driving four hours each way on church business. I told them about the importance of stewardship.”

Meetings were arranged with the two political parties that govern the town.

“Both are doing everything they can to help,” said Brad Hunter. “One has donated land for housing and homes, and the other is supporting a rehabilitation center.”

Franks said “This is a small church with a great vision.”

Franks gave two sermons Saturday, three Sunday and another Wednesday.

Since most of the locals are not fluent in English, Will Herndon of Word of Life Missions served as a Spanish interpreter and spoke right along with Pastor Franks in the pulpit.

Other mission group members met with church leaders, had lunch with church members, met with women’s groups and did taped interviews with members.

A highlight of the trip was a visit by the whole mission team to see a professional soccer game.

During the game, the mission team sat with members of the church, but were not able to communicate verbally with most of them.

“We did lots of charades,” said Gay Roberts.

The mission group was most impressed that immediately following the game, all the home fans are not allowed to leave the stadium for 30 minutes.

During that time, the visiting team gets a chance to leave the area.

“There is so much verbal shouting and throwing things on the field. We understood the need for the delay,” said Gay Roberts.

Later, Pastor Belletti and church members said their goodbyes.

“From the second day, they were so welcoming that I was already sad about leaving,” Gay Roberts said.

Brad Huner said the group’s mission work will allow the church to grow.

“They wanted the same love of God that we have,” he said.

Carmen Carter agrees.

“The church members cooked our breakfast all week, and they ministered to us,” he said. “We were so energized by this.”

During the mission trip, all six team members stayed in a hotel.

“Rooms were very modest with a European feel,” Hunter said. “The bathroom was about 5 feet by 5 feet and very simple. Homes are that way too,”

“People were outgoing and hospitable throughout our stay and very honest. I was prepared to give too much money for purchases and they corrected me.”

Transportation in the area amounts to small cars, mopeds, and bicycles. There are no stop signs and few traffic lights.”

Pastor Franks had his own spin on the hospitality.

“I have never been kissed by so many good looking women in my life,” he said. “I think we need to change our ‘meet and greet’ at First Reformed.”

Next up for the interaction between First Reformed Church of Landis and Iglesia Christiana Evangelica of Morteros, Argentina is a visit to Landis by couples from Morteros, currently planned for later this year.

Lots of friends will gather again, and language won’t be a barrier this time either.

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