Eight U.S. Churches Partner to Help Rio Bravo Group

Post a Comment » Written on July 23rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
RIO BRAVO, MEXICO (July 23, 2007) – A new cooperative venture among Evangelical Covenant churches in Minnesota and Wisconsin promises to bring together members of those churches with the people of this Mexican community for years to come.

The churches have partnered with short-term missionaries Jim and Barb Mikrut to do construction and strengthen a burgeoning association of churches in the Mexican communities. Most recently, members of the U.S. churches helped add a second story to the worship facility of a local congregation, Iglesia Ebenezer.

The Covenant churches were attracted to the ministry because of the Mikruts’ expectations for the work, says Alan Johnson, pastor of Karmel Covenant Church in Princeton, Minnesota. The U.S. churches are expected to return repeatedly to Rio Bravo. “The decision to return places the priority on relationships, the core of true ministry,” Johnson says.

Framing“This is extremely important,” says Jim Mikrut. “We found that the biggest thing that some of the congregations here in Mexico lack is encouragement. We all thrive and grow best when encouraged.”

Promises to return that were not kept by other churches have the opposite effect. “All too often, Mexican pastors along the border have heard groups say, ‘we’ll see you soon,’ only to never see them again,” Mikrut says.

Before arriving in Rio Bravo as short-term missionaries this year, the Mikruts traveled repeatedly with their home church, First Covenant Church in Rockford, Illinois, to the Mexican community of Valle Hermoso. An incident during the Rockford church’s most recent trip highlighted the importance of continuing relationships that benefit everyone.

“A few days ago, a (Mexican) pastor pointed out one of the girls on the team and said, ‘I know you from somewhere,’ ” Mikrut recalls. “The next night he brought a folder to us and showed us a pile of pictures attached to prayer requests. He pulled out the picture of the girl he knew looked familiar and said, ‘I thought that was you. We’ve been praying for you since you were 13!’ The girl is now 18.”

The Mikruts also have expectations of the Mexican congregations: each must contribute financially as able, work alongside the mission teams, and provide meals for the workers. The expectations reduce any sense of paternalism felt by the U.S. churches and gives ownership to the Mexican congregations, Johnson says.

The Mikruts’ previous experience in Valle Hermoso led to the strengthening of the community’s pastoral association. “They have grown to realize, through consistent healthy relationships with teams in the states, that we really will come back to do what we say we’d like to do,” Mikrut says. “We hope that with continued work in Rio Bravo, the alliance there will also grow to realize we are partners in this for the long haul.”

The response the Minnesota churches received has inspired them to want to return again. “The words ‘Angels from Minnesota’ were emblazoned on a beautiful banner that formed a backdrop to an outdoor fiesta at the end of our week,” Johnson says. “The local congregation put on a feast of the finest Mexican foods, and with overhead strings of lights, balloons, and music filling the air, we laughed and partied in a way we shall never forget.” To see additional photos, visit “Time to Celebrate.”

The celebration was exciting, but the reason for the party affirmed for the visiting churches that they were supposed to be in Rio Bravo. Before the local congregation’s pastor died three years ago, he had cast a vision for the church to have extra classrooms and a kitchen. Because the congregation had little money, members began all-day prayer sessions every Friday. On the fourth day of construction, the pastor’s widow walked through the site with tears rolling down her cheeks. The vision had become reality.

Churches participating in the Rio Bravo visit include: Minnesota –  Karmel Covenant Church in Princeton, Harris Covenant Church in Harris, Linwood Covenant Church in Wyoming, Braham Covenant Church in Braham, Lewis Lake Covenant Church in Ogilvie, and Crossroads Covenant Church in Forest Lake; Wisconsin – Calvary Covenant Church in Grantsburg, and Siren Covenant Church in Siren.

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