SAN DIEGO — When Marc Botello first visited Tijuana last summer, he didn’t think he’d be back just a few months later. Botello, missions/outreach leader at First Baptist Church in Newhall, Calif., had taken a team to Tijuana to meet with Fernando Martinez, director of a Baptist-affiliated benevolence ministry named Centro Shalom, which focuses its ministry in the city’s barrios where many families live in shelters made from whatever scrap material they can find.
Botello and Martinez discussed how First Baptist members could help people in the city of more than 2 million and began to plan a mission trip for the winter. But when Botello learned that Centro Shalom would be part of the Crossover evangelistic outreach preceding the California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in El Cajon in November 2008, the church decided to send volunteers to Tijuana ahead of schedule.
Botello’s team of eight joined others from Los Angeles and Long Beach to distribute clean water and food to people in some of Tijuana’s poorest neighborhoods.
The Crossover volunteers also took part in Centro Shalom’s weekly worship service, each sharing a brief testimony that was translated into Spanish for the congregation of more than 300. Botello said his church, which ministers in its immediate community and also sent volunteers to Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, has gained an even broader perspective on missions through their experiences in Tijuana.
“Missions can be anywhere, not only in our own community, but in other states and other countries,” Botello noted.
Following the Crossover efforts, Dwight Simpson, director of missions for the San Diego Baptist Association, thanked the volunteers and invited them and others from around California to engage in missions in San Diego and Tijuana during the months ahead. In the first initiative, churches are being enlisted to meet needs in San Diego County through Faith in Action Xtreme, an extended period of service to the community that begins Easter Sunday.
Churches in the association “are gearing up for this intense, six-month period of community service to be able to carry the work at a level that will significantly impact the community and to create the visibility for the church and for God that we really desire,” Simpson said, adding, “We’re going to need lots of help from outside San Diego.”
“There will be such an assortment of community ministry and outreach projects that any church that can drive a few miles and spend a few days to help will be able to find a church here that will greatly appreciate their partnership,” Simpson told the Crossover volunteers.
Volunteers also are needed in Tijuana, Simpson said, noting that mission teams have many opportunities to work in the areas of church planting and humanitarian ministry in San Diego’s sister city. And through the association’s partnership with Tijuana Baptists, facilities for housing and meal preparation are available for visiting teams.
For more information about serving in San Diego or Tijuana, contact the San Diego Baptist Association at (619) 275-2550. For more information on the Faith in Action Xtreme initiative, contact Vision San Diego at (877) 817-4777 or e-mail [email protected].
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Day coordinates communications with the Vision San Diego outreach of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Strategic Focus Cities initiative.)