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Volunteer families mix hunting, fishing, missions

ESQUINA, Argentina (BP)–Miche Patricia was more accustomed to hunting parties of upper-class, middle-aged men treating her like an employee at best and a servant at worst. But the laid-back, laughing Americans and their children treated her differently.

God had a plan for reaching Miche, even though her heart had remained closed to Him for years.

Tears come to David Holt’s eyes when he thinks about it. He and his wife Alisha, International Mission Board missionaries to Argentina from Mount Zion Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., had been praying for their friend Miche for months.

“It’s kind of the reverse view of what we normally find here in this culture,” David Holt said. “In Miche’s case, she was the one in the marriage who was not attending church. Her husband had gotten back in the church and given his life to Christ, and she’s been resistant.”

Miche works as a server and kitchen hand in a hunting lodge in Esquina, Argentina. The town is in the heart of river country and has been built around the hunting and fishing industry. Like most of the hunting guides and lodge employees, Miche is from the Criollo people group.

The Criollo people are not the privileged descendents of European immigrants, nor are they the indigenous people of Argentina. They are a mix of the two and claimed by neither. Shunned by the discriminating immigrant class and ineligible for government welfare programs available to the indigenous, the Criollo have learned to maintain a wary distance from outsiders.

“The Criollo are very downtrodden people,” Alisha Holt said. “They’ve been told for generations that they’re not worth anything.”

But the Holts never gave up on Miche. They have worked with the Criollo long enough to know that gaining their trust and earning the right to speak into their lives is a long process. So for months they prayed for her by name and did their best to develop a friendship with her.

Then the volunteers came.

Four families including six kids from the United States came to experience the hunting and fishing opportunities in northern Argentina. But they came also with the intention of sharing God’s love with the Criollo people who work in the hunting and fishing industry — people like Miche. Their plan was to share the Gospel with the people they meet casually while enjoying the outdoors.

The volunteer trip resulted from a collaboration of hunting ministries involving the Holts and Chuck McAlister, a former IMB trustee who hosts an evangelistic TV program for hunters.

“We are families helping people encounter Jesus,” said McAlister, from the Church at Crossgate Center in Hot Springs, Ark.

At first Miche was shy and reserved around the volunteer families. They did what they could to make her job easier and expressed their appreciation for her service. And even when neither knew what the other was saying, smiles were always exchanged. It became clear that, unlike most of the tourists who come through the lodge, these people valued the lodge employees.

They valued Miche. And her reservations were fading.

“It all boils down to just building relationships,” said George Dubose, a volunteer from Trinity Baptist Church in Apopka, Fla., who came to Argentina with his wife and three children. “And the Lord’s used our interaction to quicken hearts and minds to a decision [for Christ].”

When the volunteers traveled to the rural town of Malvinas to visit an agricultural boarding school, Miche went along to prepare their lunch. There she had the opportunity to listen as McAlister shared the Gospel with the students.

“It might have been the first time she ever heard the Gospel in a way she could understand in her heart,” David Holt said. “When Chuck asked if anyone there had prayed to receive Christ for the first time in their life, Miche was one of the ones who raised her hand.”

Miche wasn’t shy with the group after that. She hugged the kids and joked with the parents.

“This morning she came up to me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said good morning,” said 14-year-old Chelsea Fitzgerald from Trinity Baptist. “She’s just very loving and caring, and I’m glad she’s going to be coming home [to heaven] with us.”

When it was time for the volunteers to leave, Miche saw them off in tears. They were her spiritual family even though they were from another culture.

“And so we see — through a volunteer team of entire families coming down to enjoy the great outdoors in Argentina and just share the love of Christ with those they come in contact with — how it works,” David Holt said.
Tristan Taylor is an International Mission Board writer living in the Americas. To view a multi-media package related to this story, go to http://www.commissionstories.com/stories/1313

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  • Tristan Taylor