SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Dwight Simpson described the value of partnership during the Woman’s Missionary Union Annual Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting’s closing session June 11.
“God broke our hearts, telling us we couldn’t be so selfish to just reach the people on our side of the border, Simpson, director of missions for the San Diego Baptist Association, recounted.
Pastors in the association sensed God calling them to the task of reaching the Mexican border town of Tijuana. But with resources in the association already spread thin, Simpson said, “[T]he heaviness of the task was weighing on me” during his morning devotion time.
“But I felt God’s presence reassuring me,” Simpson said. “In half an hour I was scanning some journals and I ran across an article about MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST. And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat for people to come here?'”
So Simpson submitted a request to WMU.
MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST are pre-planned missions experiences that WMU began offering in 2000 and 2001. Teams of volunteers, coordinated by WMU, work through state conventions and local associations to conduct missions projects tailored to the needs of local communities. To date, about 30 MissionsFEST and FamilyFEST projects have been held across the country.
As God was working on the hearts of the San Diego association pastors for outreach on the border, He was preparing a couple to become the missionaries who would partner with the pastors.
Juvenal and Maria Gonzalez were living in North Carolina when Maria attended a WMU training conference and mentioned to a WMU leader that she sensed God calling her to missions. Word about the Gonzalez family traveled, and they received an invitation to take a role in the San Diego association’s Tijuana initiative.
While Maria knew God was calling her, she confessed she did not want to go back to Mexico. But the couple went ahead and accepted the invitation to help with the FamilyFEST project. When they saw the need in Tijuana, they quickly knew it was where God was calling them to serve.
Two weeks before they were to move, Simpson called the family with the bad news that the association could only raise $465 to sponsor the family in the new work across the border. Juvenal said, “I told the Lord, ‘You know there are five of us, and if You want to, You can take care of us on $465.”
On the family’s arrival in San Diego, Juvenal called Simpson and said, “We’re here.”
Simpson asked, “Where?”
Juvenal replied, “Here in San Diego, reporting for duty.”
A year and a half later, Simpson reports 20 congregations affiliated with their work. He thanked the WMU for connecting them with the Gonzalez family.
“What a blessing they have been first of all to our association. They taught us afresh about faith. They were there to work and they were going to work even if they had to support themselves. They unified and energized the work down there.”