Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

VIM transfers oversight of Manos Juntas to Mexican Methodists


On Dec. 2, a covenant ceremony transferred oversight of the Oklahoma Conference Volunteers In Mission (VIM) ministry in Rio Bravo, Mexico, to the Eastern Conference of The Mexico Methodist Church. A delegation of Oklahoma leaders traveled to Rio Bravo to watch two bishops sign the historic ministry agreement involving Manos Juntas Mexico. Oklahoma’s Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. and Bishop Raul Garcia of the Eastern Conference of the Mexico Church are shown at right. A park built by Oklahomans was also dedicated that day; community members of all ages gathered for that, as shown above. The partnership will continue; 28 VIM teams are already scheduled to serve there during 2010.

Oklahoman and Mexican church leaders pray during the Dec. 2 covenant service at Rio Bravo, Mexico. Assisted by

Oklahoman and Mexican church leaders pray during the Dec. 2 covenant service at Rio Bravo, Mexico. Assisted by

Oklahoman and Mexican church leaders pray during the Dec. 2 covenant service at Rio Bravo, Mexico. Assisted by Jeremy Basset, Mexican Bishop Raul Garcia signs the agreement. Flanked by staff, missionary Marsha Alexander is honored.


Prior to a party in the new community park, a painter freshens a goal and bright colors cover the stage.

Children waved banners, danced and sang, and played on a slide Dec. 2 as Mexico residents and Oklahoma guests celebrated completion of a VIM park project in Rio Bravo. The nearby Manos Juntas Mexico compound is shown in center photo.

Children waved banners, danced and sang, and played on a slide Dec. 2 as Mexico residents and Oklahoma guests celebrated completion of a VIM park project in Rio Bravo. The nearby Manos Juntas Mexico compound is shown in center photo.

Photos by Nyla Wallin

A Covenant of Shared Ministry

between The Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church

and The Conferencia Annual Oriental of The Iglesia Metodista de Mexico A.R.

Grateful to God for the growing shared ministry … and the visible results of our partnership emerging from the ministry of

Manos Juntas Mexico, we now covenant to continue this relationship for 2009-2013 ...

This covenant will commit our Conferences to:

1. strengthen the spirituality, discipleship, and mission of our churches in Mexico and Oklahoma;

2. listen to and learn from each other through mutual exchanges and visits to each other’s Conferences;

3. a partnership in sustaining and expanding the evangelization, leadership development, and construction of churches through sending and receiving of Volunteers In Mission teams and individual volunteers; and

4. care for all God’s people so that their lives can be uplifted through proclamation of the Gospel and delivery of social services, including health care, education, rural development, agriculture and nutrition.

We will seek to give effect to this covenant by:

1. encouraging congregations in each of our Conferences to become partner churches, supporting each other through prayer;

2. continuing our support of and engagement in the ministry of

3. providing opportunities for the development of pastors and their families to enhance their pastoral effectiveness to benefit our Conferences;

4. receive from each other a list of our missional priorities to share with the churches of our respective Conferences;

5. publicize this covenant in all our churches and maintain information on our respective Web sites; and

6. providing in-depth orientation for all our teams and individuals traveling to each other’s countries ...

Manos Juntas Mexico and any subsequent similar expressions of our partnership;

Bishops Robert E. Hayes Jr. and Raul Garcia de Ochoa—Signed by Bishops Robert E. Hayes Jr. and Raul Garcia de Ochoa

‘This transition has been an emotional experience for me. We’ve worked

hard to make this happen. Today is really a good, good moment.

It is the right time to do this.’—Oklahoma VIM Director Jeremy Basset

By Nyla Wallin and Holly McCray

Mabel and Elizabeth had a deep passion for the poor in the place they called home: Rio Bravo, Mexico. They found a group of Oklahomans who shared their desire to make a difference. The two women teamed with United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (VIM) to serve there, building concrete-block houses, operating medical clinics, and teaching children about the Bible.

That was about 15 years ago. Thus began the ministry now named Manos Juntas Mexico.

In ceremonies on Dec. 2, administration of the ministry was formally transferred from Oklahoma Conference VIM to the Eastern Conference of The Mexico Methodist Church. VIM teams and individual volunteers are continuing the work, which now is directed by Mexican officials and staff.

The action signifies trust in a relationship that bridges the U.S.-Mexico border, said Bishop Raul Garcia of the Eastern Conference, Mexico Methodist Church, speaking in Rio Bravo on that historic day.

"We are very conscious that we are to respond before the Lord the same way the Americans have developed this ministry," he told the audience that included a delegation from Oklahoma.

"Throughout the years, by the love of Jesus in our hearts, we have experienced that human beings can build bridges anywhere instead of building walls. It is beautiful to recognize we are one Body. We complement each other; we are all doing the work of the Lord."

Garcia said the Eastern Conference in July approved the new relationship established by the administrative change. On behalf of the two Conferences, he and Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. signed a "Covenant of Shared Ministry" during the Dec. 2 events.

Willie Berman succeeds U.S. missionary Marsha Alexander as director of Manos Juntas. "We want to work with the teams in a way that will make the work more efficient and less expensive," Berman said. He referred to resources of the Mexican government that are available to the Mexican Methodists.

Rev. Alexander, whose hometown is Chickasha, Okla., said, "Over these five years I have been here, we have strengthened the partnership so that some day this could happen, this could be their ministry. Who knows these people better than they do?

"The vital part of this ministry is that people who come as VIM to share the love of Christ are making a difference—and will continue to make a difference."

According to the Oklahoma VIM office, an average of 100 teams—about 2,000 people—served annually at Manos Juntas during 2006-08. A total of 28 teams already have registered for 2010.

Christian neighborliness was underscored by both Bishop Hayes and Jeremy Basset, VIM director in Oklahoma.

Hayes recited the two commandments named by Jesus as most important: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. People in Oklahoma and Rio Bravo turned first to God to bless the mission 15 years ago, to express Christian love for their neighbors, and thus the ministry endures today, he said.

Mexico is our neighbor, and Jesus has very clear things to say about our neighbor. Ministry does not just flow north to south," Rev. Basset said. "We’re so much stronger, both sides, having grown through this journey together. The shared covenant we are entering into today is a recognition of that reality."

He said Manos Juntas is sufficiently designed and staffed without burdening either Conference, as long as commitment is strong to authentic ministry together. He predicted growth is possible, too.

The Mexican administrators told of some future plans. "We are going to increase our area of coverage, going farther into Mexico," said Julian Otero, who oversees operations and team scheduling. "I believe the heart of God beats most with the poor and the destitute."

Construction coordinator Jorge Chacon said improving church buildings is another need.

Bishop Garcia reported a meeting the previous day with a Mexican group that also wants to organize and send volunteers.

At the covenant-signing ceremony, Bishop Hayes presented a gift of $3,025 from Oklahoma Conference to the ministry. Sounds of construction mingled with the voices of the speakers.

"I am thrilled that we see new dreams and new visions of what can happen under this leadership," Hayes said later. "For the first time, I am on site. I can only imagine who has come here and given themselves unselfishly for the cause of the Kingdom of God."

Morgan Green of Oklahoma City has led VIM teams from OKC-Chapel Hill church.

"We started by bringing medical teams. We have a dentist who has been a participant from Day One," Green said. "He first started pulling teeth (using) a folding chair tilted back to a window. We believe in this ministry. We come twice a year."

Construction projects especially draw Green. "You can bring a team down here and, in two days, they can go from a slab to a home, give that home to a family here, and raise their level of living."

A park, built by VIM teams, also was dedicated on Dec. 2, and management of it was transferred to the Rio Bravo municipality. Green said a Chapel Hill member helped secure a $10,000 Petree grant to launch that project.

President Bill Junk of the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation said several endowment funds, invested through the Foundation, support VIM teams and purchase medicine for the clinics.

"A large contingent of folks in Oklahoma have built buildings and contributed to the medical work," Junk said. "Those people know how important it is for this ministry to happen, no matter who owns it. I think the endowments will continue to support this ministry well into the future. What makes the Foundation work is matching up people’s passions with resources."

Bishop Garcia honored the Oklahomans who "heard the voice of God, like in the Macedonian call to come and help. Thank you for working so hard for so long. You have done all this unselfishly. It has cost you a lot to establish this; the investment has been high."

He said lives have been renewed because of the VIM effort. "Take back to your Conference our hand and our heart, our respect and our love. The seed that you planted is giving fruit, much fruit. We thank you for this confidence in the Mexican Conference to pass on the administration of this. We are going to be responsible, in the name of the Lord."

Initial information about volunteering is available by contacting Kristin Terrell-Wilkes in the Oklahoma VIM office, kterrell-wilkes@okumc.org,  405-530-2029, 800-231-4166 ext. 2029. Web site is www.okvim.org.



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