Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Two Countries, Two Cultures, One Faith


Team photo at the bridge of Juarez Mexico crossing from El Paso, TX. Left to right, LPI President Carla Cardoza, Joe Holt, Sam Powers, Carlos Ramirez, Tabitha Beckman, Rebekah Hasty, Diana Northcutt, Nancy Hamilton, Aly Shahan, Derrek Belase, Carol Cook Moore, Jim Jones, Bessie Hamilton, Bishop Nunn, Lori Foster, Roger Parker.

How US and Mexican churches partner to help children flourish

Bishop Nunn, members of the Cabinet and other leaders from the Oklahoma Conference visited Manos Juntas (Hands Together Ministry) in Rio Bravo, Mexico, and Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, in early December. Manos Juntas has been an important mission of the OKUMC for over 20 years, and Lydia Patterson Institute has been a Methodist-supported school for over 100 years.

Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI) is a private, faith-based school supported by the United Methodist Church South Central Jurisdiction. It provides an education to students in the El Paso borderplex areas to include El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Lydia Patterson Institute currently serves students from grades seven to 12. LPI stands out as a unique place where students are immersed in an academic and spiritual environment.

For over 100 years, Lydia Patterson has been dedicated to building bridges between two countries, two cities, and two cultures.

What began in 1913 with Mrs. Lydia Patterson, a Methodist laywoman acting through the Women’s Missionary Society of her church, began to set up schools in the homes of some Mexican Methodist families. Her spirit and vision are still alive today at LPI where young men and women, a majority of whom are from Ciudad Juarez, continue to be educated in a challenging academic environment while being nurtured in Christian values.

Team photo at LPI. Left to right, Sam Powers, Roger Parker, Derrek Belase, Rebekah Hasty, LPI President Carla Cardoza, Carol Cook Moore, Aly Shahan, Jim Jones, Joe Holt, Diana Northcutt, Lori Foster, Bessie Hamilton, Nancy Hamilton, Carlos Ramirez, Tabitha Beckman.

LPI was one of the first schools in the United States to emphasize the teaching of English as a Second Language in 1921, and to then merge students into their appropriate grade level to put them on the path toward graduation from high school. United Methodists and LPI are committed to forming bilingual and bicultural leaders for society.

The team visited with the students, teachers and the new President Carla Cardoza of Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, and walked across the border to experience the students’ daily journey to and from school.

Manos Juntas works to provide better housing, healthcare and educational opportunities for those in need: people who lack proper housing, access to schools, and health services affordable to the poor; and churches with unfinished buildings, no resources to improve their teachings and social services. Problems in the area include insufficient schools or school classrooms; schools with no facilities and/or resources for better teaching techniques; and shortage of places to teach job skills. By partnering with different institutions like churches, schools, Red Cross, Rotary clubs, local, state and federal government, Manos Juntas implements programs and activities to educate, inform and empower people to make better decisions for their daily living.

Manos Juntas partners with short-term mission teams, churches, schools and other communities to develop programs and activities to promote education, health, and cooperation among people to empower them to overcome different adversities in life, promoting Christian values along this process.

The Oklahoma mission group visited the Manos Juntas main health clinic in Rio Bravo, the after-school program at the Susana Wesley Institute, the site of a future daycare, Guarderia Infantil in northeast Rio Bravo, a children’s home Casa Hogar/Casa de la Esperanza, a retreat center and camp Vamonos Ranch, and a new health clinic in Nuevo Progreso.

Bishop Nunn with a group of children from Casa Hogar at lunch at Vamonos Ranch Photo by Tabitha Beckman.

Lori Foster, Associate Director of Connectional Ministry for Mission, Coordinator Volunteers In Mission OKVIM/DR shared, “Our time spent in Rio Bravo and in Lydia Patterson was a spiritual awakening and reminder of how God works in amazing ways! It was a reminder of God’s presence among us, with us and through us. The ministries that are alive and vibrant focusing on God’s people with such grace and mercy. The purpose was to strengthen the ties that bind us together, to listen, learn and be transformed. To nurture the relationship and be open to all that God reveals to us.” She concluded, “Manos Juntas and Lydia Patterson have a great deal to teach us if we pay attention and allow ourselves to be present with one another.”   

Manos Juntas is working on its newest project, Guarderia Infantil, a Child Care Center located in a populous sector northeast of Rio Bravo. The Center will serve working mothers and couples that need a safe and healthy place where their kids will be treated with love and care. “Several of our partner churches have worked in its construction and we pray to open in the first half of 2023,” said United Methodist missionary Willie Berman.

Another work in progress is the House of Hope Children’s Home, also known as the Casa Hogar/Casa de la Esperanza. In this region of Nuevo Progreso and Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, there are no children’s homes available. Children in need of this service are being sent to Reynosa, the biggest city in the area. Relatives of these youngsters have a hard time visiting the children because of the great distance. Violence created by drug cartels and mafias affecting this area has put many fathers, and sometimes mothers, in the path of criminal activities. A lot of parents have been incarcerated or killed. This has created an increase of children with no parents or with parents who are unable to provide adequate care. All of these families are still living in poverty conditions.

The purpose of these homes is to alleviate the suffering of orphans, single parents and/or grandparents, by taking care 24/7 of children without parents or whose parents cannot take care of them. Manos Juntas partners with state government, local churches, and other agencies to collaborate on the wellness of these precious children.

Bishop Nunn (right), Sam Powers, and Bessie Hamilton check out the Casa Hogar cafeteria. The wall contains the words to a song the children are learning, along with sign language to go with it. Photo by Tabitha Beckman.

Sam Powers said of his experience, “I’ve been to both Manos Juntas and Lydia Patterson prior to this trip and it was great to see how both ministries continue to thrive and impact people’s lives. Manos Juntas has expanded its ministries beyond the casitas that we built so regularly and now extends into education, child care, child residency and health care. The range of ways that we help to feed the hungry and clothe the naked leaves the vivid impression that we are truly transforming the world as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Of his personal transformation, Powers added, “Lydia Patterson continues to make my heart swell with each visit. The young people shaped by this school have the kind of work ethic, soft skills and positivity that parents everywhere are seeking for their children. This is a ministry not only worthy of our support but one that I wish we could multiply to other locations!”

Get Involved!

Join a mission
Rio Bravo conference mission October 16 to 20, 2023 or Lydia Patterson mission. To learn more, contact Lori at lfoster@okumc.org

Learn More About
Manos Juntas, visit GBGM Advance #3020527 or Manos Juntas VIM Mexico on Facebook
House of Hope Children’s Home, Advance #3022419
Global Ministries, contact Willie Berman at manosjuntasmexico@hotmail.com
Lydia Patterson Institute, visit https://lpi-elpaso.org/ or Lydia Patterson Institute on Facebook


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