PORTALES (WMU) - A rural New Mexico outreach to dairy worker regularly sees people from Mexico and other Central American countries place their faith in Jesus? Its two chaplains have already seen over 170 professions of faith in 2020. The ministry initially connects with workers during their work breaks at the dairies.
Dozens of dairies with hundreds of workers and thousands of dairy cows surround Portales. While the milk barns scattered across Eastern New Mexico and West Texas represent huge business ventures, Foundations of Faith (Fundamentos de Fe) dairy ministry views them as a fertile mission field.
Melissa Lamb, New Mexico WMU president, and her husband, Beau, pastor at First Baptist Church, Santa Rosa, are among volunteers who help FOF minister to primarily Spanish-speaking workers at the dairies. They serve alongside longtime dairy owners Stanley and Valerie Jones, who founded and lead Foundations of Faith. FOF chaplains A.B. Najera and Arturo Villa regularly visit workers at dairies throughout the region.
Foundations of Faith’s primary goal is helping dairy workers and their families “build strong lives on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ,” according to the ministry’s website. FOF also sponsors English as a Second Language classes to help workers achieve or increase fluency in English.
As Lamb blends her mission involvement in WMU and FOF, she said, “WMU’s passion and desire to do missions first to spread the Gospel just goes so well with what FOF do[es].” With the Lambs both growing up in New Mexico, she added, “We were excited to come alongside the ministry just because missions are our heart. The rural agriculture ministry has always been a big thing for us.”
Najera and Villa, who also lead area Spanish-language churches, befriend dairy workers at 40 to 45 dairies by handing out soft drinks and bottled water from the tailgate of their pickup truck each week. They ask workers if they or their families have prayer requests or personal needs.
In addition to holding regular Bible studies at several dairies such as W Diamond and Grande Vida, FOF hosts worker appreciation events every few weeks during the workers’ shift changes. The rallies, complete with lunches ranging from cookouts to pizza, typically attract larger crowds to hear the chaplains’ Gospel messages.
Since FOF’s 2015 launch, it has recorded over 500 professions of faith in Christ, including 124 during 2019 and over 170 so far in 2020 - even amid the Covid-19 pandemic’s challenges.
Many of the dairy workers “are hungry for the Word,” Jones explains. He affirms that the chaplains’ commitment to building personal relationships with the workers “is making a huge difference.” He says the spiritual response is “amazing.”
According to Villa, a large percentage of workers “don’t have time to go to church because they work 12 hours and they go home, eat dinner and go to sleep. The next day they do the same thing.” He said their schedule is a primary motivation for leading onsite Bible studies at the dairies.
The workers involved in the weekly Bible studies call the sessions “church,” Jones said. “We’re just taking ‘church’ to them.” Lamb noted, “All of our services at the dairies run for about 15 minutes. “Could you imagine going to a church service that was only 15 minutes long, out in the hot or the cold or whatever it might be,” he asked.
Lamb said, “It’s amazing to see the workers travel thousands of miles to come up to hear the Good News, quite possibly for the first time in their lives.” Many of the dairy workers come from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and other Central American countries. “It’s so overwhelming at times to see how gracious God is to give us this opportunity to share the love of Christ with them,” Lamb said. “Our guys do an amazing job of sharing God’s Word,” he added. “It has “blessed us to see that there are so many people willing and ready to accept the Good News.”
As workers pray to receive Christ as their Savior, FOF gives them a Bible in Spanish, English, or Kiche, the heart language of many Guatemalan workers. Chaplains also give them a packet that includes a “First Steps” discipleship booklet, a list of nearby Spanish-language churches and the chaplains’ contact information.
Another critical aspect of the FOF’s dairy ministry involves the ESL classes that Melissa Lamb coordinates and leads. A group of volunteer teachers helps her. English classes enroll up to 25 dairy workers and family members. The classes combine Bible stories, language study and fellowship. “We learn a verse each week in English, and then we do a Bible story,” Lamb explained. “Oftentimes, we’ll have one of our Spanish speakers read it in Spanish, first. And then, we’ll read the story in simple English words.”
FOF has expanded to provide Bible studies in other places, too, including a peanut mill and a nursing home. Jones said he is hopeful that duplicating the foundation’s ministry strategy will reach workers in food processing plants, factories and warehouses across the nation. “I think there could be a lot of good come out of this if we can just get it out there as a model of showing what we’re doing,” he said. “You don’t just have to take it to dairy farms. It can go to all different places.”
Beau Lamb said, “It’s almost hard to believe at times, as a small-town pastor, to see so many people come to Christ at one time.” “That ignites a fire that has encouraged our local churches to be involved and to share and to give,” he shared.
“There are so many other groups that could do something very similar to what we’re doing,” Melissa Lamb urged. Reflecting on her mission’s heart for unreached language groups all across the U.S., she concluded, “God has brought them to America. We can share the Gospel with them.”
Learn more about ministry opportunities through FOF at www.ffaith.net.