When we think of the word sacrifice our minds often assume the ultimate physical sacrifice—like giving one’s life through military service. My recent trip to the Texas-Mexico border reminded me sacrifice can be defined in many different ways.
Hearing stories from Central American families caught in today’s border impasse certainly broadened my understanding of sacrifice. People like you and me believe they have no other choice but to leave everything behind (including family) to escape violence and food insecurity and to seek better futures for their children. Men and women risk molestation and trafficking in their search for a better life. Seeing human beings forced to live in overcrowded, unsanitary tent cities and detention centers while awaiting court dates is gut-wrenching. As if that isn’t bad enough, criminals lie in wait to kidnap and extort money from relatives while those awaiting permission to enter the U.S. endure horrendous living conditions on the Mexico side of the border. If things get too unbearable, some make the dangerous decision to illegally cross the Rio Grande River knowing it could end their lives or result in deportation. These people know the meaning of sacrifice.
One of the bright spots in our immersion experience on the Texas-Mexico border was meeting pastors of churches whom God calls to serve these folks caught in a broken system. The sacrifices and risks taken by these courageous leaders inspires me. Pastor Israel Rodriguez leads Primera Iglesia Bautista in Piedras Negras (see picture above). Rodriguez and his church members minister to refugees in shelters across their city and faithfully manage the on-going, never-ending tasks of feeding, counseling, and providing spiritual nurture to scared and desperate people far from home. I asked Pastor Rodriguez how he disciples members of his congregation to be able to serve in these heart-breaking situations. He explained how he trains key leaders who then work with cell group leaders. Discipleship (learning how to be the hands and feet of Christ) happens in those cell groups. Each disciple is expected to serve in some way. Pastor Israel’s original challenge to the congregation to serve immigrants resulted in a first wave of compassionate folks making a difference in the lives of the hurting. Soon, others recognized the need and impact and got involved. According to Pastor Israel, “There are some who will never serve in a hands-on way.” This wise pastor says to them, “Then it’s your responsibility to give so others can serve.” Pastor Israel and his congregation clearly live out faith formation and show us how to sacrifice for God’s Kingdom.
As we approach the end of 2019, I’m keenly aware of sacrifices individuals and congregations have made to empower the work of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Virginia. Some leaders served on our Coordinating Council to guide our mission and ministry efforts. Some partnered in meaningful ways by hosting events, serving on planning teams, and engaging congregants in faith forming experiences. Some gave sacrificially to support the work of CBFVA either directly or through CBF Global. For all these different and unique sacrifices, THANK YOU! Your investment, large or small, is a blessing and makes a difference!
We look forward to journeying with you in even deeper ways in 2020! Until then, we pray God’s richest blessings as you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. May the work we do together bring spiritual vitality and be life-changing for congregations across the Commonwealth.
With gratitude for your sacrifice,
Terry Maples, CBFVA Coordinator