A Stranger Walks In…
It’s a normal Sunday morning, and church service is about to start. You have said your usual round of good mornings to everyone, perhaps dropped your littles ones off at childcare. And now you are ready to hear your pastor deliver the message.
Then, uninvited and unannounced, a stranger walks through the doors and confidently proclaims, “I’m here to help solve your problems!”
A few things probably go through your mind.
First, who is this guy?!
And second, how could he offer any useful advice when he doesn’t even know us?
Obviously, before the church can trust this guy, they need to build a relationship with him. And that can only happen if he takes the time getting to know them well.
That’s why building relationships with the congregation is vital to the ministry of our District Representatives!
They mentor our missionaries and equip the leadership. But, equally important, they spend time in fellowship with the people of the church.
David & Joann Hernandez, who oversee the Great Lakes District, give some insight into this little known, but essential, dynamic of the DR ministry.
The Face of Village Missions
When a church contacts Village Missions and asks for leadership, often the District Representative is one of the first people they meet. The DR travels to the community, meets with the congregation, and explains how a partnership with Village Missions works. If both groups decide to move forward together, then the DR becomes involved in the placement of their Village Missionary.
Whether the church has been with us for a few months or several decades, the District Representative is often the face of Village Missions – they help make VM seem less like a distant organization, and instead a partner in rural ministry (which is what we are!).
And when our DRs do their bi-yearly visits, they also share what is happening in other districts and any developments within the mission, as well.
As Adam & Tamara Hill, missionaries in Rock, Michigan, say, “David & Joann are the face of Village Missions for our chapel, and we could not hope for better District Representatives!”
Knowing The Ones You Serve
Besides being the link that connects our missionaries and churches to the wider VM community, another important side of the DR’s ministry is to know each of their congregations as best they can.
“Even though we only visit a few times a year, we try to let them know that we love them and are thinking about them,” David & Joann say.
Building relationships with the congregation can begin in small ways, such as remembering names, asking questions about people’s families and interests, and knowing the history of their church.
David & Joann try to visit on Sundays as much as possible, and even try to attend special events, such as holiday celebrations and parties.
By showing interest and taking the time to learn about the people they serve, David & Joann hope their congregations can see that they value each person, and they want what’s best for their spiritual growth.
The Value of Strong Relationships
“If the church doesn’t know us,” David & Joann say, “the church might be hesitant telling us their problems.”
Yet, if the church knows that their DRs have their best interests at heart, then they can trust them when problems do appear.
Sometimes, this might mean that DRs have to offer difficult advice, intervene in a conflict,or walk with the church through a challenging situation. But Proverbs 27:6 (ESV) reminds us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
So, on good days or bad, their DRs are there to support and help them become a stronger, more unified body of believers.
As David & Joann say, “A church that we have laughed and cried with is a church we can work through difficult things with.”
Building Relationships Within Our Churches
Currently, David & Joann serve the fewest number of churches (29) but have the largest district in terms of distance (10 states). After the DR Expansion, their district will shorten to 22 churches in 8 states.
While saying goodbye to several beloved congregations saddens them, David & Joann eagerly look forward to spending more time with the churches in their newly designed district.
“We are excited to have more opportunities to visit with all our churches!” they comment. “We just want to be a positive and helpful influence on each of our churches.”
This prayer – to be a positive & helpful influence – is the heartbeat of the DR Ministry. And because of the expansion, and the incredible support of our donors, our District Representatives can keep faithfully serving our missionaries & churches so that the gospel can be displayed in rural America.