Men Abiding in Christ Ministries, a Marietta-based organization that partners with local churches to encourage men to become disciples of Jesus Christ, began a mission three years ago to Renacimiento, a poverty-stricken suburb in Mexico.
Though the mission began as a small-scale soccer camp, it evolved into the construction of a $500,000 facility with the help of Marietta and Mexican businesses.
Pat MacPherson, founder of MAC Ministries, said after breaking ground in April, the new facility will serve about 900 families living in Renacimiento and the surrounding region and will be governed by a board consisting primarily of physicians from the area.
“It’s five times bigger than we originally planned,” said MacPherson, noting a large contribution by an anonymous donor propelled the project forward.
“When we first received the donation, we assumed would it cover the whole building,” he said. “The vision grew of really wanting a large facility that would have ambulance service that could really reach more than one community.”
So far, donations from Marietta toward the medical center reached about $85,000 and $75,000 raised by local businesses in Monterrey, the closest nearby city to Renacimiento.
“We’re looking not to bring in any more American money, but to have a community-operated and sustained clinic,” he said.
MacPherson, a longtime Marietta resident, said he’s hoping to have the facility open by the end of the year.
“The greatest gift I’m seeing so far is our mission work there,” MacPherson said. “But what happened was our relationship with the community has grown. Those relationships have become almost like family.”
From mission trip
to medical center
Four years ago, MacPherson said he was encouraged to revitalize a mission trip to nearby Monterrey by Pastor John Wells, who leads MacPherson’s home church, First Presbyterian Church of Marietta.
“The church had been sending a youth group down since 1988 once a year to build homes,” he said. “They stopped doing those trips in 2009 due to unrest in the area… (Wells) approached me and asked if there was any way to get the adults to carry on the mission work.”
So, MacPherson flew to Monterrey in August that year, the first time he’d been to Mexico since he went with his own youth group trip in 1988. From there, he traveled to Renacimiento as suggested by mission trip volunteers like Collins Roux, who went to the community before the unrest.
“The needs are so great in Renacimiento,” Roux said. “And I just didn’t feel that we were through with our work there.”
MacPherson said he walked the streets one day and came across Casa Samuel, a local Mexican ministry where he met Pastor Ava Zepata, who focuses her ministry on supporting women and children to become self-sustaining. He asked what she would have a group of 15 adults do if he brought them there.
“She said, ‘I would have you play soccer with the kids,’” he said. “There’s not a strong presence of men in the neighborhood. Many men leave and go look for work outside the city. What we find is the average woman in the community is a mother, a caretaker, a provider — all of those things.”
In May 2010, MacPherson came back with those volunteers for three days and hosted a soccer camp.
“I really gained a vision of trying to move forward with the mission in a non-traditional kind of way,” he said. “I wanted to get away from going once a year and doing some type of building project. Instead we tried to start going five times a year for short trips, with the goal to get to know folks in the neighborhood on a first-name basis.”
Roux said volunteers began to spend time getting to know people personally.
“In doing that even more needs became apparent,” Roux said. “And this is where the idea of a clinic began.”
Roux said during one of the trips, a little girl fell and hit her front teeth on some concrete steps, knocking them back up into her gums. The only available pain relief for her was illegal, Roux said.
“There was also a baby who was very uncomfortable,” she said. “I learned that the mother had run out of diapers and to remedy that situation she used a plastic grocery bag on the baby. As a result, the baby had raw blisters on most of his bottom and legs. The people there do the best they can with what they have. But I realized the overwhelming need of medical care and basic hygiene education.”
When she got home, Roux began telling everyone she knew about her dream to build a medical clinic.
“And God took it from there ... Within less than a year we had the exact amount of money needed to build the clinic,” Roux said.
‘Faces filled with hope’
As the medical center begins construction, the ministry continues building relationships with the community.
On May 10, the ministry was able to bring 18 volunteers to host its fourth-annual soccer camp for almost 200 kids, with the addition of a women’s retreat for over 100 local mothers. While the mothers had a Bible study, the local mayor provided buses for the children to go to a nearby soccer facility to play soccer with the local professional soccer club, Los Tigres.
The following Sunday, a group of seven men from the ministry came to the city to spend four days doing handy work, including roof and window repair.
With improvements to the community, locals are also looking forward to the hospital.
“Now, as they see the walls going up, their faces are filled with hope,” Roux said. “Before, they felt like a forgotten people. Now, they have hope for the future.”
Moving forward, Roux hopes to build a hydroponic greenhouse and an orphanage in Renacimiento.
“We will just have to see where God leads us,” she said.