District and Conference Visit Border Ministry

Rev. Robert Lopez and Susan Hellums of El Valle District organized a one-day visit with the Methodist Church of Mexico, in particular to visit the network of ministries through Manos Juntas [Hands Together Ministry – Advance #3020527].

Manos Juntas seeks to address the lack of proper housing, access to schools, and health services affordable to the poor of Mexico. By partnering with different institutions like local churches, schools, the Red Cross, Rotary Clubs; and even local, state, and the federal government; Manos Juntas implements programs that educate, inform, and empower people to make better decisions for their daily life.  


In Pharr, Texas – A group of El Valle District pastors and District Superintendent Rev. Robert Lopez and Missions Coordinator Susan Hellums pray for the day’s visit to Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Led by Willie Berman, Global Ministries missionary and director of Manos Juntas, the group spent the day visiting the network of ministries in the area responding to community and migrant needs.

Pastor Hector Silva shares about the ministry of Senda de Vida [Life Path], an ecumenical and UMC / Methodist Church of Mexico supported ministry. Senda de Vida receives migrants and refugees who have had an arduous journey through Mexico, many coming from Central America fleeing violence and economic hardships. Some endure violence and robbery on their journey. Senda de Vida is a place of respite where sojourners can stay and be refreshed spiritually and physically. 

At a migratory high point, Senda de Vida has hosted about 500 people. On this day, the Guatamalen men prepare to go to work to restore a home of a family in the neighborhood that burned down. Pastor Hector says that all who are part of this community have gifts to offer. 


Some migrants look for work in Reynosa while others contemplate going across into the United States. In spite of their journey struggles, having a transitional spiritual home and community of faith brings a sense of joy and comfort.  After hearing a testimony of one of the sojourners, Rev. Lopez offers a prayer for all on the journey and gives thanks for this ministry. "The border is a complex and unique place, I do not pretend to understand it all but it was a humbling experience to offer prayers of comfort to the men, women, and children housed at Senda de Vida ministry in northern Mexico."

Willie Berman speaks about one of the clinics under the direction of Manos Juntas. Rio Bravo offers affordable healthcare services for the community under Centro Medico. All medical staff are indigenous with the exception of those coming from the U.S. offering specialized services.

Manos Juntas engages in the UMC outreach effort In Mission Together [1]. It strives for mutual partnerships with the communities and the congregations of the Methodist Church of Mexico and the UMC. Likewise, Rio Texas churches are engaging in ministry in the colonias [2] on the U.S. side as well ecumenical collaboration responses in offering hospitality to refugees arriving weekly [3].

To capture this border reality in person via a ministry exploration site visits, contact Susan Hellums of El Valle District at 956.648.8509 / shellums@mcfirst.com and Willie Berman of Manos Juntas at 956.648.8712 / wberman@prodigy.net.mx.

This article was written by Abel Vega, Director of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center, Rio Texas Conference, United Methodist Church



[1] http://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Partnerships/In-Mission-Together    

[2] colonia = In the United States, colonias are unregulated settlements that began to emerge with the advent of informal housing. Colonias are considered semi-rural subdivisions of substandard housing lacking basic physical infrastructure, potable water, sanitary sewage, and adequate roads.

[3] https://riotexas.org/news/2016/12/14/our-context-for-refugee-immigration-and-border-ministries