Wesley Hicks, 127 advocate and pastor of The Ridge Church, felt the urge three years ago for his young church plant to take the next step in ministry. He’d heard about 127 Worldwide from friends advocating on our behalf, so he decided to reach out to Advocate Relations Coordinator Amanda Walton to ask how to get involved in the work God is doing among vulnerable communities through local leaders. His church has remained involved and partnered closely with 127 partner David Lara in Escuintla, Guatemala.
As we celebrate ten years of ministry, we’re remembering all the ways God has used 127 Worldwide to connect and equip the global body of Christ. Wesley’s story of partnership with David is just one of the many stories we’re thankful to be a part of. Recently he and Advocate Relations Coordinator Amanda Walton sat down to talk about his story with 127 Worldwide. Read more of their conversation below!
Tell us a little bit about what the Ridge Church’s partnership with 127 partner David Lara looks like.
Personally, I just look at it like a family who works together. David and his church are our church, our family. They’re our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have a real bond.
Partnership has looked like an engaged family unit that is there for each other however necessary– in prayer, in person, and in financial investment. What is the need he needs to accomplish his mission, boots on the ground, where he is? Because that’s going to matter long-term more than something we can send over.
Whatever it is he needs if we can help resource it, supply it, equip it, or even just lay prayer over it, that’s what we do. And what’s been beautiful about it is he always does the same for us. So it’s not one way. It’s a reciprocating, communion-type relationship.
It’s a meaningful relationship that actually benefits both parties in which we share one vision to see the kingdom taken to the nations.
The Ridge Church has invested specifically into a young man in David’s community named Alex. What has that investment in Alex’s life looked like for your church?
Alex is a young man under Pastor David’s care in a mentorship type role and is from an impoverished community. He wanted to pursue a dream of becoming a mechanic but couldn’t afford school. The resources just weren’t there, and David was aware of the need.
So because of that awareness, the need came to us in passing conversation with David. And we asked, “What would it take to see this young man apply his dream into practice and take what he learns to work with pastor David, serve others in his church, and bless his community?”
David helped us think through what investing in Alex’s future could look like, and we knew God put us in a place to make a difference and help Alex. Now, Alex is about to graduate. Here’s a young man who saw life as a real uphill battle but now has a great opportunity. What he does with it is in God’s hands, and we’ll see where that goes.
Through caring for him and David being the front-man and the representative of that caregiving, we’ve seen Alex not only go to school but grow in faith, pursuing a relationship with Christ and working with David to help others. It’s disciple-making at its best.
How has 127’s commitment to healthy engagement with vulnerable communities shaped the way your church supports Alex?
Traditionally when people think about missions, we have this hero complex. We come in, we’re going to fix everything, and we see people get saved. And then we leave, and this weird vacuum occurs.
The way that 127 has helped us and ultimately helped David, and even more than that helped Alex, has been to say, “instead, let’s empower local leaders so that they can in turn build lasting relationships that focus not only on discipleship but also on serving the community as a whole, magnifying the gospel, and helping those who are under-resourced and in need long-term.” This isn’t a short-term game plan. When you’re talking about a life-long commitment to discipleship you’re talking about transforming communities. You can shift the tide of an entire culture because the roots are in the ground rather than 3,000 miles away.
What 127 has helped us to do is to realize that it’s not about us coming in for the rescue, but it’s about us making the wisest decision that will cause the most lasting impression of the gospel. And for something like this, especially in another country, the spiritual leaders that are already implanted wherever it is are the ones that can take the ball the furthest down the field. They will make relationships that last, and ideally last for eternity.
What have you learned about working with vulnerable communities from this partnership with 127 and with David? How does it transform your own community?
Vulnerable communities will not trust us with the life-giving words that we might share if we aren’t willing to get into the weeds with them. If we’re not willing to cross the road to go into the places that don’t look clean and shiny, if we’re not willing to help the hurting and the vulnerable who are in need of the gospel just as much as we are, if we’re not willing to cross that bridge– why would they ever trust the people of God with the words of life he’s given us? We can ask people to come to church all we want, but why should they ever come if we aren’t willing to live it?
Jesus did it. Pastor David’s doing it. He’s not staying in his four walls and asking people to come. He’s going into places where people have been discounted and overlooked and unloved for years.
And now we’re going in that direction. So seeing the way that David approaches vulnerable people has impacted us not only by convicting us of ways we’ve failed to do that in the past, but also with the conviction now to never fail like that again. The people across the street are worthy of every ounce of love and life we have to pour out. They’re just as undeserving of the grace of God as we are; however God has called us clearly to take the gospel to them because he sent his son so they can have that life. And if I don’t go and do it, then who will?