This year Foundation For His Ministry celebrates fifty years of ministry to the poorest of the poor in

Charla Pereau

Charla Pereau

Mexico.  My first close encounter of this fine organization took place in 1987.  I was working with a youth group in a small church in Healdsburg, California.  I had just moved there from Missouri, where I attended a church that went to Mexico every year to build church buildings for congregations that had no buildings.  I went on three of these excursions and got hooked on Mexico.

Living in California, I was looking for a way to get back to Mexico and expose the youth in the little church to the poverty in Mexico and show them how they could be a part of helping those much less fortunate than they were.  I remembered a couple from my Missouri church who mentioned one time that they had gone to a home for needy children in Mexico.  I contacted them and found out about FFHM and their work in the Baja of Mexico, and how to make arrangements to volunteer for a week.  I got a hold of  FFHM and told them we wanted to help.  After awhile the details were ironed out, and we found ourselves in Vicente Guerrero, Baja, in the summer of 1987.

Two people I remember.  Max, the administrator, a great guy from Canada, and Jorge, a little baby that had recently come to live at the children’s home.  We went on a tour of the place and I fell in love with it,  and the organization behind it.  I had recently graduated from Bible college with a degree in Missions, having wanted to be a missionary since I was 14 years old.  After graduating, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be one anymore.  To be a missionary in the denomination I belonged to, you had to spend at least a year going all over the U.S. of A raising thousands of dollars in support, and then go minister in a foreign country for four years, and then go home and get more money for another four years of service.  That wasn’t for me.  I wanted to go to another country, preferably Mexico, and just live there and serve and not worry about money.  So I thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for the mission field if that was what it took.

I was excited to learn that Charla, who started the home for needy children, and the board of FFHM, had a different approach to missions.  They believed that any Christian who had a desire to help the poorest of the poor, could fill out an application and if accepted, could just come and serve.  They provided a place to stay and food to eat and gave people a few dollars as well.  What could be better?  Nothing that I could think of!  I hoped that one day I would be a permanent part of this fine organization that not only took care of the physical, educational and spiritual needs of about 80 children, but also reached out to thousands of migrant workers who lived in camps that surrounded the mission, with food, clothes and most importantly, the Gospel, the good news of a great God who loved them and wanted them to be happy.  FFHM also provided medical services in a medical clinic  on the property, with expertly trained doctors and nurses.  They also had a dental clinic and tended to  many patients everyday.  This place was incredible!

I returned almost every year, for the next 15 years, to spend a week helping out in whatever way I could, like so many countless volunteers have done over the fifty years of FFHM’s existence.  I have always loved gardening and looked forward to working in the experimental orchard or the macadamia nut grove when I was there.  But, as often as not, I would be put to work cleaning shelves in the pantry, pouring concrete or painting buildings.  It didn’t really matter what I did.  I just loved cooperating with God and making a difference in the Kingdom.

One year the mission was raising pigs and I met a super guy in charge of the project named Mario.  I raised pigs for 4-H when I was a kid and loved it.  I thought Mario had the best job in the whole place, and hoped that someday, when I joined FFHM permanently, that I would get to be the hog farmer!  Mario went on to be the administrator of the Baja mission for decades.

I always wanted to meet Charla, to see this incredible woman in the flesh, and per chance, to talk to her and tell her how much I admired her and the work she was doing on behalf of the poor in Mexico.  Every year as I made my trek to the Mecca of ministry in the Baja, I would think that maybe this would be the year that I would encounter Charla.  One of the highlights for me at the mission was the first morning when all the visitors would be given a tour of the grounds.  I always called it the miracle tour because at every location, the guide would tell us how God miraculously provided something or someone that was desperately needed in order to make that aspect of the ministry to function at its peak level.

The tour always began with the miraculous story of how Chuck and Charla arrived at the place in the dead of night, out of gas, not knowing where they were, where they would sleep or how they would get home.  Nevertheless they trusted God completely and he provided miraculously.  The high point in the story was how Charla arose early the next morning, went for a little walk, and heard children laughing.  She looked for the children, but never found them.  She did find God speaking to her heart, telling her that one day this desolate, run down place, would be the home of countless laughing children, and that she would have a big part to play in making that happen.

I never ceased to smile and be encouraged at hearing that story and then reading about it Charla’s book Charla’s Children, and watching a show about it on the 700 Club.  Finally the day came when I met her.  I was at the mission with my friend Bruce, who was a relatively new Christian and was making one of his first mission trips (he, like so many others, would never be the same after visiting the children’s home in the Baja.  He is now a leader in his church and has gone all over the world evangelizing and leading pastors conferences).  We were eating lunch in the cafeteria and Charla and a friend sat across from us. She was friendly and we all had a nice conversation.  Bruce used to be a mail carrier in San Clemente, the headquarters of FFHM, so they had something in common to talk about.  I’ll never forget that day.  Over the years I have had the great privilege to get to know Charla, and listen to her speak on many occasions.  She is a gifted speaker and I always end up laughing one minute at some humerous story, and then tears are running uncontrollably down my face the next as she recounts how some wrecked and hopeless child was saved, changed and loved because of how God used Charla and FFHM.

FFHM sends out a newsletter every month, and in the early years of the new century, they began writing about a new vision and new ministry.  A conference/training center in Oaxaca, Mexico for graduates of the Bible Institute that they had in the Baja.  Most of the migrant workers in the camps surrounding the mission were from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.  Many came to know Christ through the outreach programs.  Some felt a call to ministry and studied at the Institute, and then went back to their hometowns and villages in Oaxaca to spread the Good News to their family and friends that God loved them and wanted them to be happy, and had provided a glorious way for them to enter into this happiness.  This proved to be difficult work and often very dangerous to the people from the Baja Mission who returned to their homeland to people who were hostile to new approaches to relating to God.

FFHM wanted to offer a place for these new ministers of the Gospel to go where they could be encouraged, refreshed and equipped in their work.  So it came about that miraculously (of course) that FFHM purchased a piece of property that had a little building on it, from another ministry.  This  would become the Oaxaca base for graduates of the Bible Institute and further outreach to the many unreached people groups of Oaxaca.

Charla came down to check out the property and sign on the dotted line.  Oaxaca had a special place in her heart because many years before, her and Chuck had adopted a baby boy that was born to a young lady in difficult circumstances in this southern state of Mexico.  As Charla traveled around Oaxaca she encountered another home for needy children that was in dire straits.  They asked her and FFHM to take over the home.  In a couple of talks that I heard Charla give, she recounted this story and told the people in charge, “No thanks.  Been there, done that.”

Later on she heard the still, small voice of God speaking to her heart, telling her to care for these poor children.  Always careful to follow the prompting of her gracious Lord and Savior, she returned the following day and told the leader of the children’s home that FFHM would take over the ministry and care for the “least of these”, God’s precious, neglected children.

So began a new phase of FFHM, another children’s home in one of the poorest states of Mexico.  Many people from the U.S. and Canada responded to the new outreach with large donations and even larger hearts, to go where the need was greatest.  After a few years a brand new facility was built on the newly purchased property.  The call went out for Believers to come and help with this new endeavor and make a difference in the Kingdom of God.

I was at a point in my life where I was free to heed the call and go to Oaxaca, finally fulfilling my dream of being a permanent part of FFHM and their incredible ministry.  I arrived at the Oaxaca mission on March first, 2005.  It was still a construction site without kids.  I went to work helping put tile on floors, electrical wires in the ceilings and paint on the walls.  In my free time I began planting gardens, as that was one of my jobs in Santa Rosa, California.

In August of that year, the children made the move from the squalid confines of their old place across the city, to the brand new digs of Casa Hogar, set in the beautiful countryside of the Tlacolula valley.  The work continued.  It seemed more meaningful now with happy kids running all over the place.  We could see the fruits of our labors in the smiling faces of all the boys and girls.  We painted the last walls, put the finishing touches on the modern kitchen and I continued to plant gardens, including the grassy courtyard where the children would eventually play tag, catch and have picnics.

My jobs eventually entailed teaching English and other classes, doing prison ministry, driving kids to and from school and occasionally going on service and evangelistic outreaches, as well as preaching and  maintaining the gardens and planting an orchard full of a variety of fruit trees.

I met my future wife, Anita, a beautiful and extremely talented cook, at the mission.  We have two fabulous little girls, Sally and Kelly.  I will have spent eleven years cooperating with God and FFHM come March.  The best eleven years of my life.  I daily pray for Charla, FFHM leaders, the staff and children at Casa Hogar, and thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to be a small part of such a great ministry.  I remember Charla saying one time that God doesn’t want our ability so much as our availability.  I have thought about that a lot.  My ability isn’t so great, but I thank God that he took my availability and is able to use it in some small way to make a difference in the lives of “the least of these” in Oaxaca, Mexico.
*****        *****         *****          *****

helping the poor

 

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