Fayette church group travels to Mexico to build a home

0
712
A group of 26 people representing Rolling Hills Baptist Church traveled to Juárez, Mexico, in June to build a needed home for a grandmother and her family. Photo/Submitted.
A group of 26 people representing Rolling Hills Baptist Church traveled to Juárez, Mexico, in June to build a needed home for a grandmother and her family. Photo/Submitted.
It is not uncommon for members of Rolling Hills Baptist Church to go on mission trips. The most recent took a group, including two Fayette County public safety employees, to Juárez, Mexico to build a home for a family in need.
Rolling Hills Pastor Frank Mercer and church Mission Coordinator Dave Lebby explained that the June 1-4 trip to Juárez was in conjunction with Casas por Cristo (Homes for Christ), an organization with which Rolling Hills has partnered for the past 15 years. Ciudad Juárez is a large city of 1.3 million population on the Rio Grande, just south of El Paso, Texas.
Mercer said Casas por Cristo receives applications from those in need of a home. Casas then partners with church and volunteer teams and has built a number of build homes for families in need across Latin America.
Though not the first trip for Rollling Hills, the early June visit to Juárez had church members, school teachers and two Fayette County public safety staff constructing a home for a grandmother and her family, Lebby noted, adding that for Rolling Hills, the work with Casas is an annual affair and with church workers sometimes building more than one home.
“It’s an easy way to introduce people to international missions,” Lebby said, noting that the church paid for everything on the Juárez trip but transportation to El Paso. “It showed (the mission participants) they can do it, and it provided something tangible for (the woman in Juárez) who could not afford the house herself.”
The grandmother from Juárez, Mexico, and one of her grandchildren are joined by, from left, Fayette County firefighter Jason Hollen, Rolling Hills Pastor Frank Mercer and Fayette County E-911 employee Sharon Battle. Photo/Submitted.
The grandmother from Juárez, Mexico, and one of her grandchildren are joined by, from left, Fayette County firefighter Jason Hollen, Rolling Hills Pastor Frank Mercer and Fayette County E-911 employee Sharon Battle. Photo/Submitted.
Two of those who went on the mission were Fayette County E-911 employee Sharon Battle and Fayette County firefighter Lt. Jason Hollen.
For Hollen, who previously lived in Honduras and is bi-lingual, the mission trip to Juárez was one of a number he has been on over the years.
“Frank has been asking for a couple of years, and this year it worked out,” Hollen said, then noting the results of the group’s efforts that altered the life circumstances of the grandmother and her family who received the new home. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Hollen noted that, in helping provide homes, Casas por Cristo has a plan that works well.
Speaking of the group who traveled to Juárez to bring the house out of the ground, Hollen said, “It was people of all ages with a passion to serve. We came together and worked together. It was three days of good hard work. Then seeing the tears and smiles on her face, that’s all I needed.”

“They were so grateful,” said Battle. “And it taught me a lot about gratefulness and what we have. You hear about poverty in the Third World, but we don’t see it. But when you do see it, it’s mind-blowing, and a reality shock. We have so much, and we don’t realize it.”

Asked what prompted her to go, Battle said she had thought about getting more involved by going on a church mission trip.
“Frank came in (to the 911 office) and invited us, and I was interested,” Battle said.
As for her journey to Juárez and the privilege of helping someone less fortunate, “I wanted to be more active. It was an awesome blessing. It was life-changing,” Battle explained. “I was shocked and overwhelmed by the level of poverty that was vastly different from poverty in America.”
Battle said the small home with no amenities the workers built was far more than the grandmother and her family had been accustomed to.
“They were so grateful,” said Battle. “And it taught me a lot about gratefulness and what we have. You hear about poverty in the Third World, but we don’t see it. But when you do see it, it’s mind-blowing, and a reality shock. We have so much, and we don’t realize it.”
The Rolling Hills mission trip taken by Battle and Hollen that partnered with Casas por Cristo, was one of many provided through Rolling Hills over the past 15 years, and one of the many ministries in which the church is engaged.
Mercer said that while much of the church’s work has been in Ukraine, working with Casas por Cristo in this hemisphere to provide housing made what would have been an expensive trip to Europe more affordable.
“We wanted more people to experience it personally,” said Mercer.
Working with Casas provides abundant opportunity since the organization builds home in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Mercer said the arrangement calls for the church paying for the materials which Casas purchases. The mission members arrive and construct the small house. The three-room house constructed on the June trip to Juárez measured 30 feet by 16 feet.
Lebby said a goal of the mission trip was to engage the participants who traveled to Juárez to gain both the exposure to a developing country and to understand the culture of another country, and what conditions on the ground are like in a country far-removed from what we see here.
And as both Mercer and Lebby explained, the construction of a new home for a family in need is the outward manifestation of service. But there is more.
“The house gets the attention, but it’s about hope. Hope is crushed every day in a violent, uncertain world,” said Mercer. “Yet 26 people show up and give this house in Jesus’ name. It changes a family’s life.”
Rolling Hills currently has four ministries. Those include building homes in Mexico and Central America, supporting an orphanage for girls in south Asia, helping local families displaced by house fires and providing emotional and spiritual support to first responders.

Lebby said a goal of the mission trip was to engage the participants who traveled to Juárez to gain both the exposure to a developing country and to understand the culture of another country, and what conditions on the ground are like in a country far-removed from what we see here.

Beyond its multiple missions, there is something very different about Rolling Hills Baptist Church. There is no church building. There is no steeple.
It was nearly a decade ago that the church sold its 20-acre campus on Redwine Road and rented space in a movie theater to hold services. Those services today are held at the NCG Theaters on Ga. Highway 54 just inside Coweta County.
“We decided to abandon the strategy (of having people come to us — to a church building),” Mercer said in 2010. “We decided to sell the church property and go to the people. After all, that’s what Jesus did.”
Commenting on the decision at the time, Mercer explained that, “We’ve been competing with churches working off the same model. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses. If people come for bells and whistles, they’ll leave for bells and whistles. As a pastor you start pounding your head on the wall. Jesus came to start a revolution of grace and generosity. We decided that we were not supposed to cater to consumers with all kinds of different programs and bells and whistles.”
Aside from his responsibilities as pastor of Rolling Hills Baptist and executive director of FireChaplain.org, Mercer serves as chaplain for Fayette County Fire and EMS, Fayette County 911, Tyrone Police Department Riverdale Fire Department and is one of the chaplains for the Fayetteville Police Department.
For more information on Rolling Hills Baptist Church visit www.wheresthesteeple.org. For more information on the chaplain’s organization visit FireChaplain.org.