Grace Church connects with local ministries during mission trip

by Dan Holland

A recent mission trip to Mazatlán, Mexico, highlighted Grace Church’s ongoing effort to build relationships both locally and abroad. John Bowen, who serves as a resident with Give it Away Ministries at Grace Church in Bath, went on the trip along with a number of others from the church’s Collective (young adult) Team.

“The purpose of all our trips is building relationships; that’s the lens that we run all of our global missions through,” said Bowen. “When we go down there, we’re looking to partner with local churches and ministries that have boots on the ground with 24/7 access to the communities that they’re trying to reach. We’ll serve and empower those local ministries as they are trying to reach the people who God has put in their path.”

For the trip in early January, Grace Church members teamed up with the youth ministry of La Viña (The Vineyard) Church in Mazatlán; it was the first time the two groups have come together. Outreach events, done in conjunction with La Viña’s youth ministry, were some of the first held in the area to reach the local population.

“We had over 100 people come to this outreach event,” said Bowen. “We were passing out clothing to some needy families and interacting with the kids there, sharing the gospel and having conversations. Their church is very passionate about their middle-schoolers, high-schoolers and young adults – the next generation – and they’re trying to build a healthy environment for their young people to know Christ and reach others.”

Grace Church has sent a team to the Mazatlán area numerous times over the years on mission trips, explained Joe Caruso, lead pastor of Give it Away Ministry at Grace. The group works with a nonprofit organization called “Shoulder to Shoulder” Mexico that coordinates efforts between U.S. and Mexican churches.

“It’s probably around our 30th trip to Mazatlán, but this was the first time we’ve worked with this specific church,” said Caruso. “[Shoulder to Shoulder] is based in Mazatlán, and they network with the surrounding community’s pastors and leaders, and as they get to know them, they build a localized network to encourage, engage and help those leaders to remain active and engaged in local ministry.”

The trip included a construction project to add a second floor onto La Viña Church, which will serve as additional classroom and restroom spaces for its teen and young adult programs.

“Just getting to do that alongside them; a lot of their youth showed up that week and worked alongside us on a project that they had already started that they could use some help on,” said Bowen. “Just working alongside each other and getting to learn about each other was amazing.”

The mission trips aid in building up the young adult group at Grace Church, added Bowen.

“A lot of these young adults who went are friends of mine, and just to see them write blank checks to God and step outside of their comfort zones and engage a new culture, new people and new language was cool, and having that reciprocated, too,” said Bowen.

The church has plans to send additional groups in 2023 to continue work with La Viña Church while building relationships and encouraging other area ministries. Other mission trips have included travel to Guatemala, Haiti and a number of U.S. locations.

“Our passion is to come in and help meet the need for encouragement, and it’s really blossomed in these areas that we’ve been partnering in, and we loving doing it,” said Caruso. “It speaks volumes for growing and maturing our folks as well. Between cultural worldviews, to experience, to bolstering; it builds their confidence in coming back and doing healthy ministry with people here in the greater Akron area.” ∞

The Grace Collective team with the leadership team from La Viña Church celebrating
the end of their week. Photo courtesy of John Bowen.