Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard
On March 17-23, 2002 was the week that transformed the life of Merlin Gonzales and launched a ministry that is now reaching the churches, businesses, government and other sectors of a society. He was encouraged by a friend to go for the first time on a short-term mission trip to Costa Rica. The team will be constructing a church building on a community on top of a mountain with no running water and electricity. They will be ministering to the Bri-Bri Indians. Tents became their team’s temporary house in the middle of a forest. He thought that he will be providing Christian answers to the natives. However, at the end of the week he was ministered by the Holy Spirit.
He came back to the US a changed man. It seemed like God had provided him new sets of ears and eyes. His heart was changed and his mind was renewed. He started to hunger for God and wanted to go back to the mission field right away. However, due to high cost of going to a mission field outside of the US and the number of days required to stay in a mission field prevented him to go back.
After more than 2 years, of trying and failing to go back to the mission field, he thought that there should be many people who has the heart to go on a mission but are in the same situation as he is. He thought why not do something that is similar to bringing people outside of the country. Why not have a mission week in his own neighborhoods for a week that would be open to many community churches in the area.
In February 2005, he contacted 35 pastors in 2 communities and invited them to discuss and explore having projects all around the neighborhoods for one week. Seven pastors from different denominations committed to do a week of outreaches in his neighborhood. They met on a regular basis identifying needs and resources in their communities. Once they narrowed down the needs list, they developed projects and then they asked their congregations and the surrounding businesses to provide the resources needed. They decided to do the missions week during the last full week of July.
Seven churches and 200+ volunteers performed less than 10 projects joined the first Faith Hope and Love week in Indianapolis in 2005.
For Merlin Gonzales, it was a dream come true and he was ready to move on. However, because of the impact of the week on the lives of volunteers and the recipients of services, he was urged by the pastors to plan for a larger FHL Week for the following year.
He shared the vision with several pastors in Metropolitan Indianapolis and asked them to be the area coordinators in their community. The idea seemed very workable and the Lord gave him favor to recruit four more communities to do what is now know as “Mission Trip in You Own Backyard.”
The following year, they mobilized 50+ churches and organizations with 1200 volunteers who performed more than 30 projects during the entire Faith Hope and Love (FHL) week.
To date, FHL has worked with more numerous organizations and churches and organizations in Central Indiana. It was vision whose time has come…take a Mission Trip in our own Backyard.