Tibbie Baptist family invests in people of Mexican town, takes 7 trips in 2 yearscomment (0)
November 7, 2013
By Alicia M. Atcheson
"Your family is my family.”
The parting words of Mayra Zayas Cruz, a mother of six, sum up the motivation behind an Alabama family’s seven trips in two years to Reynosa, Mexico.
Brent and Kristen Richardson think of the people there as family members. Their 8-year-old daughter, Finley, does too.
If proof were needed, the walls of their house in Tibbie are covered with the faces of Reynosa’s residents.
The Richardsons first made the 1,000-mile journey to Reynosa in December 2011 with Rick Hagans of Harvest Evangelism in Opelika.
They’ve taken six trips since, all with their daughter.
“If Finley can’t go, we don’t go,” Brent Richardson said. “It is important that we do this as a family. For us, we want to be able to show Finley the love of Christ through what we are doing.”
The Richardsons say the relationships Finley has built with the children in Reynosa have led to relationships with the children’s parents.
“On the trips we’ve been on, Finley is the only American child there. The children flock to her,” Brent Richardson said.
Finley met a young girl named Dulce on her first trip. The two quickly became friends. She met the rest of Dulce’s family and introduced her parents as well.
Now Dulce’s mother, Mayra, thinks of Finley as one of her own. Finley keeps in touch with Dulce and her other friends in Reynosa. She mails them pictures she has drawn and sends video messages through others traveling to the village.
The Richardsons took a copy of “The Beginner’s Bible, Bilingual English/Spanish edition,” on their first trip. Finley read the Bible to the children in what the Richardsons call “redneck Spanish.” While the pronunciations weren’t always correct, the children were enthralled by the children’s Bible.
Giving away Bibles
“They have Bibles in Reynosa, but they don’t have children’s Bibles,” Brent Richardson said.
On their second trip, Finley gave her Bible to one of the children who asked to keep it. On the two trips that followed, the family bought and gave away more than 200 of the Bibles — funded by money Finley asked for on her birthdays instead of gifts.
They are gathering more Bibles now to take with them in December.
When asked why they have returned to Reynosa so frequently, Finley replied, “Relationships. I want to go back because my friends are there.”
Someone recently asked Kristen Richardson when she thought her family would stop going to Reynosa. “I asked the individual when they planned to stop visiting their mother. These people are like family to us. We’re not going to stop going,” she said.
This mindset didn’t come overnight.
Before their first trip to Reynosa, “we had all the usual excuses … mainly that we were just too busy,” Brent Richardson said.
His wife agreed.
“We gave to missions but really had no desire to go ourselves,” she said. “But then we read David Platt’s book ‘Radical.’ It really put us back to Scripture. It led us to ask what is it that Jesus is asking us to do specifically.”
After prayer, the family decided that before they went on another vacation they would go on a missions trip.
Soon after, Hagans preached a revival at their church — Tibbie Baptist in Washington Baptist Association — where the Richardsons serve as youth leaders. While there, he told the congregation about Reynosa and an upcoming missions trip.
“After meeting Rick, we just felt like it fit,” Brent Richardson said.
During their first trip to Reynosa, the Richardsons worked alongside more than 50 volunteers with Harvest Evangelism. Most of their time was spent sorting donated clothing and shoes. They also visited an orphanage and provided Christmas presents for the children.
On subsequent trips, the Richardsons have not gone with a group but simply as a family.
“We spend most of our time with children because that’s where our passion is. We make a plan for each day and just spend time with them,” Kristen Richardson said.
After a while, the Richardsons noticed that the children were not going home for lunch each day. Now during their weeklong trips, the family typically prepares 75 to 120 sandwiches per day, in addition to snacks.
Through donations they have received, the Richardsons also have purchased groceries and coolers for families, clothing, hygiene items and children’s books. On one trip they used funds to paint a local church’s building. According to the Richardsons, the members of this church, mostly young 20-somethings with children, spend a lot of their time going further into Mexico to serve others.
“We wanted to bless them because they were busy blessing others,” Kristen Richardson said.
The Richardsons’ love for the people of Reynosa is infectious.
Several teenagers in their youth group asked to go to Reynosa earlier in 2013. During spring break the family made the journey with nine teenagers in tow. Four of those teens journeyed back with Kristen and Finley Richardson in July.
“There is no perfect or right time to go,” Kristen Richardson said. “If you’re waiting on the right time, you may miss out on some of life’s biggest blessings.”