‘A built house becomes a beacon’ Baja Christian Ministries seeking greater local support

Several hundred teenagers camped on a dairy farm in Tijuana in small tents, woke at dawn, gathered for breakfast and prayer, and headed out for a bumpy bus ride to several of the nearby poorer colonies in Tijuana, where there¹s work to do. They cut wood, paint lumber and hammer nails for four days to create a three-room house for a fortunate family.

This group of 370 students, representing 20 states, was organized by Teen Mania, a missions organization based in Texas. The students alternated their daily assignments, sometimes doing the construction and other times working on an evangelism team, sharing the love of Jesus at vacation Bible school or other outreach.

The Teen Mania group was there the first week in August for Baja Blast 2006, organized by Bob Sanders of Baja Christian Ministries. The weather was hot, but the reward was great.

³We¹re making a difference,² said one teenager from Pennsylvania. ³Everyone in this house is saved and we¹re reaching their neighbors.²

Last year, with the music group Newsboys involvement – including a concert in a Tijuana field – 1,000 young people participated. This summer the 370 teens built 11 homes, but goal for the summer of 2007 is must larger — 2,000 students.

With the students, there is also a great number of support team members needed by Baja Christian Ministries. Carpenters, ³wanna be² carpenters, and interpreters are necessities.

Janet Sanders, Bob¹s wife, heads the Barnabas Team, bringing water, watermelon, oranges and sunscreen in mid-afternoon to job sites. Helping her during the Teen Mania outreach was Cindy Reid of North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad.

Alex Guiterrez of Rancho Hills Church in the Paradise Valley area of San Diego, brought 26 bilingual interpreters from his youth group.

Guiterrez worked with Baja Christian Ministries on other projects, including staging for the concert by the Newsboys.

³Next year we¹ll need 80-100 interpreters and that means people from other churches. The need is great. Contact Bob or me. That¹s anyone – youth, adults, pastors, leaders. We need help!²

Guiterrez can be reached at (619) 470-7500 or Sanders can be reached at (909) 627-4339.

Most of southern California is a gas tank away from a Third World ministry, says Bob Sanders, whose Baja Christian Ministries has built a thousand homes for the poor people of Tijuana in the last 14 years.

Sanders and the ministry are based in Orange County and many churches from that area send teams. He would like to see the same involvement with churches from San Diego.

³The need and the opportunity are both great,² he said during a bumpy ride to several of the homes being built in early August. ³We have some churches from San Diego involved – Rancho Hills Church, North Coast Calvary Chapel, New Venture and Solana Beach Presbyterian to name a few – but the people of San Diego can really do more to reach out to their neighbors south of the border.²

A 16×20-foot home can be built in a weekend or in 4-5 days, he said, at the cost of $5,000. The homes have three rooms and a loft, cement floor, drywall interior walls, and composition roofs. Most have a latrine built at the same time. The areas have electricity, but no plumbing or running water.

There are about 3.5 million people in the Tijuana area, Sanders said, and the ministry plans to reach people one home at a time.

³We select homes near a church or where we¹ll build a church. The owners must have title to the land and not be squatters,² Sanders said. ³The Mormons and JWs are out in force, but they don¹t build homes. Our goal is to penetrate a community with the Gospel.²

Sanders is not a contractor. He works with contractors in Mexico who pour the foundation and deliver the lumber.

³I¹m an evangelist,² he said. ³We built 200 homes  in the last year and the goal is 10,000 more in the next 20 years. Our bigger goal is to bring 1 million souls to Jesus Christ. It¹s very possible, by training others, mostly through door-to-door evangelism.²

Working with a translator, Sanders says it takes 25 minutes to share the gospel. He gives a New Testament and a Bible study guide to each family.

³A built house becomes a beacon,² he noted, ³and many of the people we¹ve helped have gone on to become pastors.²

The ministry has also built two police stations and a couple of schools. ³We want to penetrate the police and education systems, too,² Sanders said.

Sanders said he developed a heart for the poor 20 years ago while working as a custodian at Azusa Pacific University. He started taking small groups of students to visit orphanages in Tijuana and Tecate on his free time.

³Many Americans are shocked when they first cross the border and see the reality of living conditions,² he said. ³The families that do have jobs make $100 to $200 per month.²

Many live in makeshift shelters with dirt floors that are a mess when it rains.

On the early August outreach when Teen Mania built 11 homes, the Baja Christian Ministries support team included 16 skilled contractors, 4-5 from North Coast Calvary Chapel.

Ron Barry of North Coast Calvary said it was his second trip. A general contractor with New Life Construction, he said focus on the trips is construction. ³This is the vehicle, Christ is the destination,² he noted.

Another local person working was Brett Baughman of Coronado, a teacher who said the ministry is a passion.

Another teacher, Paul Anschuetz of North County, said he was selected to share the previous evening at a church service in a small church.

³I¹d love to move here to help more,² Anschuetz said. ³My first trip was last Nov. 20 and I¹ve been back five times since. It took 43 years before I realized the need. What kills me is how much we have in the U.S. – three meals a day – that¹s taken for granted. Here they have to scratch for every meal.

³I¹m really thirsty now; I have the ŒBaja bug.¹ I thought I had a complete life, but it wasn¹t really fruitful. I¹m learning now to think less of self. Through that, I¹m using skills – building – that brings satisfaction and I¹m seeing joy.²

Anschuetz said North Coast Calvary mentioned program in a bulletin and he followed up.

³The key is to have a point person in every church,² Sanders said. ³Not everyone can afford to go to Africa or India, but this is something anyone can do.²

For more information about Baja Christian Ministries, call (909) 627-4339 or visit www.bajachristian.org.

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