Dozens of dairies with hundreds of workers and thousands of dairy cows surround Portales, New Mexico. While the milk barns scattered across Eastern New Mexico and West Texas represent huge business ventures, Foundations of Faith (Fundamentos de Fe) dairy ministry views the dairy farms as a fertile mission field.
Melissa Lamb, president of New Mexico Woman’s Missionary Union, and her husband, Beau, a New Mexico pastor, are among volunteers who help Foundations of Faith minister to primarily Spanish-speaking workers at the dairies. They serve alongside longtime dairy owners Stanley and Valerie Jones, who founded and lead Foundations of Faith, and chaplains A. B. Najera and Arturo Villa, who regularly visit workers at dairies throughout the region.
Foundations of Faith’s primary goal is to help dairy workers and their families “build strong lives on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ,” according to the ministry’s website. Foundations also sponsors English as a Second Language classes to help workers gain or increase fluency in English.
As she blends her missions involvement in WMU and Foundations of Faith, Melissa Lamb said, “WMU’s passion and desire to do missions first to spread the Gospel just goes so well with what Foundations of Faith does.”
With the Lambs both growing up in New Mexico, she added, “We were excited to come alongside the ministry just because missions is our heart and rural agriculture ministry has always been a big thing for us.”
Najera and Villa, who also lead Spanish-language churches in the area, befriend dairy workers at forty to forty-five dairies by handing out soft drinks and bottled water from the tailgate of their pickup truck each week. They also take time to ask if the workers or their families have any prayer requests or personal needs.
In addition to holding regular Bible studies at several dairies such as W Diamond and Grande Vida, Foundations of Faith hosts worker appreciation events every few weeks during the workers’ shift changes. The rallies, complete with lunches ranging from cookouts to pizza, typically attract larger crowds to hear the chaplains’ Gospel messages.
The results? Since being launched in 2015, Foundations of Faith has recorded more than five hundred professions of faith in Christ, including 124 last year and more than 170 so far this year even amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the dairy workers “are real hungry for the Word,” Stanley Jones explained. Affirming that the chaplains’ commitment to building personal relationships with the workers “is really making a huge difference,” he said the spiritual response is “amazing.”
According to Villa, a large percentage of the workers “don’t have time to go to church, because they work twelve hours and they go home and eat dinner and go to sleep, and the next day they do the same thing.” He said that is a primary motivation for leading Bible studies onsite at the dairies.
Among the workers involved in the weekly Bible studies, those sessions “are what they call church,” Jones agreed. “We’re just taking church to them.”
MANY HEAR GOSPEL MESSAGE FOR FIRST TIME
“All of our services at the dairies run for about fifteen minutes,” noted Beau Lamb, pastor of First Baptist Church of Santa Rosa, New Mexico. “Could you imagine going to a church service that was only fifteen minutes long out in the hot or the cold or whatever it might be?”
With many of the dairy workers originally from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and other Central American countries, Lamb said, “It’s amazing to see them travel thousands of miles to come up to hear the Good News, quite possibly for the first time in their lives. It’s so overwhelming at times just to see how gracious God is to give us this opportunity to share the love of Christ with them.
“Our guys do an amazing job of sharing God’s Word,” he added, emphasizing that it has “blessed us to see that there are so many people willing and ready to accept the Good News.”
As workers pray to receive Christ as their Savior, Foundations of Faith provides each of them a Bible in Spanish, English, or even K’iche’, the heart language of many of the Guatemalan workers. The chaplains also give them a small packet of information that includes a “first steps” discipleship booklet, a list of nearby Spanish-language churches, and the chaplains’ contact information.
ENGLISH CLASSES REACH WORKERS AND FAMILIES
Another key aspect of Foundations of Faith’s dairy ministry involves the ESL classes that Melissa Lamb coordinates and leads alongside a group of volunteer teachers. Often enrolling up to twenty-five dairy workers and family members, the English classes combine Bible stories, language study, and fellowship.
“We learn a verse each week in English and then we do a Bible story,” she explained. “Oftentimes, we’ll have one of our Spanish speakers read it in Spanish first and then we’ll read the story in simple English words.”
Recalling a recent lesson from Proverbs 3:5 on “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” she said, “We’ve been talking about how it’s hard to learn English, it’s hard to learn a new language, but you can trust that God will help you.”
Along with its dairy ministry focus, Foundations of Faith has expanded to provide Bible studies wherever needs and opportunities arise, including a peanut mill and a nursing home.
Jones said he is hopeful that Foundation’s ministry strategy can be duplicated to reach workers in food processing plants, factories, and warehouses across the nation. “I think there could be a lot of good come out of this if we can just get it out there as a model of showing what we’re doing,” he said. “You don’t just have to take it to dairy farms. It can go to all different places.”
Beau Lamb noted that keys for local churches or mission groups interested in ministering to unreached workers and their families include prayer, funding and identifying ministry needs. Next steps include “the boldness to walk through that door and to trust that Christ is going to lead you to the right spot to share the right thing at the right time.”
“It’s almost hard to believe at times as a small-town pastor to see so many people come to Christ at one time,” he shared. “That ignites a fire that has really encouraged our local churches to be involved and to share and to give.”
“There are so many other groups that could do something very similar to what we’re doing,” Melissa Lamb urged. Reflecting her missions heart for unreached language groups all across the US, she concluded, “God has brought them to America. We can share the Gospel with them.”