Embracing New Neighbors in La Misión, Mexico
"My wife Erin and I felt like Moses," explains Chad Fransen (MDiv '00), "because we didn't quite know what we were doing--we just needed to go. So we sold our cars, quit our jobs, and started a non-profit corporation, La Misión Ministries."
The Fransens' journey to their new home in La Misión, Mexico, spans nearly a decade, beginning just after Chad's graduation from Fuller in 2000. He joined Lake Forest Park Presbyterian Church in Seattle as youth director, and the next summer he took the church's teenagers to La Misión, a small town on the Pacific coast about an hour south of Tijuana. The youth group stayed at Templo Elim Cristiano--a church led by Pastor Gustavo Pacheco and his family--and spent its days working on church construction projects, playing with children, and taking food to the poor.
The trip became an annual tradition, allowing a friendship to develop between the Fransens and the Pachecos. Chad and Erin went to La Misión to attend daughter Sofy Pacheco's quinceañera, and Sofy and her sister came to Chad and Erin's wedding in the fall of 2007. Finally, in October 2008, the Fransens felt a call to full-time ministry in La Misión. "Pastor Gustavo and his wife Elizabeth showed us an apartment at the church and invited us to live there, working with the church and surrounding community," Chad recounts. "We prayed about it, and about two weeks later, we knew God was calling us to move."
After deciding no other area organization was doing what they envisioned, the Fransens set out on their own, establishing a non-profit and raising funds through friends and family. Today Erin Fransen, who is interested in becoming a nurse, works at a free medical clinic at the church, and Chad has begun a youth ministry, composed largely of kids from an orphanage. Additionally, he plays guitar in the worship band and coaches a high school American-style football team. "Coaching wasn't on my radar until we arrived, but it has been an opportunity for me to offer my services and demonstrate the love of Christ," Chad says. "The team plays on a dirt field and had to raise money to buy pads by selling burritos. Some have never played before, but it is exciting to see their love for the game and to show them how to improve."
Both of the Fransens are also committed to simply forming relationships with the people of La Misión and helping meet daily needs for food, clothing, and shelter. For example, one local family had only a tarp to cover their one-room house until a group from Washington built them a roof. Through the outreach of Erin, Chad, and others at Templo Elim, the father of this family was recently baptized. "We continue to help this family by buying them groceries," says Chad. "They also continue to bring us small gifts, like a group of baby chicks or homemade tortillas."
And the ways in which Erin and Chad are growing through such friendships are just as important as their ministry. "When I first came down here, I thought I was the one offering my services to the community," Chad says, "but now my perspective has changed. Several area families have been teaching us how to give and how to love. We are seeing how God is already at work here."
As the Fransens approach the first anniversary of their move in January, they have big plans for the future. "The needs of the community were apparent from our visits," Chad shares, "but we have been learning so much more about its needs since we moved." La Misión Ministries hopes to expand its staff of two and embark on new projects, such as building a coffee shop and Internet café, which would offer expanded opportunities to build relationships and teach business management skills in La Misión.
Reflecting on his Fuller experience, Chad says that urban ministry courses with professor Jude Tiersma-Watson, youth ministry advice from Chap Clark, and the late Ray Anderson's example of how to practice theology are just a few of the elements that are equipping him for the tasks ahead in La Misión. "Erin and I just want to care for people the way Jesus asks us to," Chad says. "We dream of helping develop community leaders that serve and follow Jesus Christ."
Read more on the La Misión website, at www.lamisionministries.org.