Sophia Baer, daughter of Sam and Betty Ann Baer, long-time pastor of the Victory Mountain Grace Brethren Chapel in Hyden, Ky., had pictured herself doing foreign missions work ever since she was five years old. So when her sister, Bambie, called her in the year 2000 and asked her to come to Benton Harbor, Mich., to work with children on the migrant farms, Baer wasn’t interested. Bambie and her husband, Mark Getz, had recently moved to Benton Harbor after they lost their house in a fire.
“Bambie kept saying, ‘Please come,’ and I said I don’t know anyone and I don’t know Spanish very well…but she asked me to come for just one summer,” explained Baer. So, during the summer of 2002, she went to Michigan and worked at a Head Start program, where she was able to develop friendships with the migrant families in the Benton Harbor area.
Of course, she didn’t end up staying just one summer.
“As a result of working in the migrant summer school programs, I was able to reach kids from three different school districts,” Sophia explained. “And after that first summer, I felt God was moving that same burden my sister felt onto me.”
What began as a summer trip in 2000 has now developed into Michigan Migrant Ministries, which provides opportunities for children from more than 45 different farms opportunities to attend day camps while their parents are working.
“[Migrant farm workers have] a very difficult lifestyle,” she observed. “During the day, the parents are working in the fields all day, and the children are basically at home by themselves…a lot of the kids get very tired of the migrant lifestyle and want their parents to settle down and live in one place.”
At the day camps, children who would normally be waiting for their parents to return are able to spend four hours of their day playing games, learning Bible verses, and hearing mission stories and a Bible lesson. They also can choose between several activities, including a zip line and slip ‘n slide on the ministry’s 13-acre property.
“I had always pictured myself in foreign work but God had other plans and redirected my steps. It’s true that the Lord works all things out for good…I came to Michigan kicking and screaming, but he used that and a tragedy in my sister’s life to open up a door of opportunity to a needy people.”
Michigan Migrant Ministries is currently working on securing a title as an official nonprofit. God is doing a beautiful work in the lives of the migrant families. To sign up for her quarterly newsletter, or to simply drop a note of encouragement, you can email Sophia at email@example.com.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.