Church makes global effort

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, February 26, 2011

Heidi Anderson who with her parents just returned from Haiti where she was doing mission work. - Eric Johnson/

Austin families and church members aren’t strangers to missionary work around the world.

Members from St. Edwards Catholic Church continually go to Latin America, and one has even adopted a child from there.

The pastor and a group of members from Grace Lutheran Church recently returned from Oaxaca, Mexico, where missionaries offer basic resources, work to limit disease and build churches.

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Filip Swanson of Cornerstone Church is soon leaving for Costa Rica on a sports mission, where he will meet natives, play basketball with them and spread the word of Christ.

But one Austin church is perhaps more deeply involved in international aid than any other. With roughly 400 members, Faith Evangelical Free Church makes a point to help the world’s people.

“Here at Faith Church, we really put a high importance on missions,” said member Heidi Anderson. “We have a lot of missions that we work with.”

Anderson recently returned from Haiti, where, a year after the earthquake, the country is still in chaos.

“Things are still bad and aid still needs to be given,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s father is pastor of a church in central Minnesota and started helping in Haiti not long before the earthquake happened.

Now, Anderson’s family and others from her congregation have gotten involved in a program called Jesus in Haiti Ministries (JiHM). And with all the aid other countries have given to Haiti, missionaries are branching out to offer some of the forgotten, everyday necessities — like love and attention.

Anderson and others on her mission helped struggling children when they were there. Her group played with the children, gave them toys, cared for them, and most of all, gave them attention.

“You really wonder what you’re doing when you’re there,” Anderson said. “But you realize you’re recognizing they are there.”

Because the disaster in Haiti happened more than a year ago, Anderson thinks people have forgotten about the situation. She thinks that happens in many places after disasters happen. “What if we were the ones left not to worry about,” she said. “They have names and hearts and souls … they’re people.”

Thousands of Haiti’s children lost their families in the earthquake, and missionaries are trying to change that. Anderson spoke of the mass grave sites and the largest, which contains 300,000 bodies.

“It was very real to us; it’s hard to get a handle on 300,000 people,” she said.

Because of her experiences and drive to help others, Anderson wants to return to Haiti in the fall with her entire family for a humbling experience.

“We really don’t have much to complain about,” Anderson said about most Americans’ situations.

She and her fellow church members share the same views about the world. That’s why groups from Faith Church are helping in as many countries as they can.

They have sent groups nearly everywhere on Earth, including China, Poland, Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand and right here in the U.S., among many others.

“There’s constantly people going somewhere,” Anderson said.

Faith Church currently has short term summer missions planned for local youth members, along with recurring missions and ones for the future, too.