Mark Berry has been busy.
Phone calls and emails, meetings with church leaders, connecting with his Serge teammates, networking in his new neighborhood, and on top of it all, you would not believe the difficulty of just getting your refrigerator running in Chile.
“We just spent the last four years in the U.S. after being overseas for 12,” Berry said. “Now we’re back on the learning curve—having to re-adjust to the slower pace of life here.”
Mark and his wife Lori came onboard with Serge in 2016 with 12 years of field experience under their belts, time spent doing church planting, discipleship, and mercy ministry in Lima, Peru with a different mission organization.
Just a few short months ago, in late 2017, they moved to Quillota, Chile, to serve with a Serge team focused in on mentoring pastors, all while Mark takes on a brand new role as Serge’s Area Director for Latin America.
“The church in Latin America is growing a lot, but the message of grace, the gospel, is oftentimes not clear,” Berry said. “There’s a big need for discipleship. There’s opportunities everywhere to build relationships with pastors, to walk with them, love them, encourage them, share grace with them, and see that grace become internalized.”
In years past, Serge’s work in Latin America was almost entirely focused in Chile—the work of a few intrepid missionaries partnering with local Christian leaders and working on small teams doing gospel mentoring or helping build churches. Now, under Berry’s leadership, several Serge teams are starting up in the region, and exciting things are on the horizon.
Meeting a Legacy of Violence with Healing
The newest of these is a brand new team forming in Guatemala City, Guatemala, made up of two couples: Rob and Esther Reich and Jeff and Abbie Nelson.
In a country beset by endemic violence, corruption, and the legacy of a brutal civil war, this team will be focused on providing practical mercy ministry, seeing to the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of their city. And they’re well equipped to do so: Jeff is a clinical psychologist, Abbie a Nurse Practitioner, Rob a Physician’s Assistant and Esther a nurse.
“Jeff has been asked to start a counseling program with a Guatemalan ministry that connects ministries and provides leadership resources, training, and helps the leadership in those ministries develop and grow,” Berry said. “This ministry is really connected and exposed to so many different leaders’ emotional needs, and so they want to be able to minister to them and teach them.”
Abbie, meanwhile, has been asked to try and start a family medicine clinic in a slum built on the Guatemala city dump, as well as to provide primary care for a local orphanage. Rob, the PA, has been invited to do healthcare training with a ministry called Centro Estras.
“But he really has a heart for discipleship,” Berry explained. “And both couples have a heart for the gospel and Sonship, so they’ll be doing discipleship and mentoring too.”
New Works from Strong Foundations
Serge also has a growing presence in Nicaragua and Peru, with teams in both countries composed of veteran missionaries whose work with Serge is relatively recent.
Missionaries Charles and Sarah Kay, who had been working with a bilingual church in Nicaragua for over a decade with another mission agency, joined Serge in 2014, continuing on their work in Granada. The Kays will be joined soon by new Serge missionaries Matt and Anna Ross, who will be helping with the church’s ministry to men dealing with drug addictions.
Meanwhile, Serge missionaries Ben and Jessica Lewis are serving in Cusco, Peru, where Ben works as a pediatrician in Clinica La Fuente, where he is able to provide affordable medical care to his primarily Quechua patients, as well as regularly sharing the gospel and seeing to their spiritual needs.
Though these teams are building on the work of longstanding missionaries, to Serge, they’re still a relatively new effort in a part of the world where Serge has traditionally had a minimal presence.
“For all intents and purposes, Latin America is a brand new region,” Berry said. “Even our Chile and Nicaragua fields were adopted from other ministries. So in terms of Serge itself breaking new ground, Guatemala would be the first in that category.”
Looking to the Future
For the moment, Berry hopes to focus on nurturing and growing the teams in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, and Peru—helping them become solid ministries that can serve alongside the local church, disciple and mentor Christian leaders, and minister through acts of justice and mercy. Looking farther out to the future, Berry hopes to expand into more Central and South American countries, particularly to his old stomping grounds in Lima, where he still has numerous contacts and relationships.
One of those contacts is a shelter for abused girls in Lima, started by Berry during his service in Peru, and since passed over to a ministry called Kids Alive International. Now, Berry has a memorandum of understanding with Kids Alive, continuing their partnership. Last July, Berry helped lead a short-term Serge team down to work with the shelter. He already has another short-term trip set up for 2018, with hopes such trips will continue into the future. If, in the future, a Serge team forms in Lima, there is essentially a ready-made ministry for the team to plug into and help with, along with longstanding, healthy relationships with multiple organizations and national churches.
“There’s so much potential,” Berry said. “We have standing invitations to work in Paraguay, Ecuador, Columbia. When I think about Serge working in [Latin America], I think of that passage where Jesus tells the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers out to His harvest field because the workers are plentiful but the laborers are few. Our biggest need to for people carrying that vision and message of grace. We really do just need the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers.”