By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
LEXINGTON PARK, Md.—Despite being a smaller church, Ministerio de Amor en Cristo, affectionately known as MAC, is large in heart. In the past year especially, MAC members have made a big difference in the lives of those who live in their Lexington Park, Md., community.
The 30-member church (up to 45 members with kids) has gotten involved in a number of outreach efforts this year, including providing weekend meal packs for hungry children, serving food at a local men’s homeless shelter, and partnering with a nonprofit to distribute locally grown food to underprivileged families.
Jose Barreto, MAC’s bivocational pastor, said it all began when members began donating food for the United Way’s Snack Pak program, which provides food for children who otherwise would have no food on the weekends. MAC sponsors 15 children at Lexington Park Elementary School, who discreetly hands out the food to the children at the end of the school day on Fridays.
And then the church started providing food for the Three Oaks Center, which provides the homeless in St. Mary’s County with housing, stabilization, assessment, and referral to appropriate resources.
“We started out by just taking food regularly for a year,” said Barreto, a software engineer at the Naval Air Station on the Patuxent River. “Now, we can use the kitchen and actually serve the food.” Barreto said the “cool thing about that” is they are allowed to interact with the guys. “It’s a real good opportunity to share the Gospel in a real practical way,” he said.
This past September, MAC also started a partnership with Farming 4 Hunger, which raises fresh vegetables for the area food banks and other distribution sites.
“Almost every adult in the church participated in this ministry—interacting with people, giving out Bibles and sharing the Gospel” while sharing the food, Barreto said, noting the food was gone after only an hour and half of distribution time.
In addition to these ministries, Barreto is now a part of a hunger task force set up by Maryland’s state legislature to address hunger issues in the area. “This has really been a breakthrough year for our church,” Barreto said. “I’m praying next year will be even greater!”
Presently, MAC meets on Sunday afternoons at Lexington Park Baptist Church, where they enjoy a worship service followed by a time of fellowship.
Ten years ago, David Keyser, then interim pastor at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, helped start the church with the assistance of Hispanic pastor Sigundo Mir, of Laurel, Md., after being approached by a Bible study group led by Steve and Anna Brockman. They led for over a year before Rolando Castro, Hispanic church-planting missionary for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, was invited to come serve as pastor. Barreto has served as pastor for the past seven years.
The church, which later moved to Lexington Park where there was a larger Hispanic population, is composed of members from Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic and America. The services are in Spanish but there are translators who translate the messages into English. Learn more at http://amorencristo.org.