Dozens of dairies with hundreds of workers and thousands of dairy cows surround Portales, New Mexico. While the milk barns scattered across Eastern New Mexico and West Texas represent huge business ventures, Foundations of Faith (Fundamentos de Fe) dairy ministry views the dairy farms as a fertile missions field.
Melissa Lamb, president of New Mexico Woman’s Missionary Union, and her husband, Beau, a New Mexico pastor, are among volunteers who help Foundations of Faith minister to primarily Spanish-speaking workers at the dairies.
They serve alongside longtime dairy owners Stanley and Valerie Jones who founded and lead Foundations of Faith and chaplains A.B. Najera and Arturo Villa who regularly visit workers at dairies throughout the region.
Foundations of Faith’s primary goal is to help dairy workers and their families “build strong lives on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ,” according to the ministry’s website: ffaith.net.
Foundations also sponsors English as a Second Language classes to help workers gain or increase fluency in English.
As she blends her missions involvement in WMU and Foundations of Faith, Melissa Lamb said, “WMU’s passion and desire to do missions first to spread the gospel just goes so well with what Foundations of Faith does.”
With the Lambs both growing up in New Mexico, she added, “We were excited to come alongside the ministry just because missions is our heart, and rural agriculture ministry has always been a big thing for us.”
‘Hungry for the Word’
In addition to holding regular Bible studies at several dairies such as W Diamond and Grande Vida, Foundations of Faith hosts worker appreciation events every few weeks during the workers’ shift changes.
The rallies, complete with lunches ranging from cookouts to pizza, typically attract larger crowds to hear the chaplains’ gospel messages.
The results? Since being launched in 2015, Foundations of Faith has recorded more than 500 professions of faith in Christ, including 124 last year and more than 170 so far this year even amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the dairy workers “are real hungry for the Word,” Stanley Jones explained. Affirming that the chaplains’ commitment to building personal relationships with the workers “is really making a huge difference,” he said the spiritual response is “amazing.”
According to Villa, a large percentage of the workers “don’t have time to go to church because they work 12 hours, and they go home and eat dinner and go to sleep, and the next day they do the same thing.” He said that is a primary motivation for leading Bible studies on-site at the dairies.
Among the workers involved in the weekly Bible studies, those sessions “are what they call church,” Jones agreed. “We’re just taking church to them.”
With many of the dairy workers originally from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and other Central American countries, Lamb said, “It’s amazing to see them travel thousands of miles to come up to hear the good news, quite possibly for the first time in their lives. It’s so overwhelming at times just to see how gracious God is to give us this opportunity to share the love of Christ with them.”
As workers pray to receive Christ as their Savior, Foundations of Faith provides each of them a Bible in Spanish, English or even Kiche, the heart language of many of the Guatemalan workers.
The chaplains also give them a small packet of information that includes a “first steps” discipleship booklet, a list of nearby Spanish-language churches and the chaplains’ contact information.
Along with its dairy ministry focus, Foundations of Faith has expanded to provide Bible studies wherever needs and opportunities arise, including a peanut mill and a nursing home.
Jones said he is hopeful that Foundation’s ministry strategy can be duplicated to reach workers in food processing plants, factories and warehouses across the nation.
“I think there could be a lot of good come out of this if we can just get it out there as a model of showing what we’re doing,” he said. “You don’t just have to take it to dairy farms. It can go to all different places.”
Reflecting her missions heart for unreached language groups all across the U.S., Lamb concluded, “God has brought them to America. We can share the gospel with them.”