Three years ago, Jenni and Ramon (pronounced Raymond) Roberts wanted to change the paradigm of Christmas for their family. They discussed options with their children, and Lindsey, their 17-year-old daughter, suggested a humanitarian trip. So they started looking for a humanitarian opportunity that could replace their standard, American Christmas.
For those accustomed to the humanitarian world, it is expensive to find opportunities that can accommodate families. Such great organizations like Doctors without Borders, Nurses without Borders, Mechanics without Borders, and Habitat for Humanity do great work all over the world. But each organization demands highly specialized skills, are expensive, and are not conducive for an entire family. The ones that do work for a family can cost around $1,000-$3,500 or more per person plus travel.
Undeterred by the myriad of humanitarian organizations that did not fit their budget or their needs, Jenni and Ramon happened upon an evangelical group that serves in Baja, Mexico. The cost to serve with this group was low and they could drive to the location. Most important, the work this organization did was great for a family.
This Christian group supported the local community on a personal level, which provided participants the opportunity to interact with and get to know the people in their homes. This seemed the perfect opportunity for the Roberts.
Ramon contacted Pastor Bob, the director of the group, and expressed their family’s willingness to serve. The topic of religion came up and Ramon explained that they were Mormon. The pastor explained that so long as the Roberts adhered to the statement of faith for their mission, there would be no problem.
That statement of faith was written in a simple and elegant way and mostly fit well with their Christian beliefs. The Roberts felt comfortable agreeing to only share the gospel within this framework. They were also asked to refine and write their testimony of Christ, as they would have opportunity to share it multiple times during the week.
The Roberts spent four months preparing for their humanitarian adventure. They went so far as to find out what time the local branch in San Quintin held their meetings.
When they were 10 days away from leaving, Ramon sent an email to Pastor Bob to make sure their family could take an hour away to attend church at the small LDS branch without inconveniencing the schedule. Ramon assured them they would only need an hour.
To his surprise, Pastor Bob told Ramon that he was under the impression the Roberts were not active LDS. Their commitment to the church was a breaking point. Ramon spent over an hour on the phone trying to resolve this impasse. He assured them they were NOT going to proselytize for the Mormon Church. They just wanted to serve in the name of Christ.
Pastor Bob would not back down. He said that his funding organization would never allow practicing Mormons to work alongside their other volunteers. As a result, they were uninvited and their participation fee refunded.
Just like that, the Roberts’ plan for a family humanitarian experience was over. Dashed on the rocks of bigotry.
To continue this series, click Five Hours South of the Border – Origins: Part II