A Family ministry on the border

For Send Relief Missionary Vanessa Lerma, the journey to full-time ministry began when she was just a toddler.

While Vanessa’s father served as an altar boy at a Catholic church growing up, faith had not been a part of his adulthood until, after being married for several years, he and his wife decided that they wanted to raise their family in a grounded, faith-filled environment. Soon after they made this decision, Vanessa’s parents attended what they thought was a normal free family fun night at a local church, but God had other plans. After watching several evangelism-based films there, they both dedicated their hearts to the Lord, and service quickly became a lifestyle for Vanessa’s family.

“We didn’t go on mission trips. We lived our lives on mission, helping single-parent families and friends living in poverty along the border every week,” Vanessa shared. “Many migrants were missing their families and the rest of their communities who lived over the border, so my mom became a mom for everyone and my dad became a deacon. Family didn’t have anything to do with blood relations. Family was the people around us, and family meant sharing the blessings you were given.”

Though she didn’t know it at the time, this servant-hearted way of living was equipping Vanessa for her life to come. “My family didn’t call it ‘missions,’ but they were preparing me all along to become a consultant for the WMU, where I saw lives changed through GA’s. I was prepared to pour into others because of how much was poured into me.”

After serving on a youth ministry leadership team and receiving confirmation from her peers that God was calling her to fulltime compassion work, Vanessa worked alongside Texas Baptists River Ministries, where she discovered she was especially suited to working with families on the border.

Today, Vanessa is using her skillsets to help run one of Send Relief’s newest ministry centers in Laredo, Texas, where she and her husband Osvaldo are building relationships with migrants, local churches, foster care agencies and refugee ministries to become a respite for all kinds of families who are facing a difficult road ahead.

This work is extremely emotionally demanding and, to stay centered, Vanessa leans on her life verse, Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

She shared her other avenues of support, stating, “My church family’s prayers have kept us strong. Knowing someone is praying for you or someone has paved the way ahead of you as a missions leader is a huge blessing. On hard days, there are times that I do need to pull away and go for a walk or hug my family, and those moments remind me that God is in control. He loves immigrant families more than I could ever love them. He loves Laredo more than I could ever love it. He’s taking care of us in ways we can’t always see, but releasing control is releasing results and learning to trust.”

Pray for wisdom and clarity for Vanessa and Osvaldo, as they continue to build relationships in Laredo. Pray for patience as the foundation is laid and for the local church to feel refreshed as the hands and feet of Jesus. If you would like to learn more about Vanessa’s work and the ministries being created along the Texas border, click here for more information.

Published November 1, 2023