One of our longest standing global ministry partnerships is with ARMONÍA, a service-based, Non-Governmental Organization founded and directed by Saúl and Pilar Cruz in Mexico City, who began working in a slum with an estimated population of 2 million on the western edge of the city, called the Jalalpa Ravine.
Watch this video to hear the late Dr. Saul Cruz share about ARMONIA, one of our major ministry partners.
The first years of the ministry involved crisis intervention and attempts to minimize further emergenciesin this high-risk community. Typical problems faced from day to day included the risk of destruction of people’s homes caused by land slides and the frailty of the basic constructions, fires or collapsing mines, sicknesses accentuated by the existence of a river of sewerage running through the lower area of the Ravine (some people even lived in the midst of this on man-made islands of rubbish), and gang provoked violence. This community was characterized by appalling housing, lack of basic public services, school desertion, malnutrition, alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, religious superstition, witchcraft, and small Mafia controlled groups.
In the midst of these problems, ARMONÍA was set up (on a rubbish dump) with the aim of showing God’s love to the community members by serving them and together with them seeking ways to meet their needs in the most relevant way possible. Once important friendships had been established, ARMONÍA was able to work more closely with the local children and families and eventually a Bible study was set up, at the locals’ request.
Gradually, ARMONÍA developed a way of meeting people’s needs through the facilitation of community initiatives. Our Christian Urban Transformation Centers (UTC), provide people with a meeting place where they can get together and seek solutions to their most urgent problems and where children can safely learn about the love of Jesus. Programs aimed at dealing with problems of malnutrition, health, education, housing, unemployment and spiritual values were created to stabilize the local community.
The approach emphasizes two very important elements in ARMONÍA’s work: (1) establishing relationships with community members and (2) addressing priorities at a pace set by the community in light of advancing the Kingdom of God. These are two factors that visitors to ARMONÍA need to think through carefully before coming:
Establishing good relationships with the communities implies giving ourselves the opportunity to learn with, as well as from, the community. ARMONÍA walks alongside the poor and the culture of poverty instead of coming with an ‘expert’ approach. Going at the locals’ pace is important in order to be relevant to their needs. This is reflected in our ability to meet people at their own level. These factors apply to the rhythm at which ARMONÍA works, the language we use, the services we provide, the goals we set alongside the people, and our approach to evangelism.
ARMONÍA seeks to communicate with people through our actions, by following Christ’s example of providing a concrete, practical application of love and Christian values. To accompany this, regular Bible studies are given. Originally they were set up in a community member’s little home and later at the UTC, understanding that our language had to be adapted for a largely illiterate congregation.
ARMONÍA continued and God took to us to many other communities among which another two Community Centers and an Indigenous Students Residence were built.