Keith and Linda Axvig, Brainerd, and Dan and Pat Schulist, Lake Shore, all in their 60s, have new jobs and all have very little experience in their new field.
Their new jobs are working with the poor in the squatter's camps and dump grounds in Matamoros, Rio Bravo and Reynosa, Mexico.
Both the Axvigs and Schulists go to warmer climates in the winter months. The Axvigs go to Harlingen, Texas, and the Schulists go to Scottsdale, Ariz.
The two retired couples have only known each other for three years. The Schulists are the founders and owners, now retired but still serving on the board of directors, of Lakeland Mold Co. in Brainerd's Industrial Park. The Axvigs are retired publishers of weekly newspapers. Linda is also a Brainerd area artist.
Both couples really planned to golf and do all the other things that retired people do when they go south for the winter. However, they started working with a mission group that went into the poor areas of Mexico.
The Axvigs became more and more involved with working with the poor and with Mexican pastors in the dump grounds and squatter's camps along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley. They started going into the Mexican dump grounds and Mexican squatter's camps of Matamoros, Reynosa and Rio Bravo themselves. Other winter Texans started asking if they could ride to Mexico with them and offered to help, bringing food and other items.
Last winter the Schultists came to Harlingen to see what the Axvigs were doing in Mexico. They bought 16 large packages of food to take to 16 families. They also met many of the pastors and families the Axvigs were working with.
The Mexican people moved into the Schulists' hearts and they suggested a ministry be formed and to go through the legal process of becoming a 501c3 organization, which would give the ministry a non-profit status and contributions would be tax deductible.
The four "seniors" decided to co-found SONshine Ministries.
Linda came up with the name. After a state and federal search by an attorney in the Twin Cities, the name SONshine Ministries was allowed.
SONshine Ministries is a nondenominational ministry founded to work with Mexican pastors to help provide a better life, better education, better employment, better housing and, first and foremost, to help the Mexicans find salvation through Jesus Christ.
The mission statement of SONshine Ministries is: "To love our brothers and sisters with Christ-like love, to help local pastors share the Gospel, to promote education and commerce and to share the blessings with others."
The new ministry is based on Romans 12 10-13: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourself. Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
"We have many miracles that we can tell. One Sunday night, at 10 p.m., a businessman from Brainerd was a guest in our home. He told us that the Lord had laid it on his heart of give us a van and for us to give the van to a Mexican pastor. Thirty-eight hours later a Mexican pastor called us and said they had been praying that the Lord lay it on someone's heart to give them a van. We told the pastor that the Lord was one step ahead of him," Linda said.
This same pastor, in the same telephone conversation, said he also needed shoes. Six days later a lady from Crosslake came with 75 pairs of shoes.
The van and shoes were delivered to the pastor in Reynosa, Mexico, by the Axvigs and Schultists and the Brainerd businessman who donated the van Aug. 22.
"When we went to Mexico in August, we pulled a 5- by 8-foot trailer and a 6- by 12-foot trailer. The van and both vehicles we used to pull the trailers were full. A Nisswa couple who lives in San Antonio, Texas, in the winter will pull another 6- by 12 load to San Antonio in October and the Axvigs will have another load for the 5- by 8 trailer in November.
"We've had to rent a storage shed in Harlingen because it'll take several weeks to get all this stuff into Mexico. We have a lot of beds, mattresses, sewing machines and furniture also," said Dan.
The SONshine Ministry budget includes financial aid for five pastors; school aid for children; groceries for as many families as the budget will allow; school supplies; Bibles; Christmas presents; help with starting small businesses; building projects; and disaster projects.
"I remember my grandpa, over 50 years ago, pounding his fist on the kitchen table after church saying, 'Those preachers always want money.' Well, everything takes money. Groceries for the people living in a dirt-floor shack in the dump grounds cost the same for them as it does for us. They pay the same price for a dozen eggs or for a chicken. However, they eat mostly rice and beans," Axvig said.
These people don't have a heat bill, don't have a water bill and don't have an electric bill. It's usually hot so they don't need heat (however, the temperature was in the low 30s last Christmas Eve) and most people don't have running water or electricity so they don't have these bills.
"Since we know very little Spanish, we really depend on our interpreter and the pastors who can speak a little English. We want to keep in mind that winning souls for Jesus Christ is our No. 1 mission. Food, clothing, education, jobs, businesses and better housing are also important parts of the mission but not as important as salvation," Pat said.
"We have to trust the Lord in financing all of these projects. It all takes money. Food costs money, medicine costs money, Bibles cost money, education costs money, construction materials costs money. I think everyone gets the picture," Keith said.
"We really need prayer support and if anyone finds it in their heart to donate to SONshine Ministries, that would be great," Dan said.
Anyone wishing to make a tax deductible contribution to SONshine Ministries can do so by sending a check to SONshine Ministries, 18127 Hartley Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401.
Anyone wishing a brochure or wanting more information on SONshine Ministries, call Keith or Linda Axvig at 829-9791 or Dan or Pat Schulist at 963-3119.
The Axvigs address from November to March is: 1900 Grave Ave. #163 Mary, Harlingen, TX 78550. Phone (956) 428-3155. Cell phone (218) 831-3064. The Schulists address from November to April is 9280 E.Thompson Peak Parkway, #13, Scottsdale, AZ 85255. Phone (480) 538-8015.
Keith O. Axvig is a retired publisher and former president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
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