Rio Bravo, Mexico

Twenty years ago, a Methodist ministry in Oklahoma started a mission to build casitas in Rio Bravo, Mexico, a small town located in the Northeast corner of the country in a region called Tamaulipas. NAFTA had recently granted a free-trade zone that included Rio Bravo, and workers from the South of Mexico were migrating to the area to take advantage of the work. But, there was no housing or other government provisions or infrastructure to support the workers who were coming to Rio Bravo to settle, so the mission began building casitas for the workers and their families.

In 2000, Arcola United Methodist Church teamed up with the Oklahoma Methodist ministry for the Rio Bravo mission after researching different missions that would allow their volunteers to spread their good works beyond the national boundaries of the United States. The Arcola mission volunteers then asked themselves, “How can we have the greatest positive impact on Rio Bravo and its citizens?”

As the volunteers were building the casitas, they noticed there were no schools in the town. And so, in order to have the greatest, most long-lasting impact on Rio Bravo, the mission changed from building casitas to building schools—not just addressing the immediate needs posed by poverty, but providing a means by which the citizens of Rio Bravo could break cycle of poverty.

The first project was the construction of a public Kindergarten, through which other government aid was received. For example, the government provides food to the school, that in turn, the mothers of the students cook for the children. To address the high dropout rates among middle school and high school-aged children, Arcola partnered with a local Methodist church in Rio Bravo to sponsor and support five girls through their completion of high school. And now, construction for a co-ed high school, college, and trade school is underway.

The Arcola United Methodist Church adopted the Bricks of Hope mission name in 2012 to continue meeting both the short-term and long-term needs of Rio Bravo through volunteer trips and construction of schools, laying the foundation for a better future with each brick.