Director of student missions tapped to run City of Children orphanage in Mexico
Janel Shoun |
Sitting on a plane, on the way back from his first visit to the City of Children orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico, a young Jeff Fincher (‘97) wrote in his journal a prayer to God to “some how, some way, please let me come back to this place someday.”
The prayer was a long shot at the time, in his opinion, because Fincher, then a Lipscomb University undergrad, didn’t have any firm plans to return to the orphanage. His participation in the 1995 trip was really just a fluke. Honestly, he didn’t expect to ever have the ability to go back again.
But God had other expectations. It was just one year later that Fincher, then a senior at Lipscomb, was back at City of Children leading a group of fellow Lipscomb students on what he describes as an “absolutely terrible” mission trip. But the magic of the Mexican children touched the hearts of the Lipscomb students, and the next year Fincher (with his improved logistics skills) led two groups to City of Children. The next year he led three mission teams.
And so on throughout his years as a youth minister and since joining Lipscomb as director of student missions in 2002.
And now, in another unexpected turn of events, Fincher and his wife Natasha have taken on the opportunity to actually run the orphanage that so touched his heart 14 years ago. He will leave Lipscomb this July to become the director of City of Children.
Fincher’s last trip to the orphanage as a mission team leader will be this June when he takes a Nashville youth group down to Mexico. From then on, he will be coordinating mission work at the orphanage from the other side of the border.
“We never dreamt that we’d have the opportunity to serve in this way. We are both perfectly comfortable with our jobs and our lives in Nashville,” said Fincher. “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable; He calls us to be faithful. So we decided to fully rely on God and step way outside of our comfort zones to fulfill God’s will for us.”
In his new role, Fincher will oversee programs for the children, supervise house parents, and coordinate the various American mission groups who bring 1,000 people to the orphanage each year.
The 66-acre City of Children was established in 1970 by a Californian named Earl Farmer. The purpose was to care for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the orphaned and needy children of Mexico, Fincher said. Since its establishment, City of Children has served as a successful mission model for many Churches of Christ across America.
According to the City of Children Website, 620 children and adults have become Christians since the mission was established. The Mexican government allows City of Children to teach the gospel because it provides Mexican children a good home, good care and education.
“The orphanage works daily to give the children as normal a life as possible,” Fincher said.
Fincher may never have learned about the orphanage if it hadn’t been for a youth minister from Arkansas who met Fincher when he was a counselor at Lipscomb’s annual youth camp Impact. On the last day of Impact, the youth minister invited Fincher to take an open spot on a mission trip leaving for City of Children just three days later. Fincher took him up on the offer.
“I have never felt loved like I do at City of Children. The experience had impacted me in such a way, I wanted to share it with others,” he said. “I knew when I went that this wasn’t an experience just for Bible majors. This was a trip for everyone. Anyone can come down here and love on a kid.”
So he coordinated the first Lipscomb mission trip to City of Children in 1996, and the experience has proven to be one of the most popular among the thousands of Lipscomb students who have gone on spring break mission trips. Some years as many as 50 people would sign up for the team and 30 more would be sitting on a waiting list, says Fincher.
“We’d see people go there for their first mission trip, and we could see it change people,” he said. “We started to see students change their major to Spanish or Spanish education. We would see students come back and decide to go into long-term mission work. We knew it was special.”
Over the years, Lipscomb’s missions program grew overall to the point where the existing Bible professors couldn’t handle all the logistics anymore. So Fincher was hired in 2002 and Mark Jent was hired in 2003. The two coordinate all the aspects of Lipscomb’s missions program, including around 45 trips each year to locales both domestic and international.
This year 325 students and about 100 alumni and friends of Lipscomb will embark on mission trips during spring break, March 15-22. An additional crew of hundreds will head out at various points during the summer.
Fincher graduated from Lipscomb in 1997 with a degree in organizational communications and a minor in Bible. He began working as a youth minister in Nashville, completed his master’s in Biblical studies in 2000 and his master’s of divinity in 2005, both at Lipscomb. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. Fincher’s wife Natasha teaches sixth grade at Nashville Christian School.
Watch for the Finchers blog, www.jeffandnatasha.com, to appear later this year when they begin their journey in City of Children.