While many of us across the US have been hunkered down and encountering all kinds of winter weather these past few weeks, this month’s MATS ministry spotlight lands us in the warm, sun-soaked Baja desert of Mexico. Former clients of MATS, Pete and Emily Johnson and their family work with a ministry in La Paz called Rancho el Camino.

For nearly nine years, the Johnsons have been working with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) in Mexico, specifically with Rancho el Camino (“the Ranch”). The Ranch serves children, youth, families, and churches through recreational and adventure ministries, community development initiatives, training and mentoring programs, and traditional church-planting ministries.

Johnson family

This amazing video captures their heart for the ongoing ministry on the Ranch. Pete and Emily arrived at the Ranch as program directors working alongside another missionary couple, and have since taken on the position of directors of the Ranch as well as area leaders who oversee and supervise all TEAM sites in Mexico. 

The incredible story of how the Ranch came into existence nearly 13 years ago and the land made available can be summed up in the generosity of a local man who was a part of one of the first church plants in the area by TEAM. He wanted to give his land to be used for ministry, and though the land was in the middle of the Baja desert, within a year of his donation, an earthquake in the area resulted in a break in the earth which brought forth water. Since that day there has been water flowing, thereby resulting in an oasis in the desert. Rancho el Camino is the site of that oasis.

The work of the staff at the Ranch, which is half Mexican and half American, is centered around the vision to help people encounter the presence of God, be equipped for the work of God, extend the Kingdom of God, and exalt the name of God. This has taken on many forms over the years, and you’ll be encouraged by these testimonies of people impacted by their time at the Ranch.

As this past year has taken a toll on everyone around the world due to the crisis of COVID-19, the Ranch has redirected their usual ministry efforts to match the urgency for the new, or in most cases, more magnified needs of their community in La Paz. As an ecotourism hot-spot, when COVID hit, many were out of work, and the initial economic shut-down was devastating to people that were already dependent on living on a day-to-day wage in usual circumstances. The staff at the Ranch quickly coordinated their resources to assist the community with food distribution, eventually assembling over 3,000 food baskets that would feed a family of 4 for a week. As the economy began to re-open, the staff at the Ranch began to check in with students who were now doing online learning, helping with internet bills, offering small groups for tutoring and making house-visits. Outdoor activities at the Ranch have continued, though in smaller numbers. The adaptability of the ministry to be available and assist the community is a testament to the faithfulness of God in using his Church to meet people in need.

When asked what some of the greatest challenges are living and ministering in La Paz and working with so many different kinds of people that pass through the Ranch, Pete responded: “The hardship is maintaining your personal health, resiliency and passion without getting burnt out in order to continue in ministry.” Prior to COVID-19, the situation in La Paz was already difficult, and that was brought to the forefront all the more during the pandemic. Life in a harsh climate is mirrored in a harsh socio-economic situation made all the more devastating with the reality of COVID-19.

Moving forward, the staff at the Ranch are continuing to find the best ways of ministering to the community around them. If you are interested to learn more about what the Ranch is up to, check them out! For those of you that want to get involved, there are several options. Ministry and impact are incredible when done together. If your church group or organization is interested in visiting, volunteering or engaging with Rancho el Camino, contact Pete and Emily. To this very point, Pete said, “We’re better together, and there is so much that can be learned when we are working with and alongside one another.” If you feel led to assist them in their current COVID relief and community development strategies through donation, you can do that here. Donations ultimately help the ministry of the Ranch and to provide jobs for the local staff that run these programs. You should also check out more of the Johnson’s testimony of how their two vehicles from MATS have assisted in their ministry.

Ministries like Rancho el Camino continue to remind us of the amazing work that God is doing through faithful people around the world. For us at MATS.org, it’s amazing to be sitting in the front-seat to much of the great work that our clients lead and participate in. We continue to be thankful for the role we get to play in helping them with a set of wheels to get where they need to go!