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Somerset ministry revisits missions roots

Members of the Riverside Church gather around Pastor Bill Hieb (holding baby) at the Mexican dinner on Friday, Nov. 11. The event, which also had a silent auction, was a fundraiser for the church's missionary trips to Mexico in November and Guatemala in January.

The church hall resembled a Mexican restaurant.

Tables were laid out with napkins proclaiming "fiesta" and straw sombreros adorned the walls. Smells of chile rellanos, tamales and taco meat wafted from the back table, where a buffet feast was laid.

This was a fundraiser for the Beside Still Waters ministry team that is leaving for Mexico on Friday, Nov. 18.

Bill Hieb is the pastor of Riverside Church, 427 County Road VV in Somerset, but he is also the founder of Beside Still Waters Ministry. The ministry owns a house in Atotonilco, Morelos, Mexico and Hieb has been taking groups of people there on mission trips since 1996.

"It's about building relationships," said Hieb. "Some churches just go down to minister and then forget about them. It's always been our goal to make it all about sustaining relationships with our friends."

He, along with two other people from Riverside Church, will be going down to Mexico for one month. Then he will take another group of five to Guatemala for two weeks in January.

Although he has helped build orphanages, churches and ministered to countless people, Hieb said his proudest moment came on his last trip to Guatemala.

He had asked his friends there if he could address the local troops. After meeting with authorities and going through the red tape, he finally got a call to come to the base on the last day of his trip.

"We were getting ready and I could hear all these soldiers marching in," recalled Hieb. "They were all young men and came in rows and sat down. When I finished preaching the good news, some of them were crying - the Holy Spirit really touched them."

Lisa Lind is a member of the Riverside Church who is going on the Guatemala trip in January. She is a registered nurse and went on a mission trip to Mexico last year to help with the medical team.

"We did three different medical clinics," said Lind. "We had connections with someone who took us into the community with the churches. We served them medically and then prayed with them, then we would invite them back to church services with us that night."

She has never been to Guatemala before, but is looking forward to going.

"God goes before us," she said. "I can't wait."

Geno Vaccaro is another member of Riverside who is going on the Guatemala trip. A veteran of missionary trips, he has gone to Mexico eight times, Kenya once, and Guatemala once.

He said he was initially hesitant about going on missionary trips, until his wife came back from one.

"I never really wanted to go to Mexico before, but after I went the first time, it just blew me away," he said.

Vaccaro has helped with prison ministry and in the rehab centers, incorporating music in his preachings. He also has helped with the medical center and building facilities like schools, orphanages and churches.

"The thing that gets me is bringing the Bible to life," Vaccaro said. "Families take you into their home; you become close in two weeks. The hardest part is when it is time to go and you are on that big bus and they are standing outside, waving to you.

"I'm looking forward to renewing my friendships."