This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" - and I am the worst of them! But here is why I was saved with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life.
I Timothy 1: 15-16
We grew up on opposite sides of the world. Angel was raised in Brazil as a missionary kid surrounded by the 3rd largest city on the planet, Sao Paulo. I was born and raised in the amazing state of Georgia, where the south goes to be trendy! This is where I grew up with a passion for sports, especially basketball and developed the habits of southerners that are mostly all good but hard to break (Sorry if I say Yes Sir or Yes Ma'am too often).
Angel loves volleyball, singing and playing guitar. Growing up in Brazil with missionary parents with her two older brothers gave her a unique worldview. Besides her intense love of God and people, she loves to spend time teaching our kids and pouring into their lives.
Our paths crossed for the first time in 2002 at Toccoa Falls College in northeast Georgia. Through playing college basketball on the girls and guys teams we became close friends talking for hours on the phone, and then falling in love on a road trip to play! Though our calls didn't match up at this point God was working on both of hearts, just in different ways. It soon became clear that we were better as a team serving Jesus than we were apart. We married in January 2005 on a surprisingly warm winter day. Little did we know that on that day God had already laid the groundwork for what we would be doing in Colombia. We felt and continue to feel God's leading in our lives, molding us to be his tools and working in his perfect will.
Fast forward 11 years and we have 3 beautiful girls. See? I told you coaching women's basketball was a sign! Taylor, Reagan, and McKinley are our pride and joy (Side Note: We didn't name our kids after US Presidents on purpose... Until the 3rd one!). Our church, The Bridge Church, announced its first short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Of course, when your pastor asks if you will go you have to say yes! Little did we know, this trip would be the catalyst for where we would be today. After that 1st trip, God definitely laid on our hearts the call to international missions.
We are commissioned under a really cool organization called TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) and SAM (South American Mission). TEAM is a global missions agency that partners with the local church to send missionaries and works to establish reproducing churches among the nations, going where the most people have the most need and proclaiming the gospel in both word and action. TEAM has so much experience in partnering with churches that our family knew God divinely crossed our path with them. South America Mission has been working to see the Church of Jesus Christ multiplied and transforming communities by embodying the Kingdom of God. They have focused their efforts in South America specifically wanting to see dynamic churches multiplied across the region that transform local communities and the world as they embody the Kingdom of God.
TEAM envisions the church transforming our world. Founded more than 125 years ago, TEAM and SAM have developed a ministry partnership to better work alongside each other instead of independently. They have worked diligently to integrate ministry area strengths and lean on each other's organizational structures to become even more impactful for the Kingdom of God.
Today, more than 575 TEAM missionaries and staff serve in more than 35 countries. SAM today has over 80 missionaries serving in Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru.
Our family has been called to the business hub and port city of Barranquilla, Colombia. Barranquilla is in the northwestern part of the country located on the Carribean Sea. Home to an estimated 1.8 million people, Barranquilla is a business hub with a focus on commerce and trade.
Barranquilla is a cosmopolitan and primarily industrial city, often visited by businessmen of all nationalities. However, the main attraction for tourism is its carnival "Carnaval de Barranquilla," which takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday. Residents are known as "Barranquilleros" and are characterized by their outgoing and friendly attitude and relaxed behavior. This makes the average Barranquilla resident an optimistic and open individual, as well as goal-directed and hard-working.
God knew what he was doing when he called Angel and Joel to Barranquilla. Joel's 10 years of entrepreneurial and business experience will be a starting point for a ministry field that is newly opened in Colombia for TEAM/SAM (South American Mission). We are creating a 'co-working space' environment that can reach that professional demographic and become a church plant "incubator" for local pastors looking to advance the Gospel message throughout their local community. Through partnerships with international church planting networks and Christian business leaders, we believe that God can use this co-working space network to impact the 10's of thousands of people all over South America.
The change in the economic status of neighboring Venezuela has also added a new ministry area that the Ballew's would have never expected. The flood of Venezuelan refugees to Colombia has exceeded 3 million people. These refugees come with very little but flood the country daily. Joel & Angel see many of these hurting, hungry and desperate people on their doorstep daily. Out of necessity, they developed a program of satisfying basic needs through blessing bags as well as they are working to put Bibles in the hands of those traveling with very little hope.