barry headshot“Oh! You should meet so-and-so. They’re doing exactly the same thing as you.”

I get that a lot. There are a lot of 20 and 30 somethings out there who are involved with international ministries, journalism, or travel, so it’s easy to assume that our work is identical.

But as I’ve discovered over the last five years, the World Next Door philosophy of ministry is pretty unique. For one thing, we travel the world for the benefit of the suburban American church, not for the benefit of those we’re visiting (at least, not directly).

Next, our approach when traveling is to learn, not to do. We sit at the feet of our partners and let them teach and influence us, not the other way around. It takes discipline to stay away from “problem-solving” mode, but we truly believe our partners know far more about their work than we ever could!

But there is one more thing that makes World Next Door different than a lot of other organizations, and it’s this: we partner with indigenous-led, Christ-centered ministries almost exclusively. We believe that, by partnering with what God is already doing on the ground through local leaders, we are exposing our readers to new voices, new perspectives, and new ways of seeing the world.

I’ve seen the benefit of this philosophy firsthand. For the last five and a half years, I’ve had the privilege of developing deep friendships with wonderful leaders from cultures not my own. These leaders, who I’ve lived with, learned from, and written about, have impressed me more than words can say. They are selfless, their work is life-changing, and their faith is an inspiration.

For the last five years, however, I haven’t really had the chance to spend time with a ministry like this in Latin America. That is, until I met Saber y Gracia. This school, tucked away on the edge of the small, rural town of Santo Tomás Milpas Altas, absolutely blew me away.

There I met a principal who has sacrificed everything for the sake of his students. I met a missionary who has given her life for the benefit of the kingdom of God. And I met teacher after teacher filled to the brim with hope, love, and joy, even in the midst of hardship.

Saber y Gracia is probably never going to be world-famous. Its leaders are probably not going to write best-selling memoirs. But as you read this issue, I hope that you, too, develop an appreciation for this beautiful ministry and the life-changing work they’re doing in the lives of the students they love.


Barry Rodriguez
Executive Director