Nobody around the table at the Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center understood just how prophetic Dana Franchetti’s words really were. “The face of the U.S. is changing, and it is the responsibility of the Church to answer,” she said. “The fad for my generation is the Great Commissional ‘go,’ but in reality, the nations are coming to us.”
Cactus is a small, impoverished, and highly diverse town in the Texas panhandle. The ministry center sits across the highway from an enormous meat-packing plant—the town’s main employer. It’s tucked behind a Family Dollar discount store.
“You are not in the U.S. anymore,” says Vito Monteblanco, the center’s executive director, a role he shares with his wife, Jenni. Cactus is home to 3,791 people with ethnicities stretching across more than 20 different countries, including Somalia, Myanmar, Guatemala, and South Sudan. Approximately 50 percent of the people here are of Latino ethnicity; the remaining half come from a range of places yet have one thing in common: They’re all refugees.
Vito’s statement is meant to be an orienting marker for people outside the community. Though the postal code of Cactus is in the United States, much of the community’s resources don’t reflect a land of plenty.
Cactus has no after-school activities, no secondary school, and no health care. The nearest doctor is 10 miles away. It’s also classified as a food desert, a place where residents can’t easily access fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole foods.
The Nazarene church is intentionally and holistically addressing these issues.
The Monteblancos and their two young children moved to Cactus in 2013 for the purpose of community development and outreach. The family lives in a single-wide trailer that shares acreage with the ministry center.
“We can imagine something different for Cactus,” Vito says. “We do not want to give fish to people. We want to teach them to fish and then help them start a fish market.”
This is the guiding ethos of the ministry center. Emily Burke, a volunteer, expresses intentionality toward humanizing the challenging situation that defines reality for Cactus residents. “We want everyone in the community to believe what we believe: You have something to offer, no matter what. We are equal in our humanity,” she says.