Throughout Bob and Pam Reisingers’ home in Union are cards that have been taped to objects with words scrawled across them to identify both their English and Spanish names.
Telephone: el telẻfono
Brush: el cepillo
Plate: el plato
Milk: la leche
Bread: el pan
Chair: la silla
Bicycle: la bicicleta
Pam created the cards awhile back as a way to help her 10 school-age children learn Spanish, the language they’ll need to know for a move the family is making to Mexico later this year.
So far, the cards are working, said Bob. “The kids are picking up some of the words.”
He knows the real transformation, though, will come once the family is in country and immersed both in the language and culture.
Bob, who will be serving as a missionary with the nonprofit group Niños de Mexico headquartered in Union, Mo., will be in Mexico by August for a two-week immersion class.
They hope Pam and the children, as well as her father, can be there by the time school starts the second week of September.
The couple’s oldest son will be staying in Missouri to pursue his career.
Anyone who knows the Reisingers probably isn’t surprised by their willingness to uproot their family to serve a nonprofit group in Mexico. It follows a pattern of having open hearts and minds that the couple has long had.
‘A Ministry for Us’
If you’re not familiar with Niños de Mexico, it is a nonprofit organization founded by a Missouri couple back in 1967 to help orphaned and abandoned children in Mexico. Today Niños operates four children’s homes just outside of Mexico City for over 60 children, who range in age from infants to their early 20s.
Niños also operates a private Christian school, a medical clinic, an evangelical outreach and two churches.
For many years the nonprofit’s headquarters have been in Union, currently in a green building (410 S. Oak St.) behind Hardee’s restaurant.
The organization uses Psalm 27:10 as its guiding principle: “When my father and mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me.”
After being “received” at Niños, many children have grown up to establish profiessional careers as doctors, construction workers, ministers, teachers and more, the Niños brochure reads.
The Reisingers, who have supported Niños for years through donations at their church, First Christian Church in Washington, and also by financially sponsoring a couple of Niños children, say they have seen for themselves that this is true, and it makes them that much more eager to get involved.
The Reisingers have a soft spot in their hearts for children, especially those in need. Ten of the couple’s 11 children are adopted, and nearly all of them were the Reisingers’ foster children before their adoption.
The Reisingers will tell you they felt led by God to become foster parents after their dreams for a large family didn’t materialize. They didn’t pursue adoption because of the long wait and uncertainty on top of the expense.
The couple took in their first foster children just before Christmas 2001 — two sisters (one almost 6 and the other 1 1/2) and their 3-month-old brother.
To accommodate their larger family, they bought a bigger house, one that was both bigger and more expensive than they had planned, but it proved a wise decision when the couple ended up taking in more foster children.
In time the Reisingers were able to adopt many of the children, but continued to serve as foster parents. At one point they had 13 children (one biological, seven adopted and five foster) living under one roof.
“This is just a ministry for us,” Bob told The Missourian back in December 2006 for a feature story on their large family. “We want to make a difference in these kids’ lives, to be a positive influence for them and hopefully break the cycle . . . We want to let God use us to do this.”
“God has been good to us,” Pam added. “It’s our faith, love and our background that makes us suited to do this.”
‘Called to Go’
That’s the same mindset that is leading the couple to move the family to Mexico, where they will assist in developing a ministry to support the children at Niños transition from the children’s home to a life of independence.
“Most of the children living at Niños have no contact with their biological families,” said Bob. “They don’t have the natural supports most of us have to encourage and guide us as we move from adolescence to adulthood.”
The Reisingers feel uniquely suited to serve Niños in this way, as if all of their experience with being foster and adoptive parents in America over the last 10 years has been preparing them for this next step.
“We have seen the struggle many of the foster children in the states deal with as they age out of the system,” Bob wrote in a letter to friends and acquaintances seeking donations to help the family carry out their mission work. “They need to know there are supports available to help them succeed.”
“And not everyone’s called to go,” Pam noted. “I think there was a path we were put on that led us to this.
“We didn’t really seek these things out. Yes, we wanted to adopt, but we never set out to adopt 10.”
Just as Bob and Pam are uniquely suited to help establish a transition program at the children’s homes, the couple feel their 10 adoptive children are uniquely prepared to relate well with the children living at Niños.
There are other connections the Reisingers see.
“Our daughter Samantha wants to be a missionary worker, and our son, Caleb, wants to be a children’s minister,” Pam pointed out.
“There are just those talents that we see in our kids that I can see God using in those areas.”
‘If We Don’t, Who Will?’
Deciding to be missionaries in Mexico isn’t a decision the Reisigners came to lightly. The couple said they prayed about it for a year after the opportunity presented itself.
Pam had been talking with a friend at church who is a director at Niños and, off the cuff, asked if there was anything for the family to do in Mexico. The nonprofit organizes short-term mission trips, but that wasn’t where God was leading them.
“One thing led to another,” said Bob, “and we went down there last July, just Pam and I, for a short trip for us to see if we liked it.
“When we came home, we thought and prayed about it for a long time.”
Then in February, Bob went back to Mexico with a friend seeking the answer to a question — “How do we plug in here?”
It didn’t take long before he received an answer.
“They don’t have a program there for transitioning the foster kids to be on their own once they age-out of the system,” said Bob. “There is nothing structured to help them move on.
“Here in the states, that’s an issue too, but there are programs in place to support the kids.”
Gradually the Reisingers brought up the idea of moving to Mexico to their children. The teenagers, some of whom still have contact with their biological parents here, were concerned at first, said Bob.
“But we still plan to come back to the U.S. for visits.”
Now the kids all seem excited about the adventure, said Bob.
Looking back, Bob said his trip to Mexico in February was the clincher that the family was really going to make the move.
“Here, we’ve done a lot already and there are programs in place for these kids,” he said.
And there was one question that kept coming to mind:
“If we have the heart to do this, and we don’t, who is going to?
“I kept waiting for an obstacle to come up and stop it,” said Bob, “but every time I turned around, things were working out . . . this worked, then that worked . . .
“ ‘It must be a sign for us to go,’ ” Bob remembers thinking. “ ‘If He’s not closing any doors . . . ’ ”
That said, there are still challenges facing the Reisingers in making their move.
Probably the biggest is the logistics of getting the entire 13-member family there. They plan to fly and will only be taking clothes, opting to purchase housekeeping items once they arrive.
Regardless, that’s a lot of baggage, said Bob, smiling.
Right now the family is focused on getting financial support in place. They believe their expenses will be around $6,000 a month, which will include their food, medical insurance and utilities.
Just like here in America, the Reisingers plan to have a 15-passenger van to transport their entire family, so they will have the costs of gas and maintenance on that vehicle.
“We have known other missionaries with families of four that had monthly expenses of $9,000 and $10,000, so we may get there and find that we underbudgeted, but we’ll have to wait and see,” said Pam.
The family already has several local fundraisers planned, but they also are seeking anyone who is willing to sign up to give a monthly pledge.
It doesn’t have to be a large amount, said Pam. Just $5 or $10 a month would be appreciated.
“When it’s the right time, He’ll make sure the provisions are there,” she remarked.
The first fundraiser will be a skate-a-thon next Saturday, April 21, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Skaterz in Union.
Next will be a 5K and kids fun run to celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, May 5, beginning at 8 a.m. at Clark-Vitt Park in Union.
Finally, Los Cabos Mexican Restaurant in Washington has agreed to donate a percentage of its proceeds on June 12 from 4 to 8 p.m. to the Reisingers’ Niños ministry.
For anyone wanting to keep up with the Reisingers as they prepare for their move later this year and for the time that they are in Mexico, the family has created a blog where they will be writing about their experiences.
The couple has left the length of their mission work open-ended.
“We’re hoping we can be there at least three to four years,” said Bob.
“I’m thinking more like 10 or 15,” Pam said, smiling. “It just depends on God.”
For more information on Niños de Mexico, people can visit www.ninosdemexico.org or call 636-583-2000.