The Blue Springs First Christian Church is experiencing a bit of a resurgence of identity – right smack-dab in the doldrums of a struggling economy.

The Blue Springs First Christian Church is experiencing a bit of a resurgence of identity – right smack-dab in the doldrums of a struggling economy.

From June 22-29, 10 church members journeyed from the comforts of their sanctuary at 15th Street and R.D. Mize Road in Blue Springs and traveled to Ciudad Vieja, a municipality in Guatemala.

While the church has engaged in international work before (traveling to Mexico in 2005), their recent trip marked the first in five years – and a first for hands-on experience.

Their mission?

Help complete a school building for children grades first through sixth, one that was begun in 2009 and had only four classrooms.

Jim Wallace, one of the church’s 250 active members, said it was the church’s mission to build two additional classrooms for the public school system. The church discovered the need through an active church family, which it adopted in Guatemala.

Two more classrooms are possibly forthcoming, courtesy of another Blue Springs church.

“It was a great project,” Wallace said. “We learned so much. It’s a different culture, but the people responded well to us. I personally learned a lot.”

Cliff Caton, minister for the church, called the trip significant because of the assistance it provided to the area but also as an example of what Christian churches are doing more and more throughout the world.

“It’s easiest to withdraw when finances get tough,” Caton said. “The question that needs to be asked is what is the proper reaction of a church in a difficult environment?”

Using funds raised from church members and concession sales at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, the church raised enough money to pay for the trip, one they plan on repeating in January.

The church wants to extend its assistance by raising $305,000 for a proposed dormitory for the children to live in.

“The children need a safe place to live, and this would provide that,” Caton said. “We’d like to purchase land or renovate a building, but that depends on funding.”

The church isn’t without its local community projects. One such project – the blanket drive during the Christmas season – is quite popular, and it’s important, Caton said, to remain relevant in the eyes of the community.

But Caton understands where other church leaders may not that the survival of a community church, no matter how small, resides in how it approaches the international community.

The First Christian Church’s relatively new perspective is partly based on the teachings of Darrell Guder, a Princeton professor whose work focuses on the theology of the mission church.

One belief of Guder’s is that 70 to 80 percent of churches will fail if they don’t embrace new forms of service, even if that means extending a helping hand to the international community.

“The basic question churches face is, ‘Is there a reason for us to exist?’ ” Caton said. “You can’t just worship. You have to serve. You have to work together.”

Guatemala fit the church’s goals because there was a need and because the infrastructure, or the system that allows for missionary work, has been in place for years.

Caton said the church would like to branch out into other areas of need, but it’s one thing at a time at this point.

For the time being, organizers will meet next week to decide where church youth will spend their time in the states next year.

That program had been on hiatus for some time.