In the late 1960s Dr. John Sherman, a general practitioner in El Paso, TX, met and married Susan Bustard, a committed Christian and a two-year missionary at a Methodist maternity hospital in South El Paso. In the 1970s John and Sue ran secular medical/dental clinics, first in underserved counties of West Texas and later in Northern Mexico.
In 1981, Rev. Bob Brooks, the pastor of Western Hills United Methodist Church in El Paso suggested that John and Sue take church members to work with them, and teams from the church began to participate every few months. Soon other churches in the area heard about the work and began to send participants with the Western Hills teams. Then a decision was made to step out and develop Christian Hands in Action with 501c3 status and a board of directors.
As the new ministry got into full swing, a curious series of events caused all the mission sites to fail. The Lord showed the leaders that concerned citizens tend to tire of doing good works when they lack a deeper reason for the effort. A trip to Monterrey to meet with the Methodist bishop for the area produced a list of lay missionaries in Northern Mexico who had planted embryonic churches that were struggling to stay alive. The mission at Juan Mendoza in the Balleza Valley was selected by CHIA as the place to begin; the congregation there consisted of only two very old women.
The Lord did an awesome work in Juan Mendoza, and within 3 years the little church was overflowing with new believers. CHIA then brought in work teams to build a new church, which was to serve as the center for the 17 missionaries that the little church sent out into the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains to the west. As these missionaries walked, hitched rides, and rode burros into heretofore unevangelized villages, CHIA followed them with medical / dental / optometric clinics that brought people in to meet the pastors.
In 1986, Dr. Sherman accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, and as the 1980s ran into the 1990s,CHIA became well known for ultra short-term mission experiences. Individuals can arrive
in El Paso on a Wednesday night, be taken into a remote area usually seen only in National Geographic articles, treat 200 to 400 patients, spread the Gospel, and then be back in El Paso by Saturday night in order to catch their flights home. In this way, individuals could miss no more than two days of work and have an opportunity to experience Third World missions.
CHIA has become known as a "mission broker." People and organizations come to CHIA with a desire to serve in a certain way, and CHIA finds a missionary or a school or a hospital needing help in ministry, and brings them together in a spirit of evangelical cooperation. Construction work camps, sending supplies to missionaries, agricultural projects, etc., all have become a part of CHIA. CHIA sets no boundaries on what it will do to take Jesus Christ into the world.