It is no secret that I enjoy a good cup of hot coffee on a cold winter's day. So when I received a phone call from Dave Graffenberger in early 2013, asking me to meet him at the local coffee shop, I accepted without hesitation.
After exchanging pleasantries, Dave asked me what I thought about my home church (South Albany Community) and his home church (Dever-Conner Community) teaming up to partner with a very poor community just south of Cap Haitian called Mango Bridge (in an area called Lory).
My first reaction was "I love this idea" and wanted to pursue it, but I was hesitant not knowing how the leadership of my church would respond to this radical new idea. As it turned out, both the mission board and the pastor gave an emphatic thumbs up and I knew then and there that God was going to use us to plan, long term, something very special for the Mango Bridge community as well as in our community of Albany, Oregon.
Since that initial meeting with Dave, I've had the privilege, with Men for Missions, of leading three teams in the last fifteen months to the Mango Bridge area. On our very first trip, Dave suggested splitting up into small teams of two or three and going house to house through the community, surveying families and asking them to prioritize their needs from greatest to least. The majority of those surveyed responded emphatically with clean drinking water as their number one need along with jobs, electricity, and medical/physical needs. These needs were brought before our two congregations and the Holy Spirit prompted people to give financially so that two wells, on opposite ends of the community, could be dug. What a joy it has been to see thirsty Haitians pumping continually, at these wells, and receiving clean, cold water to drink and cook with.
Also, through the generous giving of our churches, every Tuesday we are there, God has given us the opportunity to bring mobile medical clinics into the Mango Bridge area where we have the privilege of treating people that have physical ailments as well as meeting the spiritual needs. Each individual, before they receive their prescription, gets asked about where they are spiritually and how best we can pray for their physical needs, as well as spiritual. I can speak from experience when I write that one of my greatest joys is sharing Jesus and leading them in prayer to receive Christ.
South Albany and Dever-Conner are committed financially to three years to invest in this community. Already, an agricultural technician has been hired to help the people of Mango Bridge grow and raise crops, not only for their own much needed consumption, but to establish an opportunity to sell the produce and keep seeds to replant for the future. Also in this coming year there are plans to build a new school that will function as a church as well.
What an awesome privilege it is to be a part of this diverse partnership and to know that reaching the Mango Bridge community for Jesus is first and foremost on all our hearts. God has blessed these teams by giving certain abilities to each member that are specific to each project. But we all function as one just as we are reminded of this in 1 Corinthians 12. One body reaching a community for Jesus but using different avenues and different parts.
It is amazing to see what God can do over a cup of hot coffee and a few moments of fellowship.