One of the joys of serving the Lord is that ‘moment’ when you realize, once again, the Lord is walking ahead of you. To put it in modern vernacular, you hear Him say, “I’ve got this.” Let me share one such moment.
Lori and Rich, my daughter and son-in-law, are leading a NHIM mission team to South Africa. They lived in Johannesburg for over three years. During that time, they worked with a vibrant New Testament Church which is committed to serving people in the name of Christ, especially the poorest of the poor. The church will be assisting and working beside the NHIM team as they engage in ministry there. Preparations for the team have included much prayer, team meetings, arrangements for transportation, ground cost, etc. They knew that the expenses of the trip would be sizable, but believed the spiritual rewards of this ministry would be more than worth the investment.
As preparations were proceeding, my daughter came to me and asked if NHIM might have enough funds available to help buy some blankets for the smaller children who live in Kya Sands Squatter’s Camp. Lori had worked with the children while living there. A part of the NHIM’s team itinerary will be working in this demoralized slum while in Johannesburg. I promised her that we would make every effort to raise the money for the blankets.
The next day, I bumped into an old friend, Tommy Baker, in our local Wal-Mart. Across the years, Tommy and NHIM have worked together on several projects. During the conversation, Tommy asked if I ever needed blankets in our ministry. I responded with an enthusiastic – YES! Through his contact with the Wal-Mart manager, he had just purchased some fleece coverlets at a remarkably low price. I asked Tommy, “How many blankets do you have?” He told me seven hundred.
Lori, Rich and the NHIM team now have all of the blankets they need. I am almost sure I heard the Lord say, “Relax, Brother Roy. I’ve got this!”
‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
~ Brother Roy
The Abiding Hope Food Pantry has been an important part of our ministry in Eastern Kentucky since the beginning of our partnership there. Eugene Spencer, the pastor of Bear Pen Community Worship Center, oversees this vital ministry. Lewis Roberts manages the day-to-day activities of the pantry and, with other volunteers, provides invaluable service managing the acquisition and distribution of food to needy families. The pantry is located at Bear Pen and currently serves approximately 350 families a month.
The pantry started as an outreach to the community when David Spencer, now director of the church planting ministry, was pastor at the Bear Pen Church. On Sundays after service, the pews in the small church were moved to the platform so the floor of the sanctuary could be used to stack the food. The food was sorted and boxed for distribution by volunteers from the congregation.
Later, a rough shed was constructed on the property.
As time passed and funding became available, a concrete floor was added and other improvements were made.
The building was finally brought to its current condition and shelving was added.
There are other improvements that should be made, and the pantry also needs ongoing financial support. Fuel and upkeep on the box truck as it makes the roundtrip journeys from Bear Pen to God’s Pantry in Lexington necessitate a regular flow of money. Utilities costs for the building also provide a recurring challenge. If you would like to help support this outreach in the name of Jesus, you can make your checks payable to NHIM and mark in the memo line – ‘Abiding Hope Food Pantry’.
Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” (Matthew 25:35)
It has been a while since we have provided an update here on the website on New Hope’s many ministry activities. Here are a few ways that the Lord is blessing New Hope in these days.
Over Asbury University’s Spring Break, a team of four students traveled through NHIM to Jamaica where they led devotions for preschoolers and built a home for a family in need.
During last month’s NHIM Board meeting, members voted to increase the expense account funds for David Spencer, our Director of Church Planting. David is driving 204 miles round-trip twice a week from his home at Bear Pen in Wolfe County to work with one of our church plants, Green Hill Community Church, in Harlan County. Green Hill is growing in numbers and spiritual knowledge under David’s leadership. Attendance on Easter Sunday was 70. From ground zero, when the church first opened, to 70 on Easter is a testimony to God’s love for those folks and David’s hard work. Within a few days of approving the increase for David, an unexpected check for $2,500 came in that will help cover the increase. Praise the Lord!
Several months ago the Abiding Hope Food Pantry truck ‘went home to be with Jesus’. The truck was old and tired and threw a rod through the block. Since then it has been a real struggle to get the food from God’s Pantry in Lexington to the food pantry at Bear Pen. Many of you have been praying with us about another truck. In the Lord’s timing, David and his son Eugene located a truck. The price was reasonable, and all we needed was the money. I called the gentleman who had sent us the money we were going to use to help increase David’s expenses account. I asked him if it was all right to split the money and use half for David and the other half for down payment on the truck. After a pause, he said to use the full amount he sent to help David. Then he said, “I’ll send you the money for buying the truck shortly.” That was another “Praise the Lord!” moment. As I was sharing this great news with the fellows I drink coffee with, one of the men asked if the truck was road worthy. I told him it was as far as I knew, except the front tires were badly worn. He pulled out his billfold and handed me a $100 bill to help with new tires.
Pray for our upcoming Tent Revival in Harlan County. David will be holding an old fashioned tent revival later this spring a few miles from the Green Hill Community Church. The tent and folding chairs have been moved on-site. We are trusting that the Tent Revival will bring souls into the Kingdom and make people aware of the Green Hill Church. Prayer and fasting is helping prepare the way. Join us as we petition the Lord for revival.
I recently joined David in a meeting with a man who has been attending Green Hill Church for about a year. He has been a pastor and has preached extensively in the Harlan County area. This man has expressed interest in working with us in ministry and possibly becoming one of our pastors. Pray for wisdom as we explore partnerships such as these in our efforts to reach Eastern Kentucky with the Gospel.
My daughter Lori and my son-in-law Rich are leading a NHIM mission team to South Africa in May. As they were making preparations, Lori asked me if NHIM might be able to help buy some blankets for the small children in Kya Sands, a Squatter’s Camp (a terrible slum) at the edge of Johannesburg. Lori ministered there during the time she lived in Johannesburg. The next day, I ran into Tommy Baker, a dear Christian brother who had worked with NHIM on some previous projects. During our rambling conversation, he asked me if I could ever use some small blankets. I responded with a resounding – YES! When I inquired about how many he had, he said, “700”. He had secured them from an overstock at Wal-Mart for one dollar apiece. Can you believe it? The team has all the blankets the need and more. Again, I want to humbly bow my head and say “Praise the Lord!”
~ Brother Roy
I was recently asked to speak to a civic organization about NHIM’s work in Eastern Kentucky. I shared a number of newspaper articles and various reports concerning the plight of people in Appalachia. During a Q & A period at the end, I was asked point blank, “What do you think is wrong with Eastern Kentucky”?
Let me share some of the observations with you that I shared then. First, I related to the gathering my recollections of growing up in the hills more than five decades ago. I had been largely absent from the area since graduation from high school. Except for an occasional visit or vacation weekend, I had spent little time there. A few years ago, I started working on a regular basis in Eastern Kentucky, I soon discovered, to my dismay, that it was a far different place than my boyhood memories. I have struggled to determine what had changed. My conclusions are as follows:
- Small churches in many communities were gone, which contributes to a lack of moral fabric and opportunities for healthy social interaction.
- Although there appears to be a number of churches in some areas, they are often totally independent. There is no accountability or oversight as to religious doctrine or financial matters. Heresies and confusion abound.
- High unemployment, lack of job opportunities, and chronic poverty dominate most areas.
- There is a low priority on education and marketable job skill training.
- Welfare and reliance on other government programs have created a mentality of dependence and a sense of entitlement.
- Poor diet, obesity, and lack of accessible medical care exacerbate the situation.
- Drugs are rampant and violent crimes are a major problem. An abundance of ‘Pain Clinics’ greatly contributes to the crisis.
- Breakdown of the basic family unit is leading to large numbers of neglected and abused children.
- Human trafficking is on the rise. Recently a social worker in Eastern Kentucky informed me me of the heartbreaking and rapidly growing problem of human trafficking. Young girls (children) being sold by addict mothers for drugs is common.
- Hopelessness and a fatalistic world view permeates the region.
Take a look at some of these heartbreaking statistical maps:
In the face of these overwhelming obstacles, most programs that are meant to help only seek to change the external environment. They are based on a belief that people change from the outside in – change the environment, change the man. This failed philosophy is repeated over and over again as things continue to deteriorate in the mountains.
NHIM takes a completely different approach. We believe that the only way to truly change a person is for change to take place from the inside out. There needs to be a ‘new birth’ of moral conviction, principled life styles, and a strong work ethic in individual hearts. We rest solidly on the premise that when people become new creatures in Christ old things pass away and things become new.
Our church plants are positioned in communities where little, if any, Biblical teaching takes place. They are centers for moral instruction, healthy social interactions, and community-building. As individuals make internal changes, they link with others in the church who have also changed. They then form the building blocks for a better community and a better way of life through Christ who strengthens them.
~ Brother Roy
Over the past week, 26 friends and co-laborers participated in a pastors retreat cruise sponsored by New Hope International Ministries. The goal of the cruise was to provide a time to get away and refresh for several pastors with whom New Hope works in Eastern Kentucky. The theme of the week was “Come Apart Before You Come Apart” with the theme verse of Mark 6:33: “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (NLT).
The ship sailed out of Mobile, Alabama, and included two full days at sea and a day each in Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico.
A major purpose of the retreat was to provide time away from the pressures of daily life and ministry. We spent much of our time enjoying fellowship with each other, sharing victories and difficulties, and eating dinner together as a family.
The retreat provided important opportunities for our group to get to know each other personally. Hectic schedules, work and ministry obligations, and family responsibilities leave little time to visit and learn about each other when we are at home, but the fellowship in sessions and around the dinner table provided opportunity for encouragement and enjoyment of each other.
While we were together as a group for many activities, we also wanted ministry couples to have some private time together – catching a nice lunch together in the dining room, watching the waves in the moonlight, or a late night coffee and dessert date provided an important time of refreshing and renewal.
In our scheduled sessions, Brother Roy preached a message on how Hezekiah took his challenges before the Lord, Pastor David Spencer shared about his vision for church planting and evangelism in Eastern Kentucky, NHIM Board Chairman Matt Kinnell spoke about how God’s plans for our lives – both physical and spiritual – are always better than we could have imagined, the laypeople traveling with us provided input on what they expect from a pastor, and we ended with a celebration of ‘The Lord’s Supper’ as a family.
Here are some photos from our week together:
It has been a hard Tuesday morning. I am feeling sad, frustrated and just plain mad! For the past year I have been volunteering in a preschool ministry of our church at Kya Sands (a squatter’s camp/informal settlement) here in South Africa. We have met under a tree, beside an illegal garbage dump where children have to cross about a 4-foot-wide open sewage ditch to come to us. Not ideal conditions, but we had our space for our “school under the tree”.
This morning when we arrived after a 6-week break for Christmas and summer holiday, we were horrified and heartbroken to see that our place, our school under the tree, had been covered – actually buried with enormous mounds or rubbish. While we never had safe or ideal conditions, today it is a huge health hazard (burning rubbish and dead rats everywhere), and there is absolutely no way to meet or work with kids there.
Our church is working to secure land where a proper preschool can be built; however, that has been in process for a couple of years (nothing gets done quickly here!), and even when approved, it will take time before we can meet there.
I am trying hard to rest in this verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you says The Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Hard to realize at this moment, but I know HE has plans for Kya Sands far beyond what I could ever imagine.
~ Lori Lauter Wright
NHIM Board Member
Following God’s path for our lives has led Rich and me across a 9,000-mile journey from Crestwood, Kentucky, to Johannesburg, South Africa … an amazing and beautiful country in which we daily encounter the faces of those living in desperate conditions. Since moving here last January, I have had the great privilege of working in a special ministry alongside exceptional women from our church, Bryanston Bible Church (BBC). We meet weekly with small children, ages approximately 3-8, in Kya Sands squatter’s camp (a slum area). These children live in extreme poverty in crudely constructed shacks made of tin and other discarded building materials that provide only meager shelter. Our deep desire is to be in some small way, the hands and feet of Jesus … providing lots of love and hugs, food, physical activity to increase hand/eye coordination and basic language instruction.
The children eagerly meet us each Tuesday morning in a small open area at the edge of the camp in our outdoor “classroom under the tree”. An open sewage ditch about 5 feet deep is a major obstacle for the small children to cross as they come to our “classroom” among the piles of rubbish and debris. A large burned out area of grass off to the side is the bathroom … open for all to see … no privacy … no proper toilet facilities.
As if life was not hard enough for these precious children and their families, a few weeks ago a tragic fire roared through parts of Kya where many of our children live. Over 750 shacks were destroyed and more than 3,500 people were left homeless, having lost everything. NHIM has joined with some of my former colleagues at Crestwood Elementary (Oldham County, Kentucky) and donors from BBC to provide much needed assistance. When I asked the ladies what they needed, the response was just 3 simple items … a small kerosene stove to cook on, a pot to make pap in (the staple starch in South Africa – think thick grits) and a large bucket with a lid, as the ladies must carry water a considerable distance. While these items seem simple to us, they represent life to these families. In addition to these desperately needed items, we have also been able to provide plastic plates and cups, silverware, blankets, towels, clothing and toiletries.
Even though the fire has long since been extinguished, the emotional scars on an already disenfranchised people will take time, prayers and the loving kindness of Christian people to heal. Please, pray and help as you can … you can be a part of the healing process. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40 (ESV)
~ Lori Lauter Wright, NHIM Board Member
The little church that NHIM helped to plant on Shoemaker Ridge in Lee County, Kentucky, has experienced its ups and downs since it was dedicated on Easter Sunday two years ago. The ridge is a tough place to minister – poverty, alcoholism, and drugs have plagued the community for years. A revival meeting was scheduled for September 17-21, and the Holy Spirit moved in a special way in the little church on the ridge. After more than 90 people crammed into the tiny sanctuary on Sunday night, the revival meetings were extended for another night, then extended again to Tuesday and Wednesday. Many spiritual victories were won at the altar. On Wednesday night, the last night of the revival, three believers were baptized in a horse-watering trough purchased by New Hope to serve as a baptistry. We thank God for the moving of His Spirit on Shoemaker Ridge and ask that you would join us in prayer for the ministry of Ridge Chapel and for the believers, some young and some old, who have begun a new walk with the Lord.
Here are some pictures and videos from Wednesday night’s closing service:
Pastor David leads the congregation in singing
More congregational singing