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Posts Tagged ‘Missions’

Wow!!!!  What an amazing weekend I had with the great people of Lifebridge Church in Madison, MS.   I was invited down there to speak and share with them about our missions work in Haiti and how we might partner together with them since they too have just begun getting involved in the ministry in Haiti.  What a blessing it was to spend a few days with such a great group of people that are passionate about making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

It is so amazing to see how the hand of God moves in such sovereign ways to bring resources together for the furthering of His kingdom.  Two months ago, I didn’t even know where Madison Mississippi was, let alone who Lifebridge Church was.  Yet, by the way we connected and hung out over the weekend, you’d think we had known each other for years.  I’m so thankful that God brought us to partner together for the work in Haiti.  They are truly a blessing and I look forward to working with them for many years as the Lord allows.  They have already planned a trip in July and are planning another trip in November to bring a team down to do some construction and building for the addition to the orphanage.  We are blessed and privileged to work with them.

Here are some pictures from our weekend together…

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Good ol’ southern folk from Mississippi…

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which of course means…good ol’ southern cookin’

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From left to Right…Jim Fries – the leader of the Haiti Missions Team at Lifebridge Church, Philip Thurman – the conservative, no frills, by the book pastor…haha…no way.  This guy is radical for Jesus and not afraid to shake things up, and then myself – the conservative, no frills, by the book missionary…haha…I don’t think so.

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Me sharing at Sunday morning service…

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The missions tables after the service – many people are starting to get more involved in the missions of the church…I love seeing that happen.  This church has a great mission strategy and the Lord is blessing their faithfulness.

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My two new friends, Horatio and Montel.  They are kids from the ministry that the church has in Canton reaching out to underprivileged kids through tutoring and mentoring every Monday night.  This was their first time visiting the church.  They are very special guys and I pray God’s blessings on their lives.  The only problem is that they just would never stop talking…haha…I don’t think so

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Awwww…..  of course Daddy wouldn’t forget to bring home something for his two little girls…

All in all…a terrific weekend with a terrific group of people worshiping a terrific God. I am so excited to see what God is going to do with all of this terrific-ness

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So, we recently left Delaware and made our move back down to Asheville, NC (actually, we’re in Black Mountain, which is about 20 minutes from Asheville)  This is an absolutely beautiful part of the country (I will post some pictures when the weather warms up and I get myself out in the great outdoors.  But I will not get comfortable here, nor do I want to, for this is not our final destination.  We are Haiti bound and that is why we are so excited to be back in Asheville…because it signifies that we are one step closer to answering God’s call to Haiti.  Our excitement for Haiti grows more and more every day.  I miss the people there…the children at the orphanage…the people in the village of Cam Coq…the pastors and leaders of the church, etc.  I cannot wait until we board that plane with our 3 children and our dog and make our move to this beautiful, yet impoverished country.

God continues to open doors and give us favor regarding the work in Haiti and connecting us with people and resources that we can partner with.  Next weekend, I am flying to Jackson,Mississippi to speak at Lifebridge Church.  They have recently begun partnering with the ministry in Haiti.  I met some of the leaders when I was in Miami last month for a time of casting vision for the work in Haiti.  We really connected well and they asked me to come to their church and speak about the missions work that we will soon be doing in Haiti.  I am very excited for the opportunity to partner with such a great group of people.

I plan on going to Haiti at the end of July to do some missions work with the ministry that we will be partnering with (we are in the process of coming up with an official name for this ministry…and then they will seek to become an official 501C3 non-profit mission agency)  Anyway, while I am there in July, I will also get things ready over there regarding our place where we will be living at the mission house.

We are in the process now of applying with a missions agency that we have been in contact with and feel very good about it.  We will get our application in within the next few weeks.  If all goes well, we will be invited down there for an interview and a week long missions orientation training in the first week of June.  From that point, we will be official missionaries with this agency and we will then start raising our support that we need.  If all goes as “planned” (of course, according to the Lord’s timing) we would love to be in Haiti by the Fall.  But we trust in His perfect provision and in His providential leading.

And so…here we are in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina…but my thoughts are on other mountains…

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Recently, I have been devouring books about Haiti and the people that have given their lives to help make a difference in this suffering and impoverished country.  As I learn more about the suffering, political corruption, poverty, disease, and all other things that would turn away the tourist world, I find my heart growing larger and larger for these people who I don’t yet really know living in a land not so far away from me geographically, but millions of miles away in all other senses of the word.  This is a country that is truly in desperate need from the top to the bottom.  To many, it would seem hopeless to think that this country could ever be repaired.  I’m sure that many people who give themselves to the work often find themselves battling against discouragement and hopelessness.  I’m sure it seems that it is the kind of work where you take one step forward and then feel like you fall back ten.  It is the kind of work where you might never see “the light at the end of the tunnel”  You feed 50 people at a feeding program that takes all your blood, sweat, and tears every day, but then walk away and see hundreds and hundreds more of starving people that you simply don’t yet have the resources to help. 

Even though I have only been to Haiti a few times, (though we’re planning on moving there in the future) I have already shared in those sentiments.  We went to help provide food to families who lost everything due to the hurricanes that wreaked havoc on their already ravished country.  Through a lot of work (both in the states trying to collect money as well as down there purchasing, packing, and distributing) our small group was able to provide a weeks worth of food to a few hundred families in Gonaives, one of the hardest hit areas.  This was good to be able to help a few hundred, but I wrestled in my heart as we were driving away from the church and I saw literally thousands of people who still looked quite hungry and quite desperate.  What about them?  And what about the families that we did give food to for a week?…what about the week after that?…and the months?…and their lifetime?

And so, I too wrestle with that nagging question that might be best summed up as “Am I really able to make a difference in a place like this?”  The answer to that question is a resounding “yes” if I look through a set of lenses that is able to see beyond the statistics that illustrate the hunger, disease, poverty, and suffering.  I must remember to look through the lenses of love…God’s love.  As I was reading a book recently of a woman who started a feeding program through a catholic church in a poor area of Port Au Prince, I saw where she too came to that gripping question of “Am I really making a difference in a place like this?”  And just in that very moment, as her heart was grieving over that perceived reality, the priest who she was working with came up behind her and whispered in her ear, “Thank you for coming to Haiti and being here to love these people.  You are making a difference in many people’s lives.”  As I read that, I too was overcome with passion and emotion as I said to myself, “Yes, that’s what it is all about.”  Here to love…and not just with a love that comes from my own human heart (which is oh so limited), but love that comes from the heart of God, which is limitless.  And expressing and sharing that love with people WILL make a difference in their lives…I am fully convinced of this because it has made a difference in mine.  God’s love changes people for the good regardless of whether or not their circumstances ever change.  Yes, I believe that Haiti needs feeding programs, educational resources, homes for orphans, etc…and as I prepare to move there with my wife and children as missionaries, I hope to be involved in some of those developments.  But I cannot base my success or failure on how many people we were able to feed versus the people that we weren’t able to feed…or the orphans we were able to care for versus the ones that are still living on the streets.  If I base success or failure on those “statistics”, I will certainly come away thinking that our efforts amounted in failure.  BUT…if instead, I look at the people that we have been able to help (with no matter how great or small the resources) and I ask myself, “Were these people loved with the love of God as we reached out to them?”, then I will be able to come away knowing that there was great “success” (not that “success” is the word I would use) because these people were loved. And that made a great difference in their lives. 

And I am reminded in God’s Word in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church when he talks about different spiritual gifts that are given by God to His people to be used for His kingdom purposes.  He states, ” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Faith and hope are good things also. Haiti certainly needs faith (faith in feeding programs, faith in the promises for economic resources, faith in education, faith in healthcare reform).  And Haiti needs hope (hope for better leadership in government, hope for jobs, hope for access to healthcare and educational resources)  But, according to the “book” that governs my life, the people of Haiti need love…God’s love…the greatest gift ever…a gift that surpasses everything else…a gift that sustains them no matter if their circumstances ever change or not(though I hope they do)…a rock on which they can stand when all around them is still sinking sand…

And that is why we continue to minister to  such an impoverished nation…We go there to love.  And in that, I know we will make a difference in their lives for the glory of God

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Moving forward…

Just wanted to give an update to all those millions (cough cough) who view my blog…ok…thousands…ok, so maybe its just a few…hundred:)

Anyway, we are excited about our upcoming move to Haiti and we continue to move forward in getting ourselves prepared.  Our hope is that we will be in Haiti by the Fall of next year.  I know that seems to be a far way off, but there are a lot of things that need to get done to make such a big move, therefore that time will be necessary, and I’m sure it will come before I know it.

We have recently sold off our bedroom set and our living room set, since we are getting ready to move to Asheville, NC to a home that is fully furnished.  Therefore, our home is pretty empty right now, and all of us are enjoying our family time on our mattress that sits on the floor in our empty room.  This will be fun for the next 2 months.  We are really excited though because with the sale of our furniture, we were able to pay down some debt, which gets us better prepared to move to Haiti when the Lord calls us.

We also have been doing a course called “Chronological Bible Storying” as one of the requirements that our sending church asks of the missionaries that they support.  It has been a good course to learn about how to share the Word of God to non-literate cultures.  And Haiti certainly falls in the category of non-literate as almost half the population is illiterate.  So, the course has been good so far.

In January, we will be going through the “Crown Financial” course with a local church here.  This is also another requirement that our sending church asks of its missionaries.  We are very excited to go through this course and learn better ways of glorifying God through the resources that He has given us.

I’m learning Creole as much as possible, but there aren’t a lot of language study courses (such as Rosetta Stone, Fluenz, etc) that offer Creole.  Right now, I am listening to Audio CD’s of “Pimsleur’s learn to speak Creole”.  It is pretty basic, and seems to teach Creole for the traveler, therefore I’m definitely equipped now should we get lost in Haiti and I need to ask how to find Jean-Jaques De Saline Boulevard.  Needless to say, I hope to find some better resources soon.

We are all excited about Christmas tomorrow.  This is the first year that we have a tree (thanks to Maria’s friend who loaned us a tree and ornaments).  The girls are loving it.  All day, they sit by it, play near it, dance in front of it.  And tomorrow, they will open up presents under it.  It is such a joy to see my 2 little daughters get so excited about Christmas.  Maria and I already have our matching gifts for each other neatly wrapped and placed under the tree.  I can’t tell you what they are yet…you’ll just have to wait until after Christmas…ok…I’ll give you a hint…it is something that will keep us in “touch” with American culture while we are in Haiti.  Can you guess what it is?

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In a few weeks, some boy in Haiti will be rockin’ a new pair of jeans or perhaps a new pair of New Balance sneakers.  As he puts them on, I’m sure that he will be smiling and I’m sure that he will be thankful, but I’m not so sure he will know just how much effort went into getting those clothes into his hands…and just how far those pants or sneakers have traveled.  And so begins our journey of the traveling pants…

A few months ago, I was talking with a Pastor from a small church in “Podunk” Kentucky (I’m sure there really is a town called “Podunk” in KY…even though that is not where this Pastor was from…but it was some tiny little town in the mid-west, so I’ll just call it “Podunk”)  Anyway, I had never even met this pastor in person, but had simply talked to him on the phone.  One day, just before returning to Haiti on my 2nd trip, he called me and I was telling him about this new orphan care ministry that we were starting up to support an orphanage in Haiti.  He asked how he could help and I told him that anything would be of great help to the people in Haiti.  There is so much poverty there that anything helps.  He said he would mention it to his little church and see what they could do.

Next thing I know, I get an email from him stating that this tiny little church in “Podunk-ville” has collected 56 boxes of clothes for the people in Haiti and that he and a friend are planning on driving them to Delaware…where we are located.  Wow!!  And sure enough, a few weeks later, I’m greeting this pastor and his friend at my door and we unload all of the boxes.  So, we were planning on storing the boxes of clothes in our basement until we could develop a manner of shipping them from a port near our home.  But plans changed, as the Lord is calling us to move to Haiti, and now we are moving out of our home in a few months, therefore we had to get these boxes out of our home much sooner than we anticipated.  Our other shipping contact is with the pastor and wife who started this ministry in Haiti…and they live in Miami, FL.  So, I rent a 12 passenger van, load up about 70 boxes (we had about 15 boxes of clothes already in our basement that came from other people and other churches) of clothes and supplies…and the journey of the traveling pants continues.

2 days and 7 states later, I am meeting the pastor and wife of the Haiti ministry in Daytona, FL where we arranged to unload the boxes and have them drive them back down to Miami in their church van.  They agreed to come up to Daytona from Miami (about 5 hrs) so that I would not have to drive all the way down to Miami.  But plans changed in Daytona where I met them with the 70 plus boxes in tow.  They were not able to bring their church van up there because it was having engine trouble.  Therefore, I told them that I would just have to continue all the way down to Miami.  And so…the journey of the traveling pants continued all the way down to practically the end of the U.S.

There, the boxes were unloaded into the garage of the pastor’s house, which was filled with a ton of other stuff that will soon be put on a container and shipped to Haiti.  And so the journey of the traveling pants still hasn’t ended…

So, somebody might look at this story (just like I have thought) and said, “Dude, with all of the money that was spent on gas, vehicle rental, tolls, etc, let alone all the time and energy spent, you could have just went into a store right in Haiti and cleaned out all their racks, and maybe would have been able to buy even more clothes or newer clothes.”  And I might agree with that.  I was joking with one of my friends in this ministry and I told him that you would think these clothes were lined with gold for us to be going through so much effort and finances to get them to Haiti.  We laughed about it for a moment.  I told him that I pray that these are miracle clothes and don’t ever wear out…just like the sandals of the children in Israel when the Bible says that there shoes did not wear out for the whole 40 years that they wandered in the desert.

There has been a lot of money and time put into getting these clothes and supplies to Haiti.  And it is amazing to think how many hands have played a part in getting a pair of jeans to a poor boy in Haiti…somebody that we might never even meet.

Well, unless God wants to repeat that miracle in the desert, I am fairly certain that these clothes will wear out in time.  And, I am sure that the clothes are not lined with gold…but I think they are lined with something greater than gold…they are lined with love.  And that makes it all worth the effort.

So, this is to say a big thank you to every single person who played a part in giving these clothes and supplies to poor people in Haiti.  They might not ever know how much effort was put into this, but your Heavenly Father knows…and He is pleased.

I am happy to be part of the brotherhood/sisterhood of the traveling pants

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This is for the people who have heard that we are planning to move to Haiti in the future,  but don’t know the details, thereby drawing such reactions ranging from “Ummm  Haiti…umm ok” to “That’s great to hear…good LUCK” to “What are you CRAZY!!!”  So, I hope the 5 W’s and the H (who, what, why, when, where, and how) bring some clarification.

WHO: Cody and Maria Whittaker and their 2 daughters (Isabela 4 yrs old and Susana 2 yrs old), 1 son (Ervin 16 yrs old)…and our chocolate lab Casey (picture not available at the time)

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WHAT: Moving to Haiti as missionaries under a missions board (yet to be determined).  We will be ministering to the orphans and poor children.  We have connected with a Haitian Pastor and his wife who have planted churches in Haiti as well as built schools, a large missions house, and recently an orphanage.  We want to be working with the orphaned children (there are currently 10 children…and the orphanage is full)  There are still several hundred orphans in this tiny village, therefore one part of our vision is to build a larger orphanage and oversee the daily operations.  Another part of our work will be providing education to the children through working with the school there that was started the same time that the church was planted.  Most of the people in Haiti are uneducated, which leaves them very little hope for the future.  We want to help change that.  We also plan on hosting several missions teams throughout the year so that people can come and help serve and grow this ministry.  There is probably much more that God will reveal to us as we get settled in there.

WHY: Because God has always given me and my wife a love and desire to help orphaned children…that’s probably why most of my career has been in social services working with troubled youth, including those in the foster care system. And because God has given us no greater desire than to serve the orphaned children in this country…and we believe that this is His will for our lives, as we have prayed through this thoroughly.  In God’s sovereignty, He connected us with this pastor and wife who started this ministry.  We originally went down there the first time because we were planning on starting up an orphan care ministry (sending supplies, raising support, leading annual mission teams) with the churches that we are working with in Delaware.  But after going down there a few times, our desire just became greater and greater to actually move there and serve with this ministry. And Lord willing, in the future, we will do just that.

WHEN: We are not sure.  We are just trusting that the Lord shows us when it is time.  It could be 9 months from now or it could be years.  Only the Lord knows.

WHERE: The orphanage, school, church, and mission house is located in Camp Coq, which is in a little mountain village in the north part of the country.  The village is very primitive (no electricity, no running water).  There is a lot of poverty.  We will be living at the mission house that is right next to the orphanage and the church.  Camp Coq is a very pretty mountainous region.  The people there have been so kind and friendly towards us.  We have felt very welcome.  We already know some locals there, and they will help us get adjusted.  We will also be working with the Pastor of the church who we have become friends with.

HOW: We have to raise our own financial support.  We will apply with a missions agency that serves as a 501c3 non-profit organization for friends, family, and churches to give to us through, so that the giving is tax deductible.  Once we raise the support needed that will enable us to move there and draw a monthly salary that will meet our families needs and the needs of the ministry, then we will move to Haiti.  First, we are planning on moving back to Asheville, NC where we used to live and where our “home” church is.  The cost of living is very cheap there, and therefore we will be able to pay off some of our debt and get ourselves ready.  I will hopefully get a job again working with at-risk kids and families. There, we will also be able to reconnect with our church who we love so much.  A woman just recently contacted the church and told the missions coordinator that she would like to offer a home to a missionary who might be between assignments and is in need of a very cheap place to stay.  That took place only 1 week before I contacted the same missions coordinator and asked her if she knew of any person that would be willing to rent us a place for cheap!  Therefore we will be staying there.  God is good!!

If you are interested in supporting us financially and/or through prayer and would like to be added to our newsletter list,  please leave me a comment or email us at codyandmaria2002@yahoo.com

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions.  God bless you

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I mentioned a few days ago that we are planning on moving to Haiti in the future to work with orphaned children…now I will give the details and how this all came about.

The History of the Call

It all started way back when I was a baby…just kidding…we don’t have to go that far back.  Seriously, ever since I became a Christian at age 19, God has always given me a heart for the poor and the broken, and particularly towards the black people.  I don’t know why a call to the poor and broken…perhaps I have always been able to relate more to these people…not so much due to being poor on the outside, but rather feeling  poor and broken on the inside and knowing that it was only through the redeeming love of God that He rescued me from a life of inner poverty and despair…I don’t know if that makes sense, but its true.  I know how broken, poor, and wretched I am without Jesus in my life, therefore I connect with the poor.  Now, why do I have a specific heart for the black people…I don’t know…but I do

Whenever my wife and I would look through missions magazines and see pictures of this white American family in the middle of a group of black Africans in the jungle, something would resonate within me and I would say, “That’s us.  I can see us doing that.”  And so I have always had a desire and interest in foreign missions.  And I have always had a particular interest and desire to work with orphans.  I was just looking through an old journal of mine a few months ago and was reading an entry that I wrote over 10 years ago where I mention to God that I have a desire to work with orphans.  Then, a week ago, after forgetting things written from such long ago,  I found myself reading a journal entry that I wrote about 5 years ago where I mentioned the same desire to minister God’s love to the orphans.  That’s probably why God led me for so many years into the field of social services where I worked with troubled youth and families, including children that were in the foster care system (the American type of orphanage)  Even now, as I am a missionary with the North American Missions Board, much of what God has called me to do involves ministering to the poor and broken in the inner city, particularly children and youth.  Many of these kids might be considered to be “orphaned by the living”.

The Call

Since I have always had a desire to work with orphaned children, and within the last year or so God has birthed a tremendous desire to work with orphaned children, we began to sense that God was calling us to start an orphan care ministry…a ministry that would help collect supplies and resources for orphaned children.  A ministry that would be based here in Delaware and would involve collecting supplies from different churches, sending them to the orphanage, and possibly leading missions trips once a year.  We had been planning a vacation to Puerto Rico so that my wife could see her family (that is where she is from) and I would get to see where she grew up.  In the course of planning, we felt that we wanted to make this more of a ministry trip rather than laying around on white sandy beaches everyday.  So, we made some contacts with different orphanages and made plans to visit them while we were there.  We had also started trying to make some contacts in the Dominican Republic…we had no thought of Haiti whatsoever…I knew nothing about Haiti.  Well, Puerto Rico was great, but we did not sense the Lord leading us to pursue ministry there…same with Dominican Republic…it just didn’t seem to materialize into anything.  I shared this desire to start an orphan care ministry with my Director of Mission, but nothing seemed to open up at the time.  Then, a few months later, my Director of Mission came to me and said that he was speaking with a Haitian Pastor in Delaware who has started an orphanage in Haiti a few years ago in addition to planting several churches.  My Director told him of my desire to start an orphan care ministry and then put me in touch with this pastor.  After my wife and I met with him, we felt like God was opening up a door for us.  The Delaware Baptist Association (where I serve as a missionary) sent me to Haiti for 4 days so that I could visit the orphanage and talk to the leaders and determine if this was a ministry that God was leading us to partner with.  My wife also came with me and we were both excited to see what God was going to do.  During our time in Haiti, we really fell in love with the people and the village in Camp Coq and believed that God was definitely calling us to partner with this …but I had no thought of moving there!  I was just thinking that we would start a ministry in Delaware that would support this orphanage.  It wasn’t until my second trip down there (which was not even planned, but came about because I felt compelled by God to go back immediately after our 1st trip since the people were just devastated by a few major hurricanes) in which I felt that God was calling us to a lot more than just starting an orphan care ministry in the states.  After spending an extended amount of time with the orphaned kids and other kids in the village, I just really got the sense that the Lord was showing me that He was calling us there permanently.  Upon returning, I shared this with my wife and was curious to see how she would react. (She was not with me on the 2nd trip)  When I asked her, she told me that she felt like God was showing her the same thing on our first trip down there.  And so, we began to seek the Lord in constant prayer and ask Him to show us if this was, indeed, His will.  And the more we prayed, the more we became certain that God was calling us.

The Plan

We first shared this call with our sending church in Asheville, NC, Biltmore Baptist Church.  They are very supportive of us and have been such a tremendous blessing to us since the first day we walked into that church.  They are working with us and helping us work out some of the details.  This has given us all the more confidence that we are moving according to the lord’s will.    We were also told by the Haitian Pastor that has started this orphanage and has also built a large mission house, that we would be able to live at the mission house as long as we need to.  Therefore, we will not have to worry about finding a place to live in Haiti.  Again, this just seemed a confirmation from the Lord.  Then, we decided that the best way for us to get ourselves ready for this move would be to leave Delaware and move back down to NC where the cost of living is so much cheaper.  Then, we were told by one of the missions leader in the church that a woman has offered to rent us her home for a very low cost.   We were so excited to see God providing already.    We will move to this home in Asheville, NC and we will begin to try and raise financial support once we get approved by an international missions board, and hope that we can be on the field in Haiti soon, but only God knows exactly when that will be. We are so excited to see how the Lord is leading us.  This is a HUGE step of faith that we are taking…but we both have never felt more certain as to where God is leading us.  The thought of raising my 2 little girls on the mission field is just so awesome.  Even though we will be living in a primitive area where there is no electricity and no running water, we are just so thrilled to be part of God’s plan to bring His love and truth to the orphaned and poor of Haiti.  Our plan is to help build a bigger orphanage since the current one only holds 10 children.  We also want to be able to help educate the orphans and children in the community.  And we plan on hosting mission teams throughout the year to help bring supplies and resources to the ministry there…so…if you’re interested in taking a missions trip there…please let us know.  Wow…serving the Lord is just such an adventure…

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