The Best Time
Jul 3, 2022 | by The Fellowship
Since 2005, The Fellowship has sent mission teams to international destinations like Indonesia and Mozambique while other teams have concentrated on a variety of local ministries. What we have not had was a destination in the United States for students and adults who could not travel internationally, but wanted to go further than their “backyard.” Joe Carollo, Student Pastor, expressed this need to me about eight years ago.
We began praying that God would reveal a place that fit within our missional values of being Gospel-centered, collaborative in style, and one that we were willing to consistently visit. My research found that the Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation, eastern Kentucky former coal mining communities, and Texas border counties were consistently identified as some of the most under-resourced areas in the United States.
In 2014 with this information in hand, Pastor Joe and I visited a ministry called Oyate Concern that served on the Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Although Oyate Concern was a vibrant and impactful ministry and met our Gospel-centered and collaborative values, it would be a very difficult place for consistent ministry because of the distance and accessibility. We decided to continue to pray and search.
The following year we visited a ministry in Del Rio, TX, called Texas Baptist River Ministry. This, too, was a vibrant ministry that met our missional values -- but most of their ministry was cross-border into Mexico, which created a safety concern that would be hard to overcome.
In November 2016, I along with the director of Compassion Katy visited a food-packing event staged at a church in Flower Mound, TX, by Feed the Hunger. This food-packing mission immediately resonated with us, and we committed to hosting an event in our own community later that year. The first event held at The Fellowship and two other local churches has become known as the Katy Feed the Hunger Million Meal Packathon. Unbeknownst to Pastor Joe and me, God was preparing to answer our long-standing prayer for a national mission trip location.
Before that would happen though, we learned that much of the food we packed in those early events was destined for Haiti. Pastor Jerry, Wes Edmonson and I joined a trip to be a part of delivering, cooking and handing out food to the children targeted by Feed the Hunger through their local Haitian partner. It was on that trip that I came to know Melinda Staples, the Feed the Hunger Missions Outreach Director.
During the first three packathon events in Katy, I kept hearing about a ministry in Lynch, Kentucky, supported by Feed the Hunger. This Eastern Kentucky location was in a former coal mining community that was devastated when the mines closed -- creating poverty, hunger, drug addiction, joblessness, and hopelessness.
In January 2018, I was invited to Feed the Hunger’s annual retreat in North Carolina where staff and key partners (like The Fellowship) came together to dream, celebrate God’s provision, and talk about impact of the ministry. Melinda Staples blew me away when she told real stories of the impact of the food in Lynch, Haiti, and 20+ other countries. God had finally connected us with that third location on our original list of potential under-resourced regions in the United States.
I left that retreat resolved to plan a mission vision trip to Lynch, Kentucky in the early spring of 2019. That first trip was comprised of three students, two Student Ministry leaders, a Grace Fellowship member and me. By the end of the week, we all knew this was the place where God was leading us!
Since then, four trips have been made there between The Fellowship and Grace Fellowship. This past week, a team of 25 people (a mix of The Fellowship, Grace Fellowship, Feed the Hunger staff and extended family) returned from the fifth trip to Lynch. We were so blessed to get to serve both the missionaries of our partner, Meridzo Center Ministries, and the local people of Lynch. Each participant said that “they would never be the same and would definitely go again.” God’s timing to answer our prayers is not our timing -- but it sure is the best time!
… Blessed are all who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18