Operation Renewed Hope

by Jeffrey Bennett - Date: 2007-03-05 - Word Count: 1330 Share This!

"I need enough medical supplies and equipment to furnish a clinic," the missionary from Uganda pleaded. "Can you help?"

The pastor pondered the request critically. Not because it was too much to ask, he just needed a moment to think. "I'll help you any way I can," he replied, already forming a plan in his mind. Pastor Milton receives many such requests on a regular basis. But is this too much to ask of a church with a congregation of only 300 souls? Not if that church happens to be Cornerstone Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Amazingly, this small church is the home of Operation Renewed Hope.

Operation Renewed Hope started around eight years ago; a direct result of a mission visit to Panama. Pastor Jan Milton and then Assistant Pastor Rick Williamson recognized that they could influence a medical need in the area. What began as a heartfelt regional interest quickly grew into a world wide outreach of the gospel of Christ.

In the beginning, ORH received donated medical supplies for the needy in Panama. Sunday school space in the church provided rudimentary storage for the meager stock. Now, 80,000 square foot donated warehouse space provides a holding facility for over 200,000 pounds of annual donations that would have otherwise ended up in landfills.

When a missionary recognizes a medical or humanitarian issue, they present it to Pastor Milton or newly appointed ORH assistant, Richard Walton. They inventory the supplies and arrange for transportation to the nearest Air Force Base. If the requested supplies are available, God answers the transportation need within a few phone calls. The operation sees God's power through answered prayer as tractor trailers deliver donations from all over the United States.

Most of the equipment shipped, though still very useful, has been replaced by new, state of the art technology. Unused supplies occupy a business' precious warehouse space, leaving it cheaper to give away and write off for tax purposes. However, as I ran down the inventory in the warehouse, I was surprised at the great condition in which much of the 'out dated equipment' rested. Surgery lights as shiny as the day they were unpacked, immaculate sterilization machinery, and fully functioning hospital beds were in used, but far from useless, condition, barely scratched the surface of what was on hand.

The equipment is stored until needed or sent out immediately if demanded. The donation export is made possible through the United States Department of Defense under the provisions of the Denton Agreement. This provision of American law, passed by the United States Congress, allows American citizens to donate humanitarian assistance items abroad using United States Department of Defense transportation assets. Now, hundreds of thousands of pounds of clothing, food, and hospital supplies are shipped worldwide. Much of which, is direct coordination with ORH. So far, the Air Force hasn't been the only source of this shipping. Often shipping companies will donate available space. For example, when the need for a dental clinic surfaced in the remote regions of Honduras, an available banana boat steamed a whole dental office in an empty bay.

It takes about three months to clear vital equipment for Air Force flight to a developing country, after the need is identified and inventory is on hand. The equipment is written up on an inventory and sent to the State Department with a letter of entry into the intended country and an address of the recipient completing the application packet. After the State Department reviews the application, the pallet is inspected by a contractor, signed off, and paperwork is once again sent back to the State Department for approval. Once approved, flight arrangements are made, and the cargo is moved to the Air Force Base. If the paperwork isn't cleared within 90 days, then ORH beings to worry. But the paperwork shuffle doesn't only exist here.

Since the downfall of the Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, Russia, Georgia, and many other countries qualify as developing nations. The far reaching aide that ORH brings has touched all, thanks to the dedication and concern of caring missionaries who request the services. The State Department has gone many steps beyond approving relief packages to developing countries. One example of their interdiction allowed for warm clothing to be distributed to a Russian orphanage before the brutal winter set in. The Russian officials demanded fumigation of the clothing with chemicals banned in the U.S. This is after one prior fumigation effort in America. While leaders argued points of view, missionaries and churches prayed for God to pave the way for clothing to get through. It was an intense time of prayer and actually looked as if God's plan was not what we wanted it to be. The winter was beginning to set in relief pallets still waited in warehouses. As prayer concerns became more urgent, the missionaries to Russia frantically worked to get the Russian officials to let the clothing pass through. Finally, nine months later God answered our prayer and orphans were saved from freezing with donated coats, sweaters, and blankets.

Operation Renewed Hope is concerned with much more than just delivering the goods. Their ultimate goal is to share the gospel of Christ where possible. Many are exposed to God's grace as ORH staff arranges transportation with trucking companies and Air Force personnel, and Missionaries are encouraged when they see God answering prayer. God works through ORH in other ways. Every two to five years, a group of doctors and Christian lay men and women volunteer time and energy to work in the jungles of Panama. Aside from the adults, the youth of Cornerstone Baptist Church who volunteer raise money to go. They also go through a rigorous qualification course in the woods of North Carolina, where they learn outdoor survival tips as they study the word of God.

The jungle of Panama is no area for the weak hearted. The only way to access some of the remote areas is by boat, or if blessed, helicopters. Boating takes hours down rain swollen rivers, being careful not to capsize and loose vital medical supplies. Once on site, the extremes are difficult to bear. The cool relief a volunteer is used to is no longer a luxury, and the steamy humidity prevents any evaporation from damp clothing.

All this planning, coordinating, and executing is all transparent to the needy people that ORH serves. They only realize the blessings of physical healing, warmth of donated clothing, or the comfort a full belly offers. When someone is relieved form the burden of a lifelong, painful tumor, by routine surgery, or blurred vision with donated glasses, they are ripe for hearing the gospel. Sharing God's love is easier once missionaries share tangible evidence of His mercy.

God assures us that His grace is sufficient for our needs. Missionaries prove that many times over with their dedication to service and the lives they lead to the Lord. Operation Renewed Hope often shows God's grace. Up to 300 patients travel daily, often from as far away as twenty miles, by foot for a pair of glasses, dental work, or surgery. With the lack of doctors, they go through extremes to get to a providing village for their physical relief. Christians volunteers take advantage of the opportunity to share God's plan of salvation. Many hear the gospel for the first time in their lives, and some accept Jesus.

Some remote regions have a few government medics who aren't qualified to treat many illnesses nor injuries. The short annual visits to the Panamanian jungles fix the short term problems. Operation Renewed Hope intends to build upon that foundation and establish long term clinics.

Volunteers rack their brains and pour out their hearts in effort to bring the Gospel to many more who aren't receptive at the clinic. Some doctors began to make 'house calls' to local villages and began seeing results. This is motivation for falling in line with the ultimate goal of starting Bible teaching churches, led by local nationals, and supported by veteran missionaries

Related Tags: help, food, jesus, missionary, panama, god, novel, state, mission, pilot, witness, jungle

About the Author: Jeffrey W. Bennett is the Founder and director of LayMentor Ministries. This ministry is dedicated to training church and other volunteer leaders to be more effective. Jeff speaks and writes on similar concepts taught in most MBA courses and makes it easy to adapt to all leadership levels. The volunteer drives our churches and communities and the impact can be amazing. For PowerPoint presentations of this article, visit http://www.jeffreywbennett.com/index_files/resources.htm He is also the author of the Missionary/Adventure novel Under the Lontar Palm available on line at http://www.jeffreywbennett.com or in major and online bookstores.

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