“I Am Grateful for Hurricane Mitch!”

By Larry Overholt, Honduras

In the storms of life, things can become negative and seem like a complete downward spiral of hopelessness. In this story, taken from the January/February 2009 issue of The Call, missionary Larry Overholt shares how God took a man at the end of his rope and gave him hope in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

Prior to first arriving in Choluteca (population 120,000) in September 2000, Angie and I had wondered how we would ever get started in ministry in a new area of the country. We had served 18 years with the long-established ministry at Escuela El Sembrador (School of the Sower), a boarding school for underprivileged Honduran boys, and moving to a brand-new area with no established ministry was a bit scary to us. Besides starting a completely new ministry for World Gospel Mission and Honduran Holiness Church, the other challenge we faced had to do with the fact that the southern region of Honduras was still suffering the aftereffects of Hurricane Mitch. It was almost like everyone was going though post-traumatic stress disorder. Large numbers of youth were still not back in classes. The regional economy, supported largely by shrimp farming and cantaloupe and watermelon production, had not recovered. Large numbers of the population were still unemployed. Along the river, the city was still cluttered with the ruins that had been destroyed by the flooding. We had no idea where to start working.

The first day we arrived in Choluteca with our belongings to unload, we were met by several people from the recently established congregation. One man was Chacho. He was a 30-year-old ox cart operator with a sixth-grade education who made a living hauling sand and gravel from the river for construction projects. Chacho helped us unload our belongings from the truck and trailer and moved boxes into the house we were renting. The following day he did his own work with the ox cart in the early morning and showed up for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. He continued day after day, making himself useful in the following days grabbing a machete and cleaning up around the yard. There was a lot to do since the property had never been fully remodeled from when it had six feet of water during Mitch.

Chacho was so helpful we hired him full time to work with me. Chacho naturally shared his testimony with me as we got to know him. At the time of Hurricane Mitch, Chacho had been living a rough life. As a husband he exhibited a “machismo” attitude and would stay out drinking at night without telling his wife were he was. Looking back, Chacho feels he was already an alcoholic. He and his wife, Patti, had one son at the time.

Chacho, Patti, and their small son had escaped the flooding with only the clothes on their backs. Chacho went back for his oxen and swam out of the river holding onto the tail of one of them. Chacho told me how they moved from one shelter to another and finally found a church building where they could stay. They were wet and cold and had little to eat. When they did manage to get a piece of chicken, they even ate the bones. Chacho told me that the most difficult part was having to tell their young son that they had no way to buy him juice when he cried for it.

Chacho and his family left the church after a week, seeking another shelter. Chacho says that he felt guilty because the pastor caught him smoking inside the church. He was also resisting the preaching.

Eventually, when he was able to get back to the community where he had lived, Chacho found that there was nothing left of his house except one post. He was able to gather a few pieces of lumber and had enough materials to put up a small shelter. When relief items began to arrive a few days later, Chacho met Pastor Alejandro, who was disbursing food and clothing that had been donated through World Gospel Mission and Honduran Holiness Church. His wife, Patti, was one of the first converts of the future church. Chacho resisted the gospel.

Soon after Hurricane Mitch, Patti became extremely ill and miscarried during her pregnancy. Chacho explained that she was admitted to the hospital due to complications, and the doctors gave him very little reason for hope that she would recover. Patti went into a coma and Chacho cried out to God one evening as he left the hospital. He said, “God, if you are out there, will you save my wife? I will follow you.” That evening he went home to his small shelter and his small son. As Chacho lay awake all night he kept thinking of the pistol that he had under his pillow. As he lay there contemplating suicide, he came to a very clear sense that his son very well could be an orphan in the morning. Chacho felt God’s presence and comfort as he decided that whatever happened, he would continue on.

That morning he got up and milked his father’s cows and headed to the hospital early. As he walked into the hospital ward, he was amazed to see his wife sitting up on the side of the bed. Chacho says that was the moment he was saved. Patti’s first words were, “Chacho, as soon as I am able, we are going to church together.”

Chacho cannot tell his testimony without tears flowing down his cheeks. There was no church building at that time, just a pastor’s house. During his first-ever church service, Chacho responded publicly to God’s invitation to accept Him as his personal Savior. I could not relate to Chacho when he said he was grateful for Hurricane Mitch. Many people suffered from the hurricane, but Chacho wonders if he ever would have responded to the gospel message if it had not been for Mitch.

Chacho has continually been faithful in all areas of his life. He studied electricity and finished his junior high education. Though Patti cannot give birth to any more children, God has miraculously provided them with a beautiful adopted daughter. But that is another story.

ACT: Do you know someone in pain and in need of a brother or sister to come alongside them and provide something tangible that they need right now? Do what you can to help that person today while the Holy Spirit is prompting you, because who knows what tomorrow brings.

Luke 10:2 Challenge – Prayer for the Harvest

The power of prayer is written about throughout Scripture, and you’ve probably seen it firsthand. At WGM, we’re emphasizing the Luke 10:2 Challenge.

“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” (Luke 10:2 NIV)

There is no question that God is at work in our world, drawing men, women, and children to Himself. He is restoring the broken, reconciling relationships, transforming hearts and minds, and saving souls. But He is also asking us—all of us who claim Him as Lord and Savior—to join Him in this wonderful work.

Each morning at 10:02 a.m., WGM staff members and some of our missionaries stop whatever is going on, and we pray. We pray for the Lord to send out more workers to the mission field as we seek to double our impact.

ACT: Will you take the Luke 10:2 Challenge? Set an alarm or notification on your phone or calendar to remind you to pray at 10:02—a.m. or p.m., whichever fits your schedule best—for God to send more workers from all over the world into His harvest field. Remember, the “mission field” isn’t just far-off places; it’s wherever people are who need to hear about the love of Jesus Christ.

Blessings in the “Rain” in Haiti

By Paul Shingledecker, WGM retiree

Paul Shingledecker is a retired missionary who served in Haiti as well as on WGM’s support staff. In this story, Paul shares about the devastation from natural disasters in Haiti and how the church has responded to one unfortunate event after another. Read on to learn how God uses our lowest points to bring change and growth for His kingdom work.

Haiti is known for its political upheavals and its natural disasters. Over the years, it has been hit by numerous major hurricanes. In 2010, Haiti experienced a disastrous, magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed over 220,000 people. Since 1804 when Haiti gained its independence from France, it has been ruled by a succession of repressive, self-serving governments, including more than one dictatorship. And on top of all of this, or because of it, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.

What is less well known is that in spite of all Haiti has been through, and maybe also because of it, Christianity is on the rise and the church is growing and flourishing. Protestant Christians, who numbered less than 1 percent in the 1950s, now represent over 40 percent of the population. God is on the move in Haiti.

Take the 2010 earthquake. Over 200,000 Haitians were converted as a direct result of that disaster. The Haitians in Port-au-Prince saw how their Christian friends and neighbors reacted and how they responded with hope and reached out to others—even when reeling from their own personal losses—and they liked what they saw.

I personally attended an open-air service the first Sunday after the disaster—open-air because everyone was too afraid yet at that point to go inside a building, any building, even if it was one that was still standing. It was an overwhelming experience as the crowd sang and praised God for their very lives. At one point the leader had them raise their hands and then praise God they still had arms and hands to wave to Him. Then they stomped their feet and praised God that they still had their feet and legs. Because you see, not only did just about everybody there lose loved ones, they also all had family members and friends who had had legs or arms crushed or amputated. Still they were singing and praising God. No wonder their friends were amazed and drawn to that kind of hope and resilience. For many months, the churches were overwhelmed with the new converts and scrambled to provide follow-up and training for these new Christians.

Residents pray on Sunday, October 9, 2016, at a church in Jérémie that was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

We saw something similar recently when Hurricane Matthew devastated the southern part of Haiti. This Category 5 storm demolished whole neighborhoods and towns. It destroyed every building in its way and blew away all the crops, fruit trees, and even the farm animals. I understand that today many are still living in caves or lean-to shelters.

The churches, likewise, were not spared. At one point, they were saying that almost every church on the peninsula had lost its roof. However, one of the most poignant and amazing pictures that we all saw as word of the catastrophic nature of the disaster finally began to get out was from Jérémie. It was the picture of the worshipers gathered that first Sunday in their Baptist church, without a roof, dressed in their best, there to worship God and praise Him! Right next to it were aerial shots showing every building in the town either destroyed or roofless, including many of these same people’s homes!

Yes, God is building His church in Haiti in the “rain.” As missionaries in Haiti, we often said, “It can’t get any worse.” And then it did. But you can’t stop God. He said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 KJV). No rain is so strong or situation so bad that He cannot use it to strengthen His people and build His kingdom.

Will you join WGM in praying for strength for His people in Haiti? Visit wgm.org/haiti to learn more about the country  and how WGM can help you get involved today.

True Colors

Ned and Marlene McGrady are support staff serving in Member Health. They have updated their blog and are sharing great updates, upcoming trips, and ministry opportunities that you can support with prayer. Will you pray for the McGradys as God uses them on the mission field?

“We are coming up on the end of March and it is time for us to travel to Kenya, Africa. We have a wonderful opportunity to share in a five day retreat with nearly 70 missionaries and 45 missionary kids (Mk’s).  We will be joining our retreat speakers, former WGM President, Dr. Hubert Harriman and his lovely wife, Sarah as well as other workers including Mike Banks our Mk Coordinator in what we believe will be an awesome week of refreshment and renewal for our missionaries serving throughout Kenya. We are busy packing lots of goodies to take along to bless our missionaries and Mk’s.  Marlene will be presenting a teaching on True Colors, which is a personality profile learning tool that is interactive and colorful. Missionaries will find out if their color is Orange, Gold, Blue or Green – What’s your color? Marlene is Orange, I am Gold, we both are strong Blue too. Do you want to find out your color? True Colors Personality Test    It will be fun to be at this retreat and we are looking forward to this time so very much. We will be traveling through Detroit and Amsterdam to Nairobi and will spend the next 10 days or so there before returning to Indy. We ask an interest in your prayers as we go to minister. Pray for our travels and that our ministry may be effective in encouraging and supporting our missionaries. We love this ministry of coming alongside of missionaries and we are so thankful for the opportunity to do it. We know that it is only possible because of the support and prayers you give. Thank you.

“Over the past month we spoke in several churches and were able to visit with some of you while we traveled to Michigan, Florida  and Kentucky. We were thrilled to speak at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Jackson, MI, Ranchero Village Chapel, Largo, FL, Wesley Chapel UM Church, W. Melbourne, FL. and Asbury University, WGM Global Cafe’, Wilmore KY.

“It is always a joy for us to connect with our team of supporters as well as to meet new friends. God is working to help raise mission awareness in His church and we are excited about the prospects of reaching more people for Christ in these days. We are always interested in promoting the work of missions and we are happy to connect with you or your church. Just gives us a shout!

“We had a wonderful commissioning service at WGM Marion, on March 16 when we commissioned nine missionaries to full time service. God met with us in a very special way and we sensed His anointing on the service and on these missionaries. WGM is on the move and great things are happening. Our leadership is casting a large vision to double the impact of WGM around the world. We believe that God has uniquely positioned WGM to be a key part of reaching our world for Christ. It is exciting to see the momentum build as we continue to look toward growth and positioning WGM to reach out.

“Well it is time to finish packing and we will soon board the plane. We will think of you and give thanks to God for you as we travel one more time in Jesus’ Name. We would love to hear from you and learn how we can pray for you. May the Lord Bless you and keep you in His care.”