THE BACKSIDE OF GOD’S BLESSINGS Andy Hollifield 7-1-18
Matthew 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
A friend of mine called something to my attention in this verse a few years ago. He said that you cannot beat the guarantee that God gives us. He went on to explain that if we just spread the good news of the gospel, the least “return on investment” to quote a business term, that we will get is thirty times what we put into it. That is the least we can expect our efforts for the Lord to produce. I don’t pretend to know anything about investing but common sense tells me that if I am guaranteed to get back thirty times what I invest, I am going to invest everything I possibly can. We already know that God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) and he cannot fail (Joshua 1:5). According to Romans 2:11, God is no respecter of persons so if he made that promise to one, it is true for all. Now that is a guarantee that cannot possibly be broken.
The reason I mention all of that is so you will better understand the story I am about to relate to you. I had the privilege recently to make a trip up to Kentucky to New Covenant Kitchen which is a ministry of Christ’ Hands in Harlan. It is the same kitchen that I wrote an article about in January of 2017 entitled “Burning Down To Build Bigger.” I won’t get into all of that again but the article chronicled events surrounding the destruction of that kitchen by fire on Christmas morning 1999. That was a trying time for Robert and Kevin, the two men that started the kitchen a few months earlier. Robert operated an engineering firm and Kevin is a federal coal mine inspector. Both had done well in their respective careers and had decided to start a kitchen to feed the homeless and homebound people of Harlan county. Both of these groups were increasing in number along with unemployment. From their heart and their hip pocket, these men took it upon themselves to address the need the best that they could even though they had very little public support in the early days. But, that was then.
I had recently acquired some cereal and peanut butter that I figured they could probably use. After making arrangements with them, my family and I, along with my mom, took it to them. As I drove around the corner of the block, the first thing I noticed was the nice new loading dock complete with a ramp at the back of it and painted lines to back into the angled dock. Having a trucking background and having backed trucks into the old metal dock many times, I was thrilled to see that God had blessed them like he had. Little did I know that was only the beginning of what I was about to see that had changed from two years ago when I was up there.
Before I even got out of the truck, I noticed a small red box truck with a Christ’ Hands logo on the side. I still remember the days when the food we took them when they started out was a large part of what got them through the month cooking 60-90 meals each day of the week. For them to now have the need for a truck to pick up donations with was just God showing out because he can. I found out later that the truck had been donated to them. They also had a larger truck with about a 20-24 foot box on it that was also being used to pick up donations. They had done some remodeling work on the entrance of the building, possibly for safety purposes, installing glass doors to allow them to see who was approaching the entrance. They now have a clothing ministry which they provide to needy clients free of charge as all of their services are. In about 16 years that the new kitchen has been open, they have almost ran out of room in the 33,000 square foot building they operate out of. The building itself is a giant step up from the 1200 square foot kitchen and dining room they started in. They recently finished vocational training classes for at risk youth where they brought them in to learn carpentry, bike repair, and auto repair which was located in a separate building they had been allowed to use. Those weren’t degree courses but were designed to give those young men a purpose and equip them with knowledge and ability of a trade to help them possibly find work or just to know for their own benefit. They also have a missionary that comes once a month to do a distribution followed on Sunday by a church service.
Aside from the services they now offer there, they are also helping supply 19 more food pantrys in the region as well as the one they still operate giving food boxes to those in need. They have for several years, provided lodging for groups coming in from various states to do community service work including home repair in the area. They also host people who come during summer months to conduct or help local churches with vacation bible school. The lodging helps visiting teams cut their expense and helps them have more of their money to invest in their work. Christ’ Hands has also been blessed to become affiliated with a large food bank that sends in continuous shipments of food. They now have a large walk-in freezer and cooler to replace the half a dozen home freezers and the commercial grade refrigerators they used to use. They were even able to supply us with some food that they had an abundance of, to use locally here in western North Carolina. The building also serves as an emergency overnight shelter and previously housed a medical clinic.
Since the beginning all those years ago, Robert answered his true calling several years ago and went to medical school at the age of forty-two. He now lives in Hazard, Kentucky and works for the University of Kentucky but is still chairman of the board. Kevin still works to keep our miners safe and still cooks one weekend each month at the kitchen. When they first started, he and Robert and a man named Harold did all of the cooking utilizing any volunteers they could get. It has certainly came a long way from the burned out shell of a building when it looked like they might even have to consider closing. They never missed serving a meal then because Harold came to the burned out kitchen and made sandwiches with his family’s Christmas dinner. He wanted to be there in case someone showed up not knowing about the fire.
Looking back at their first year of operation when Operation Outreach from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Weaverville, NC began taking food to them once a month, to see how it has grown and what it has become is beyond words. Only God can take the burden and vision of two men and burn it down, cause it to rise from the ashes, and become what it is today. My dad would be thrilled and amazed at what God has done there if he were still here and could see it today. I know without a doubt that he would think all of the trips, hours, expense, and aching backs were more than worth it. I stand in awe at how God has blessed their faithfulness, even adding a full-time manager that shares their burden and has an ever-expanding vision with spreading the gospel and leading lost souls to the Lord still the centerpiece of operations just as it always has been.
I am sure thankful that my dad kind of volunteered me to make a trip to Nashville to pick up the first load of food we took to Kentucky. Had it not been for that, HOPE Ministries would have probably never existed. Although we stopped making monthly trips several years ago as the kitchen became more self-sufficient with donations, we have remained friends and stayed in contact. I always thought the kitchen was a blessing to be associated with back then. But, to see the backside of God’s blessings; to see what he had in mind the whole time leaves me at a loss for words. All I can say is “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37). Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!
THE BACKSIDE OF GOD’S BLESSINGS Andy Hollifield 7-1-18