HUMBLED AND THANKFUL Andy Hollifield 8-11-18
I can remember back when I first started preaching over 32 years ago. I wasn’t too concerned with how God was going to use me down the road, I was just enjoying getting to preach in different places. Several pastors had me at the top of their short list of someone they could call when they were in a bind and I would go on a moments notice and preach. I always thought they were just trying to help me to get some experience. I never realized until I pastored that it actually was a help to them. I learned as a pastor that sometimes you just need a break and need to be preached to. Believe me when I say that it definitely wasn’t because I was a great preacher because I wasn’t then and am still not. Little did I know in those years before I was married, when I was travelling all over Madison, Buncombe, Haywood, and East Tennessee, that God was giving me open doors to preach and also some lifelong friends. He was also paving the way for the mission work he had planned for me.
When I started H.O.P.E. Ministries in 2002, it was just because I wanted accountability for the money people were giving me for the mission work I was helping my dad’s Sunday School class with in Harlan, Ky. If you don’t think that “all things work together for good,” would you believe that I first got into mission work because I had done some country music demos? That’s right. I had gone to Nashville after mailing a cassette to one of my preacher friend’s nephew. He thought I had something with my writing and helped me with a demo. He also became a good friend. I had no idea that these contacts related to my songwriting would actually prove to be the basis of my mission work down the road.
When Pleasant Hill in Weaverville began Operation Outreach, their mission work to Harlan, I kind of got volunteered to pick up a load of food…in Nashville. One of the men I had met was not only my friend’s nephew, but was also the pastor of a church that was affiliated with feed the children. He was happy to give Pleasant Hill some food if they would come and get it. My dad figured that since I had been to the church and knew the pastor, I was the logical choice to go get the food. He didn’t exactly volunteer me but he did tell his Sunday School class that was doing the project that he would ask me to go. I agreed and left on a Friday afternoon in my dad’s van and got over there about 9:00 that night. The van was loaded by about 10:30 and I went home with the pastor to spend the night. After watching a baseball game till about 12:30 I went to bed. I had to leave about 4:00 so I could meet dad in Harlan by 8:30. I left that early because I would be losing an hour changing time zones on the west side of Knoxville around Kinston.
To make a long story shorter, we made the delivery to a food pantry in Evarts, Ky. just outside of Harlan and drove home that evening. I had driven about 750-800 miles in about the last 26 hours on about 3-4 hours of sleep. It may sound insane but that’s why it’s called mission “work.” You just do what needs to be done. This hadn’t been my first mission trip. In December 1989 I had went to Dateland, Arizona to spend a week with a missionary. I had prayed for about a year before going and I was almost sure that was what God wanted me to do. I prayed and asked God if that was what his will was for my life, when I took my last look as the plane took off, that he would break my heart and I would go home and start making plans to come back. I know what the backside of the desert is and I was never so happy to see Charlotte, NC before or since. Although I was relieved, I was also kind of let down. I had spent a whole year thinking this was what God wanted only to find out I was wrong.
Later on in 1992 following Hurricane Andrew, I took a van load of volunteers down to homestead and we worked the food tent for Hearts With Hands for a few days. Just like in Arizona, I learned a lot about mission work and people. But, the trip to Kentucky in 1999 was something different. I hadn’t planned on going back. I had planned on just doing dad a favor to help them get started and then move on. Each month when dad would get ready for the trip, I am not sure if I was invited to go or just invited myself. I had been looking for God’s will for my life since he called me to preach in 1986. I had no idea that God had spent all those years giving me open doors and contacts that in 2002 would be the start of support for H.O.P.E. Ministries.
I didn’t write all of this for a history lesson. Actually, I began to think about it all Friday as I was setting up for our backpack assembly on Saturday. As I looked around at all of the school supplies that had been given to us by Help 4 Kids, I was once again amazed at how God had provided. The association with Help 4 Kids and how it came about was nothing short of the hand of God. Not only did he put me in mission work, but he also let me do something that utilized the ability he has given me to drive which I still love to do. He has let me get acquainted with people through the work that I would likely have never met otherwise. I have met people who no one ever hears about that are quietly making a drastic impact in their communities. The funny thing is that they think we are doing some big work when actually, they are the ones on the front lines every day and in a lot of cases, standing in the gap between life and death and also between heaven and hell. They are the real heroes. I am just joy riding and having the time of my life serving the Lord.
Like I was saying, as I looked around at the fellowship hall where Saturday morning, a multitude of folks with big hearts that just want to help someone, will gather and put together about 430 backpacks in probably less than 2 hours. Think about that for a minute. A young scared preacher in 1986 that was just trying to figure out what God wanted out of him, and now not only has he shown me what he wants, he has surrounded me with plenty of support and folks that love him and will come and give their time to serve others. He has also blessed us with several churches and ministries as well as individuals that want to give in obedience to the Lord and have confidence in our ministry. I am a truly blessed man to be given this opportunity to meet so many people and most important, to be able to distribute the gospel in so many places to so many people. Like the scripture says in Job 37:14 “Hearken unto this O Job: and consider the wondrous works of God.” Or as the psalmist said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.” Only wondrous things.” Nothing is average with God, it’s always wondrous. What an honor that God has blessed and allowed me to be a part of it. I am still “Humbled and Thankful.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!