A LITTLE AT A TIME Andy Hollifield 4-2-19
I had the privilege this past weekend of getting to talk about H.O.P.E. Ministries at two churches. One was Lighthouse Baptist Church in Unicoi, Tennessee. I have probably mentioned before about how I first got acquainted with their pastor, Aaron McLain. This bears repeating because it shows just how God works. My friend Arnold Worley of Transporters For Jesus, hauled evangelist Davy Shelton’s tent to Erwin, Tn. last summer for a tent meeting. Rather than pull his empty trailer all the way home and then have to pull it back over there in a week to pick up the tent, Arnold just left it parked in that field. As Aaron was driving to work at Davy Crockett High School in Jonesborough, he got Arnold’s phone number from the side of the trailer. He called and asked Arnold if he was doing any disaster relief for Fayetteville, NC following Hurricane Florence. Arnold told him that he wasn’t but he knew someone who was and gave him my number. It turned out that the students there at Davy Crockett had been collecting all types of supplies to send to eastern NC. Aaron and I worked it out for me to come and pick them up and the rest is history. Sunday morning I was blessed to meet and talk to some of his people and they already had a bunch of tools gathered up to go to Alabama at the end of this month. They also chose to help meet the financial need of these trips and have already been a great blessing to our ministry.
I also got to speak at Woodfin Baptist Church in my hometown on Sunday night. They are one of our supporting churches and had been collecting baby items and food. Between them and Lighthouse, they filled the back of my pickup. As I drove home Sunday night, I thought about how tired I was. I am by no means complaining because it is a good kind of tired when you get to work for the Lord. I have been trying to finish our Baskets and Blessings Easter basket project up. I also made a trip to Myrtle Beach to Help 4 Kids to bring much-needed food here for two ministries in Sneedville, Tn. I began to think about just how blessed I really am to be able to be a part of God’s work.
I began to think about how God has grown H.O.P.E. Ministries. It was first organized because people were being very generous and giving me money and shoeboxes at Christmas and food and I didn’t want to be solely responsible for all of that without some accountability. I thought about how that God got us to a budget of 1140 dollars annually and that is what we operated on for several years. I thought about how the folks at Freedom Baptist in Asheville, where I was a member when I started the ministry, poured heart and soul into it to get it started. As time went on, people began to hear about what we were doing and wanted to know more about it. After Operation Outreach of Pleasant Hill Baptist in Weaverville ceased operations going to Kentucky, I still wanted to do something in the way of missions especially since the Lord had gotten people interested in helping. That was when we started making western NC our primary focus. Pleasant Hill began helping us later on and when we lost the old Woodfin Fire Department after Operation Outreach ended, Angie Young was able to get us the use of Ridgeview Baptist fellowship hall where she was a member at the time. That was where we started doing our projects. Little did we realize that God was training us for bigger things to come. As our budget began to grow, we started expanding the things we were doing and began to help the pregnancy center in Burnsville. As God continued to add funds, we continued to add pregnancy centers. Then we started working with domestic violence shelters. We also continued to add new projects and eventually began helping public schools and other agencies that were ministering to people. We had started doing some disaster relief working with Operation Outreach and after they ended, without access to the quantities of food we had been getting or the place to store it, we got away from it for years.
Even though we had expanded our other projects and added new ones, we never had taken on the expense of disaster relief very much until the fall of 2017 following Hurricane Harvey. Pastor Eric Sams of Rays Chapel FWB in Weaverville, called and said, “Let’s go to Texas.” Always ready for a road trip I asked him what for. He explained that he had a burden to take relief supplies, and in particular backpacks of school supplies, to aid in storm recovery. He wound up not getting to go but he and his church had been able to help us come up with 1327 backpacks. Although I had arranged to do four distributions in Texas, Roger Smith and I were only able to give out 624 there. We were also able to give out about that many bibles to school kids and adults alike. Not sure of what to do with the 703 I had brought back, I started trying to contact places in Florida. I wound up getting in contact with the Salvation Army in Naples, Florida and was told they were opening a new distribution center there the following Monday and would love to have backpacks for the school kids there. My son and I drove down that Sunday and delivered them on Monday morning. Hurricane Irma had devastated much of south Florida and they were very appreciative of the backpacks. As I drove home, I thought about how God had provided more than enough funds to cover the trip to Texas and also the trip to Florida. With the way he had blessed our efforts, I started to think that we might need to get started doing disaster relief again.
In June of 2016, God confirmed during Wednesday night meeting at State Street Baptist in Asheville, that he did want us to start a home for unwed mothers. God is so thorough that he even gave me the name that night; The Gideon Home For Unwed Mothers. Even though we didn’t have facilities for that and nothing I looked at seemed to work out, God began allowing us to do the work he wanted. Through a series of events that I won’t get into, God allowed us to meet and care for a young lady and her baby after he was born. He had moved on the heart of a couple from Mars Hill to open their home and hearts to girls in that situation that had nowhere to turn. A year later, we placed a second girl in the same home only eight months after the first one had moved out and got on her feet.
As I thought about this and so much more, I thought about the way God had done all of it. If he had of told me in 2002 what this ministry would be doing 17 years later, it would have scared me to death and I would have probably done like Jonah and ran the other way. Instead, in his infinite wisdom and knowing what I would do, he just let the ministry grow a little at a time. He added funding a little at a time and burdened our heart for different projects a little at a time. He surrounded me with people with a heart for the work we were doing and used them to influence me in a lot of ways. Again, he did this a little at a time.
I have always been the type of person that when I know what I have got to do, I want to do it all and get it done right now. God used my dad and also my board members to slow me down and help me to wait on him to direct me. Now 17 years later, I look at how God has blessed us with not only finances and support but also with various other ministries that we are able to partner with. One thing I remember from very early on is a question my pastor Rusty Rector asked me on a trip our church made to Kentucky. He asked, “Just how far are you wanting to take this, and what are you wanting to do?” I remember my answer to this day. I said, “I would love to do this full-time because I just love it. But a man has to make a living and there sure isn’t any money in what I’m doing.” I was right but God has a way of getting you in a position where he can use you. Had it not been for a failed hip replacement, I would have likely never known the joy of full time mission work. God showed me during that dark time in my life, that he is the one that provides my living anyway. God let me get to the edge of losing all I had worked for all of my life and then, as only he can do, he made the way and allowed me to not lose anything. I had to get to where I didn’t love my possessions so that I would be content with his provision; a little at a time. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!