Help and hope
Touching the world with compassion
By Kirk Noonan
With the dust from Nairobi’s Mathare Valley still in the
creases of his shoes, Hal Donaldson, president of Convoy of Hope, settled into
his seat for the flight out of Kenya. Next to him sat Randy Hurst,
communications director for AG World Missions. Both men were grappling
emotionally with the images, sounds and smells they had experienced while in
Mathare Valley, one of the world’s most impoverished slums.
Children scavenged for food through piles of slimy trash
made warm by the ruthless sun. In rickety shacks, AIDS-stricken mothers clung
to their last days of life. On narrow pathways toddlers lapped water from
gutters filled with raw sewage.
On the flight back to the United States they alternated
between pensive silence and talking of ways they might help the people they had
met in Mathare Valley.
“Have you ever considered doing something internationally
with Convoy of Hope?” Hal recalls Randy asking.
“I’ve thought about that,” Hal said. “But I’m not sure how
to make it happen.”
forward in his seat as he pondered the idea.
“Maybe Convoy of Hope and AG World Missions could work
together,” Randy suggested. “I can imagine doing even bigger outreaches to
serve throughout the world than you’ve done in the United States.”
Hal nodded as Randy projected ideas for Convoy of Hope
engaging in such an endeavor. Hal liked what he was hearing, but international
work — at that point — was only a dream for the faith-based
In the months to come, a partnership began to form.
Then Hurricane Mitch slammed into Central America.
In October 1998, Mitch triggered mudslides, flooded entire
cities and killed thousands of people. Honduras, in particular, was devastated,
recording 41 inches of rain in only 22 hours.
At the time, Convoy of Hope had recently moved into a
300,000-square-foot warehouse in Springfield, Missouri. Through generous
donations from corporations and individuals — including monthly financial
support from AG World Missions for the first three years — nearly 500,000
pounds of food and supplies had been amassed for Convoy’s inner-city
Kenton Moody, international director at Convoy of Hope,
asked if they could send some of the food and supplies to victims of Mitch.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Hal and his brothers, David and Steve,
“Let’s empty the warehouse of everything we can and send it
to our missionaries and national churches in Honduras,” Hal recalls saying.
“God filled our warehouse; He can fill it again.”
Depleting the organization’s stock was risky. Replenishing
it could take months. But with hundreds of thousands of people in desperate
need, it was clearly the right thing to do.
The move proved providential. The occasion marked the first
time Convoy of Hope partnered with AGWM on a large scale, and both
organizations soon learned how well-suited they were to work together.
“We immediately saw that our missionaries and national churches
were the perfect network for Convoy of Hope to distribute water, food and
supplies,” Randy says.
Mike McClaflin, AGWM Africa regional director, concurs.
“Our national churches and missionaries are a natural
delivery system that can efficiently distribute goods and services during a
disaster,” he says. “With more than 2,000 missionaries and 300,000 churches
worldwide in more than 200 countries and territories, it’s an unstoppable
The initial partnership in Honduras confirms Mike’s view. Like
a well-oiled machine, the rapid response team coordinated by Kenton and Steve
transformed AG churches in Honduras into relief centers. National pastors,
laypeople and missionaries became hands of relief and hope in devastated
“When our people show up to help, the Lord shows up,” says
Randy. “And it opens the door for the message of Christ to be shared.”
It’s a sweltering day in Nairobi. Two miles outside the city
is Convoy of Hope’s satellite warehouse. On this day — as with most days
— workers unload the contents of two 40-foot shipping containers onto a
five-ton military truck provided by Speed the Light.
“We don’t try to store anything here for long,” says AG
missionary Bryan Burr, who also serves as regional representative for Convoy of
Hope in East Africa. “We try to move everything in and out as quickly as
With 300,000 refugees still needing help because of the
political unrest that rocked Kenya earlier this year, the warehouse has become
a vital link to food and supplies for thousands of families.
Bryan and other leaders say the goal is to keep a steady
influx of goods circulating through the warehouse so the Convoy team can
continue to meet current needs and any that arise in the region.
“We have goods on hand when disasters strike, so we don’t
have to wait for goods to be transported from the United States,” says Bryan.
“We can quickly enable our national churches to help their countrymen.”
The warehouse will also be used as a training center where
nationals can learn to start small businesses, purify water and grow crops in
the country’s challenging soil and climate.
“I am the fortunate one who gets to channel all these goods
to people in need,” says Bryan. “But none of this would be possible without the
prayer and support of faithful donors in the United States.”
Though Convoy of Hope’s international relief efforts have
drawn headlines, the organization’s outreaches have also changed people’s minds
about Christianity — especially in Europe.
Gates swing open and thousands of hungry people pour into
the neglected soccer stadium in Hungary’s Bükk Mountains. Most if not all of
these residents in the mountain city of Ózd have never seen an event like this.
Fliers and word-of-mouth advertising promised bags of
groceries, medical screenings, entertainment for the children, and sausage and
bread for lunch.
“Momma, we don’t need to pay for anything,” says an excited
boy to his frail mother. “It’s all free!”
Here, the impoverished are shown a tangible expression of
Christ’s love and grace. This year outreaches have also been held in Belgium,
Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania,
Scotland, Wales, Moldova and Kosovo.
In Negotino, Macedonia, some 1,500 people (about 10 percent
of the city’s population) gather during three Days of Hope sponsored by Pastor
Goran and the local Pentecostal church.
“Pastor Goran and his church are very committed to reaching
out to the community,” says Doug Webber of Convoy of Hope Europe. “There is a
definite need for food and assistance.”
And that need creates multiple opportunities to build
relationships and share the gospel. Following the Days of Hope, ministry teams
from the church visited 145 homes with food parcels as they learned of families
in need who had not been able to come to the Convoy event.
“Numbers of these families invited the teams to stay for
lengthy visits and to share the gospel,” Doug says.
On the hill above the Convoy site in Negotino, an elderly
woman listened throughout the weekend to the music and festivities. That Sunday
she decided to attend the service at the host church.
Associate Pastor Demi helped organize the outreach to the
community even as he lived with the daily concern for his own parents’
salvation. They had vowed never to come to the church. But following the
outreach, Pastor Demi’s father and mother have come to the church every Sunday.
“I met them,” Doug says, “and Pastor Demi’s father has
stopped drinking and smoking for the first time in 45 years.”
During Doug’s follow-up visit to the region, nestled in the
fertile Tikves Valley, he traveled to outlying villages where he met several
children who had attended the Days of Hope.
“We distributed gospel literature and were invited into
homes,” he says.
The ripple effect of the Negotino outreach continued with
another outreach organized in a village soccer field. More than 200 people
heard the gospel message there.
“Everything that is being done in the area is having
long-term, relationship-oriented results between our churches and native
Macedonians,” Doug says.
Cooperative efforts between Convoy team members and local
soul-focused congregations create these ripples of influence — this has
been the model of outreach since Convoy’s beginnings and throughout its
expansion in the United States. It has proven to be adaptable and effective
“We use the American model and adapt it to the cultural
expectations of each country we work in,” says Michael McNamee, director of
Convoy of Hope Europe. “Because of it, Europeans have responded to the
authenticity they sense.”
Since the first outreach took place in Brussels in 2002,
Michael says healings have taken place, myths and ideas about Christianity and
Jesus have been dispelled, and churches have been started or have grown
“Europe is a spiritual paradox,” Michael explains. “Whereas
there is a pulling away from the traditional religion of Christianity, there is
a keen interest and seeking after the spiritual.
“Being His disciples in the middle of a Gypsy camp or
‘lifting up’ the Peacemaker in the conflicting areas of the Balkans attracts
people. Europeans are tired of an empty gospel, so they respond to the ministry
of Convoy of Hope as we care for the poor and offer ‘a cup of water’ in the name
of Jesus. Across the continent the Church has grown and been strengthened as a
direct result of the outreaches.”
While helping at an outreach in Glasgow, Scotland, Kenton
met an 82-year-old man who could have been speaking for countless impoverished
people across Europe.
“He looked at me and said, ‘This is the first free thing
I’ve ever been given in my life,’” recalls Kenton. “During the outreach we
served more than 6,000 people and were able to help start a church. The
outreaches are effective because people everywhere respond to compassion.”
Hal is grateful.
“Europe Regional Director Greg Mundis, Michael and Kenton
had a vision for compassion ministry in Europe,” he says. “The things we see
happening there today are a result of God giving these men a vision for
accomplishing great things and their willingness to go for it.”
When Hal was 12 years old, and Steve and David were 10 and 9
respectively, their mother and father left the family’s home one evening for a
church board meeting. It would be the last time they would see their father
A drunken driver slammed into Harold and Betty Donaldson’s
small car, killing Harold and severely injuring Betty. Little did Hal and his
brothers know that the tragedy marked the beginning of a global ministry that
would reach millions of people with Christ’s message of love and hope.
“Convoy of Hope was born out of tragedy,” says Hal. “But God
has taken my father’s mangled automobile and turned it into a fleet of
tractor-trailers that is helping bring hope to people throughout the world.”
Since Convoy of Hope was founded in 1994, it has grown
dramatically. Growing pains have come with establishing an organization bent on
improving the lives of the impoverished and hurting. Great faith has been a
“At times we knew what it’s like to have pressing needs and
an empty warehouse,” admits Hal. “But during those times our faith in God’s
provision grew the greatest. On many occasions our leadership team gathered
together and cried out to God, asking Him to open the storehouses of heaven so
we could continue to help people.”
One example, from early in Convoy’s history, showed Hal how
God would provide if the ministry remained faithful.
Convoy needed $53,000 in one day. Hal wrote his request on a
Post-it note, then knelt in his office and prayed that God would provide. The
next day a man stopped by the office and handed him a check for $53,000.
“It was exactly the amount I asked for,” Hal says, still
astonished by God’s intervention. “To me, that’s proof of God’s love and
provision for the poor and suffering.”
Miracles too numerous to recount have taken place since
“This ministry has had to exercise faith on many occasions,”
says Hal. “The enemy has presented challenge after challenge, but God is bigger
than the challenges and has provided just enough every single time. We have
walked in the miraculous, and as a result, millions of people have heard and
seen that Jesus Christ loves them.”
To date, Convoy of Hope has helped more than 20 million
people in 100 countries. As the ministry expands its reach with clean-water
initiatives, agricultural training, and distribution of life-sustaining food
and supplies, it continues to gain momentum as a movement of compassion with an
aim to enable followers of Christ to help others.
Doors to government agencies, corporations, like-minded
organizations, civic groups and churches continue to open. Such relationships
are more evidence that God’s favor rests on Convoy of Hope.
“God has called us to be part of a spiritual revolution that
will help change the perception of the Church in the minds of people across the
U.S. and around the world,” says Hal. “The Church has not been called to be a
building or a set of rules or even a Sunday morning obligation. Instead, the
Church is people committed to demonstrating Christ’s love to others in need.
“My prayer is that the Assemblies of God will be known
around the world as people who speak in tongues, but who also feed hungry
KIRK NOONAN is managing editor for Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel and blogs at Simple Plan (knoonan.agblogger.org).
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