On a Mission for Jesus
Writer: Sheila Holliday
Marie Chichester asks, “What happens when you turn on the TV and the breaking news reports how a hurricane, tsunami or fire wiping out a city? Do you tear up when a homeowner shares his or her story? Do you think, ‘I wish I could go help them’? That’s what used to happen to me, before I connected with Samaritan’s Purse U.S. Disaster Relief and found my calling.”
Many of us will never deploy to a distant mission field, choosing instead to support missionaries with coveted prayers or financial support. It can be difficult to drop what we’ve planned or to miss work. Our family may need us at home. Roughing it when one has health challenges may not seem wise.
“We can always find an excuse, and I have them, too,” admits the wife, mother of four and grandmother of 9. “But I’ve found that if I sincerely want to share the hope God has given us, I need to listen and trust Him when He calls. God wants to send us, whether our mission field is far away or to our next-door neighbor.
“I think of what Jesus tells us in Matthew (9:37-38), ‘Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”
Florida’s Aftermath – a “Ripe” Harvest
In Nov. 2022, Marie served with Samaritan’s Purse (SP) to help residents of hurricane-torn Fort Myers, FL. As Marie traveled to her assigned site (a mobile home park), she drove past piled-up mattresses, debris and treasures turned into trash lining the roadsides for miles. The homes reeked of mold, having been submerged in up to five feet of water.
Marie explains that upon arriving at a worksite, her team would meet with the homeowner and pray together before getting started. “Usually during the work, the homeowner will tell their story. Many times, being a good listener is more important than the manual labor. Our first priority is to show God’s love, which can be through our actions or lending an ear.
“At the home where I was assigned to help, we were inside stripping the entire house down to the main beams, pulling down drywall, removing flooring and clearing out debris. That was when the homeowner and her grown daughter shared their story with us. They did not evacuate as recommended, they stayed through the hurricane, having no place to go, and the flood waters got so high they had to swim out of their house and put their dog in an ice chest that was floating by as they waited for the rescue team. They were grateful they were not injured and both survived, but very overwhelmed by all the destruction. Then they learned about SP!
“On every worksite, a chaplain is available to pray with the residents, talk about anything on their heart, and before they leave to give them a Bible. Workers who feel called and comfortable to have spiritual discussions are able to do so. For me, I’m focused on what I do best – helping with the clean-up, or on some trips playing with and hugging the children. It can be a very emotional time for those who lose their home and all their belongings. Sometimes you think you are going to be cleaning up but instead just hold someone’s hand and listen to their story. Anyone who puts on the orange Samaritan’s Purse shirt knows that the first priority is the person affected.”
Marie describes a typical work day: “Every day we were up at 6 a.m. and at breakfast by 6:30. After a short devotion we would leave by 8 and be on the worksite until 4:30. We’d come back to our base which is usually a local church, shower, have dinner, then hear six or seven people share ‘God-moments,’ exhausted but praising God for His hand in our day…off to bed with lights off by 9. Then we repeat the next day.”
“During the week I was there, about 130 volunteers were staying at the church and being assigned to worksites. I believe SP had 1,800 work orders for the Ft. Myers area and about 400 were complete. Volunteers will be coming and going for months until all the work orders are done.”
“The people/volunteers are my favorite part. They are so joyful–it’s like going to church every day. Through serving with SP, I’ve formed relationships with fellow laborers from all over the country who are like my second church.”
She adds, “A disaster sometimes provides the perfect opportunity to share the good news of Jesus… a message of hope and something that cannot be taken away or destroyed.”
CrossPoint Comes Alongside
Two other CrossPoint members had hoped to deploy with Marie to Florida until logistics interfered. Marie felt blessed that without asking, the CrossPoint family supported her trip by paying for ground transportation.
Marie invites anyone who feels a “nudge” from God to help with disaster relief to sign up on the Samaritan’s Purse website or contact her through CrossPoint’s office. “I would love to bring a team from CrossPoint to this mission field. But I have to warn you, it gets in your blood.”
CrossPoint supports 60 full-time missionaries around the world. Paster Bruce encourages Christ followers considering full- or part-time mission work, “You don’t get fruit everywhere you plant, but if you don’t plant, you’ll never get fruit.”
For Marie as well as the church Missions ministry, in the past two years Covid has disrupted outreach efforts. For 2023, CrossPoint’s renewed focus on missions is developing in several areas:
- Neighbor-to-neighbor, door-to-door efforts
- Home Outreach, with a team sent out monthly to feed, pray with and, when possible, share the gospel with the most needy
- Missions care to strengthen connections with CrossPoint-sponsored missionaries around the world and share their good work with the church family
- Mexico home- and orphanage-building
- International mission trips re-emerging, beginning with a spring trip to Guatemala
- Disaster relief, primarily in the U.S.
“Disaster relief is a brand-new focus for us, and we plan to work with various faith-based agencies as needs arise,” says Pastor Jim Gane. “I’m excited to see us gain clarity, reignite our church family, and build momentum to love our neighbors nearby and around the world, just as Jesus has called us to do. A new energy is rising, thanks to good people like Marie.”
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