Over the past 20 years, Vanessa and I have seen God move in amazing ways. As October marks the 20th anniversary of Mission of Hope, we are taking some time to reflect on a few of the many lessons we have learned.
From the first time we went to Haiti, we were moved by the physical needs we saw in Haiti. Daily we saw many that lacked proper medical care, clean drinking water, and the nutrition needed to survive. This was a big part of the reason we decided to move to Haiti and help bring hope to that nation.
We soon realized, however, that in order to break the cycle of poverty, education was key. In a country where less than 5% graduate high school, it was not surprising that God opened the door to educate children through the US military building us a school. But we also knew that even education can’t give lasting hope. It’s only when people find the hope of the gospel that true hope is found. Education by itself can’t transform someone, but a Christ-centered education can.
Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus moved by compassion to meet a person’s physical need and He would then meet their spiritual need. His love for His people compelled him to give them hope for today and for eternity.
Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It is a great example of how meeting the physical needs of people can lead to meeting their spiritual needs. After everyone had eaten and had their full, Jesus slipped away. The next day, however, the crowds tracked Him down. Jesus found the intersection of compassion and the gospel in this opportunity, as recorded in John 6:26-29.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus’s ministry was comprehensive. The gospel without love doesn’t impact deeply. And love without the gospel doesn’t transform fully. But at the intersection of these two, there is power.
Many times we either focus on the physical OR the spiritual, but Jesus shows us that BOTH really matter and incredible transformation happens when both are realized.
Our vision at Mission of Hope is to meet the physical and spiritual needs of every man, woman, and child in Haiti. That’s what we mean when we say “life transformation.” The greatest moments of joy in my life have been when I get to see someone come alive in Christ while also having the tools to start a better physical life as well—a home or food or a job or an education.
Do you tend to focus more on helping people physically or spiritually? If you lean toward the physical, see if you can let the person you’re helping know the “why” that compels you. Or if you lean toward the spiritual, see if you can find a tangible way to be a helpful friend, no strings attached.
God has allowed us to live in a broken world. We are surrounded by those that are hurting physically and spiritually. He has equipped us with all we need to meet their needs. The question is: Are we willing to follow His example and meet them at their place of need?
About the Author: Brad Johnson
Brad is the President of Mission of Hope. He attended Huntington University as a student athlete and graduated in 1993 with a B.S. in Educational Ministries with a Business Emphasis. While at Huntington, he broke school records in Track and Field, won the National Championship, and was awarded the prestigious Wheeler Award, given to the National Track and Field Male Athlete of the Year for outstanding character, athletic achievement, and campus leadership by the NCCAA. Upon graduation, Brad joined Youth for Christ as the Director of Campus Life at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, IN, where he developed his passion for coaching and mentoring young leaders.
Brad grew up going to Haiti each year to serve on week-long mission trips. After experiencing the tragic loss of a baby girl in a village due to malnutrition, in 1998, he and his wife Vanessa moved to Haiti to participate in God’s vision of bringing life transformation to every man, woman, and child. For 15 years, Brad directly oversaw all strategic and operational aspects of Mission of Hope, while mentoring and grooming young Haitian leaders to step into key leadership roles. In 2008, the Huntington University Alumni Association awarded him the Distinguished Alumni Citation in recognition of mission work and commitment to impacting the world for Christ. Today, Brad and his wife Vanessa live in Lago Vista, TX and have four children: JD, Georgie, Beau, and Jaima.