By Brandon Elrod
When a hurricane devastates a community or constant poverty leaves people hungry, how does the local church encounter its neighbors to meet needs? What steps do a pastor and his congregation need to take to see lives changed by the gospel?
A new podcast from Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), helps churches consider these questions by sharing the stories of missionaries who have reached out to those who need help. That podcast is Stories of Hope.
Jamie Garcia of Bethel Baptist Church in Houston saw his neighborhood change in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Their church became and still is a hub for ministry to the city. NAMB photo.
“All around North America, Send Relief and church planting missionaries have been meeting needs and changing the lives of people who are within the shadow of their own buildings,” said David Melber, president of Send Relief. “Every community has needs that the local church can engage and be a bold witness for the sake of the gospel.”
Each episode of the podcast follows along as a missionary or church leader shares their story, whether they responded to a hurricane or served those in poverty.
“I think it’s easy for believers to hear about someone doing great things for the kingdom and think, ‘I’m not capable of that,’” said Tony Hudson, a NAMB marketing specialist and a producer for the podcast.
“But every story we have told so far is about ordinary people who are just meeting needs and building relationships,” Hudson said. “That convicts me not just to think, ‘I’ve got to do something,’ but ‘I can do something.’”
In one recent episode, Stories of Hope follows Melanie Watt of Spartanburg, S.C. She operates a ministry to at-risk youth called Hope Remains Youth Ranch that uses equine therapy to help children cope with their stresses.
“The horses break down that wall of anger. They break down whatever wall was there—the abuse, the neglect,” Watt said in the episode. “For that moment, it’s a calming effect and the kids just get so comfortable, they start talking.”
Once those walls start to come down, Watt is able to start opening doors for gospel conversations.
Another episode features Jorge Santiago. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, he rallied in Puerto Rico to start a free laundromat so residents could wash their clothes. A new church blossomed from his outreach.
“When people used to come to wash their clothes, they had to be there with us,” Santiago recalled. “And we shared the gospel and prayed with so many people at the washer machine area.”
Taylor Field has been preaching and sharing the gospel in New York City for decades, leading Graffiti Church to reach the impoverished and downtrodden. As a Send Relief missionary, Field helps combat poverty by meeting those needs.
“No one was ever changed by a program, even a food program. They’re changed by relationships within that,” said Field. “Probably the most important thing someone could do is take some time to have a meal with some people. Don’t just give food to people. Eat with them.”
Jamie Garcia served his community after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. The storm created a “new normal” for Garcia and his church, Bethel Baptist. They became a hub for relief ministry, converting their church’s gym into a warehouse for supplies.
“We’ve been given the biggest evangelistic platform that I believe we’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” Garcia says in an episode of Stories of Hope. “I’m 52 years old. I don’t know if I’ll ever get this kind of opportunity to serve so many people again.”
The podcast launched February 25, and new episodes are posted every two weeks. To learn more and subscribe to the podcast, visit sendrelief.org/podcast/stories-of-hope/ or search Stories of Hope in your favorite podcast app.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.