Although there are a few holdouts across the country, by in large most schools have now started their new 2010-2011 school year. Summer vacations are over and even though the scorching summer heat lingers, everyone is settling back into schedules and routines once again. For me that is a good thing since I have been running wild this summer. Having a routine will slow the pace down for me a little bit and get me back into some kind of schedule. Soccer players and short course students have returned and the dorm has activity again, including a fire alarm Sunday morning around 7:30 am. Yep, the boys are back. Peace and quiet will return again in about 9 months.
It is hard to believe it has been almost a month since we returned from Honduras. Videos and photos are still bouncing around on Facebook and team members are still yearning to be in a small country where their hearts have placed residence. I have received numerous emails about next year's plans and my mind is swirling with ideas and potential projects for next year. And, living in a university setting, potential trips during school breaks have already been mentioned. It is just amazing. I am amazed at so many things but probably one of the biggest is just realizing that I have been given the opportunity to lead teams to Honduras, Costa Rica, etc, and to be involved in something like TORCH. It is a lot to take in considering everything.
I grew up in what would have to be considered a religiously dysfunctional family. Wonderful family, just not a "go to church every Sunday" family. For me it changed because of a great family that lived right across the street from me growing up in Huntsville. The South's invited me every year to go to VBS with their boys, and they planted the seeds for me. By 8th grade Mark South and I were great friends and I was going to attend Madison Academy for high school where he went to school. From there I was molded some more and I transferred from a state school to Freed-Hardeman with a lot of my church friends from Mastin Lake Road Church of Christ. I went on some short term mission trips while I was there (thank you Paul Lewis) and I guess you could say the rest is history. Such a long journey with a lot of influences along the way. Amazing grace.
I love what I do. Even with the all of the headaches and bumps in the road that have to be endured, organizing and leading short term trips is what I love to do. And a person has to feel blessed to be able to do things that they love doing, because most people do not. And it is a shame, because life is supposed to be a journey filled with memories and challenges and adventure. I mean, Jesus DID say, "I came to give you life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10)." I believe that with all of my heart and where your heart is that is where your treasure is going to be found (Luke 12:34). And I have a big treasure chest. Moth and rust can't touch my treasure!
So, when you find your love, your passion, you pour yourself into it. You buy into it. You take ownership in it. You share it with others. And that is what I have done for the past 20 years and what I plan on doing for as long as the earthly vessel will carry me. TORCH is my love, my passion, my ministry. And I know it is for some of you as well. Literally thousands of people in the past 20+ years has participated in a TORCH mission trip. Hundreds have been multiple times. Dozens and dozens and dozens have been multiple times. We call ourselves "Lifers." But whether you are a lifer or a 1 time rookie, we have all experienced life changing ministry. Almost everyone who has been on a TORCH trip would say that their lives will never be the same again. Amen?
So, it has come to this point in time. after 20+ years of working in Honduras, and assisting and reaching tens of thousands of Hondurans who have needed physical and spiritual help, TORCH is at a cross roads of sorts. Our teams continue to grow, our areas of ministry continue to expand. Our resources are expanding and the opportunity to serve, not only in Honduras but more and more globally, we must take a good look at ourselves, to look in a mirror as James says. What do we see? What do YOU see? Do you see a small organization, started by a couple of youth ministers and a dream, doing feel good trips to fill a summer schedule? Do you see a summer trip that offers cool experiences and a nifty stamp in your passport? Or do you see more? I see more; much much more.
We have already seen what short term TORCH trips are capable of doing. The list of projects we did this summer by our trip alone is pretty impressive. When you take a look at what ALL of the TORCH teams have done this year it is amazing and unbelievable. I hope to get an email soon from Mark and Tim that will give totals of all of the things done this year to date. Until then I will only be able to tell you that it was a LOT. And we have every plan to continue what we are doing and to crank it up a notch. For example, our mega team of 160 this year has split from 1 team into THREE. Our team alone now has 3 x's the power and resources and abilities to do what 1 team did this year. It also allow 3 teams the ability to stretch and grow again. I have witnessed this time after time. It wasn't that long ago that team leaders (Tim, Mark, Gayle, Tom, etc) were working together on the same teams.
I have said a lot to lay the groundwork for what we are about to do. Stepping it up a notch, moving to the next level. TORCH mission is growing in numbers and we need to grow accordingly with facilities and resources to match. Our buses are old and are aging very quickly (Honduran roads can do that ya know). We continue to rent facilities to house our teams. We continue to rent pick up trucks, flat bed trucks, buses, and other equipment. And just like renting a house or apartment, that rent money is going out the window and into someone else's pockets. Team leaders and board members have talked about this for years but the time has come to do something about it. Investing in the future of TORCH is at hand. The time has come to act upon things we all know to be true and logical. And we all must pitch in to make it happen.
In the next few months I will be working with the TORCH board to create a new group, a committee of people, that will dedicate some of their time, skills, resources, and energy to help raise funds to allow TORCH to move to the next level. What level are we talking about? Owning our own property. Building our own "Mission House." Buying newer buses and more of them. Buying our own trucks. Increasing our inventory of tools, chainsaws, and equipment. Hiring full time workers as bus drivers, cooks, care takers, etc. This has only been a pipe dream for us for several years, but the time has come to act upon our dreams and to make them reality. and it is going to take the TORCH community, the alumni, along with many others to make this happen.
The first phase of this concept was introduced by Jenny Lovell the last night of our trip. Jenny is a professional fund raiser for Freed-Hardeman and she raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school each year. I have asked her to spear head this committee and to get the ball rolling. Her first idea has begun and it is time for us to start. Many of our TORCH team were given forms that will allow individuals to make monthly contributions into a special account that has been set up for TORCH. By filling out this form a person can make a monthly contribution to TORCH that will be used, hopefully in the very near future, to begin the process of doing the very things we just talked about earlier. This account is not a trip work fund, but a fund specifically set up to take us to the next level. Jenny will be contacting all TORCH team leaders to assist with this project. By doing this we hope to reach hundreds, possibly thousands of people to ask for participation in this project.
This one project alone, with the help of a TORCH army of participants, has the potential to generate enough money to pay for land and build our own facility with a FEW years. Tim and Mark have been looking at property and buildings that might be suitable for TORCH to buy. We know where to buy newer buses and trucks. Things are in place and I believe the time has come for us to launch out into a new phase of TORCH Missions. Dreams are the building blocks of tomorrow. Lets begin to build tomorrow today!
Contact me by email if you would like for me to mail (or email) you the bank automatic debit form. Once you have filled out the form you will mail the form to Lowell Haworth, who will be in charge of collecting the forms, entering the data to the bank, and keeping records of those that will be participating. Lowell's mailing address is 428 Amberleaf Trail, Westfield, Indiana, 46074-9500. That is all there is to it. Simple, eh? Just email me to get the ball rolling. Anyone can participate. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends at church, co-workers. This is a simple, but very effective way for anyone to help TORCH Missions in its continued efforts in Honduras and beyond. Are you in?
President, Torch Missions board of directors