Five loaves, two fish and 27 gardeners


Originally published August 13, 2014

In a little more than 24 hours, 27 people from Virginia, North Carolina and Illinois will board two different aircraft bound for Miami and then Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for a seven-day mission trip to the small town of Montrouis, 47 miles from the nation’s capital.

Mission trips are not about numbers. They’re about showing the love of Christ, with the goal of planting seeds in fertile soil and harvesting the fruits of those who have planted before. The Holy Spirit ultimately brings the increase, as the seeds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are watered with His Water of Life, but we will relish our role as gardeners in His Kingdom.

Loaves and fishes
Wine, loaves of bread and fresh fish in an old basket

It is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels, so its lessons must be especially important for followers of Christ.

Recall with me the context: Jesus and His disciples were mourning the death of His cousin and their friend, John the Baptist, who had been beheaded on the order of King Herod. As they sought to find a place to rest and reflect, they found themselves once again surrounded by multitudes seeking to hear Jesus teach and experience His miraculous healing power.

Arriving by boat to the place where the multitude had gathered, Jesus “… saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34 NASB)

Jesus came to offer the Bread of Life to those who sought Him, just as He still does today. But He also knew of their physical hunger, a need His disciples were helpless to meet. The Gospels record that He used a boy’s offering of five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 men, along with the women and children who were with them. When all had eaten their fill, the disciples collected the leftovers, 12 baskets full of bread and fish.

I cannot think of a better illustration of the miracle that has been done to fund this trip to Haiti and the many ministry projects that are planned once we arrive. Though we started with just a few loaves and fishes, our group has been blessed by Christ with everything we needed to fund the trip, everything we needed to fund the various ministry projects, everything we needed to buy needed supplies for an orphanage and a daily feeding program for poor children and their mothers — and when the expenses were reconciled with the funds that were raised, we found we have money left over to bless the people of Montrouis in other ways the Holy Spirit will reveal to us when we’re there.

Literally hundreds of people have contributed to this effort, but God has been our Provider. I am grateful to everyone who bought pancakes or plants or car washes, everyone who purchased items made by artisans in Haiti and everyone who wrote checks or handed us $5 or $20 bills. I am grateful for those who have prayed for us and continue to do so. Most of all, though, I’m grateful for a God who desires to use me to help meet the physical needs of a broken people while I tell them about His precious Son, who died to ensure that they could one day be with Him in a place where they have no more unmet needs.

Mission trips are not about numbers. But let me share some of the miraculous numbers behind this trip.

27 — The number of adults and children leaving for Haiti Thursday morning

$32,400 — The total base cost of the trip, including airfare, food, lodging, insurance and about $200 per person for ministry contributions. We do not yet have a final total (contributions are still arriving, praise God), but we have received thousands of dollars beyond that total.

2,000 — The total number of pounds of supplies, canned foods, seeds, kitchen items, clothes, shoes, oil filters, school supplies, hygiene items and more that have been packed, 50 pounds per bag, in sea bags that will be checked onto our flights.

12 — The number of four-gallon chicken waterers we will be taking for an agricultural program being started by Together We Can Haiti, one of the main ministries we are going to support. We’re also taking six chicken feeders.

50 — The number of hand pumps we’re taking to be used with reusable five-gallon water bottles so families served by the Empowering Haitian Moms ministry can have daily access to clean drinking water.

24 — The number of “soccer mission balls” that will be given away as part of an outreach ministry in the community. Each ball is covered with passages of Scripture that point people to Christ, and mission members will engage the community an share the gospel as they play soccer with them and distribute the balls, one at a time.

12 — The number of months worth of rent that will be paid for a Haitian family by one member of the mission team.

80 — The percentage of infectious diseases transmitted by touch. By taking along a freezer bag packed with metal spoons that will be distributed to people in Montrouis, the mission team hopes to help reduce the incidence of such diseases by the simple fact that dirty hands will no longer have to handle rice and other meals.

1 — Tippy Tap hand-washing station that will further encourage sanitation in the Empowering Haitian Moms feeding program, which serves hundreds of mothers and children each week.

There are many other ministry programs on tap that are harder to quantify. Children will be taught about crossing the street safely. Haitian pastors and lay church leaders will attend a three-day training program. Children at the Agape House orphanage will attend a vacation Bible school. Daily Bible classes will be taught to mothers and children involved with Empowering Haitian Moms, and the children will get to enjoy games, songs and crafts. Team members will help with a women’s breastfeeding class and perform protein tests and blood pressure checks on pregnant women in the community. Some team members will be doing home repairs, some will build tables for the community and some will be planting a garden for a Haitian mother. And on Sunday, the entire team will join with American missionaries and Haitian orphans for a beachside worship service.

We started this spiritual journey with a desire to meet God where He is working, and we brought along the equivalent of five loaves and two fish. And then God performed a miracle. What we could not do on our own, He was more than capable of accomplishing.

I cannot wait to see what else He has in store.

God bless.

— R.E. Spears III

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