The second board member that we would like to introduce to you is our board president, Roger. Roger is Bethany’s husband. We have known him for years, in fact, Tiffany used to occasionally babysit Roger and his younger brothers!
We asked Roger to share a little bit of his story with all of you. We are so thankful for Roger, and for what he brings to the Mercy Branch Inc. board!
Growing up I had the cookie cutter Christian life. I went to a private Baptist school; went to church and youth group every week. When asked what made me different or what made me a Christian I responded with, “Well I don’t swear, I don’t drink, I don’t party, I don’t smoke, and I don’t have sex.” I was making my relationship, or lack thereof, with God about rules and the bad things that I don’t do. Not until after I graduated high school did that change, and I started asking real questions and looking for something deeper. A couple different things helped spur this on, I met (my now wife) Bethany who pushed me to actually read my Bible for myself, and develop a relationship with God. I also, started meeting with a group of guys after youth group where we were just able to be real with each other and confess sin, but also encourage each other to overcome our struggles and push on to greater things. Since then my life has completely changed. Now when, or if, someone asked me what makes me a Christian, I would make it all about Christ, and what He did for me, how much He loves me, and how He chose me. I try to constantly remind myself that it doesn’t matter how bad I screw up, or how much I screw up, God never regrets saving me and sending His perfect son to die for me.
As for my heart for missions, or organizations like Mercy Branch, my first experience in a situation like this came when I went to Brazil in 2009. We put on a VBS at a camp for a whole village. The most lasting memory that I have of that trip is when we went to a favela, which is just a term for a poor part of a village or city. There were people living in shacks made of plywood that were no taller than 6 feet and had enough room to fit a bed or two. It was the first taste of real poverty that I had ever experienced. The kids were playing soccer with an empty water bottle. We did some minor medical exams and treated any illness the best that we could, we gave each family enough rice and flour for a month’s worth of food, and made gospel bracelets with the kids and explained to them the story of Jesus. It was very powerful.
My next experience was when I went to Ethiopia with Jim and Tiffany in 2012. The thing that most stuck out to me during my time there was the time we spent in Korah, the village that is located at the city dump. My heart was torn when I heard them worshiping when we visited their church. They had such happiness, excitement, and fervor when they worshiped, even though they had nothing compared to what I have. They overflowed with so much energy that one guy had to start doing pushups when we were done singing, because he didn’t know what else to do! Their worship amazed me even more when we were able to go through the village and see the houses that they lived in. Looking back, I was amazed at their thankfulness for what God has given them and how He provided for them, now though I realize that that was just the joy of Jesus shining through them. It wasn’t necessarily their contentment with what God has given them that they were happy about, it was the fact that Jesus died for them, and they had an everlasting hope that one day they will be reunited with Him in heaven. This fact overwhelmed me throughout the trip and continues to to this day.
On the last day that we were to visit the village, I was overcome by the thought that I was leaving those people, and that place, and all that they had opened my eyes to, and as Jim would say if anyone asks where my heart is he can tell them where to find it, because I lost it to those people and that place.
Because of what Ethiopia has done in changing my life, I am happy and proud to be a part of what the Darling’s and Mercy Branch are going to be doing in Ethiopia. I have seen the need firsthand and I know how real and scary the reality is that there are thousands of kids on the streets of Ethiopia that first need to know Jesus, but also need to experience genuine love from someone. I believe in Mercy Branch and what God wants to accomplish.