At age seventeen, I was convinced that God wanted me to join a team from my home church on an ambitious mission trip across the globe. This came at a time when churches were just beginning to move from simply supporting missionaries to sending their own members abroad for the purpose of getting their hands dirty in sharing the Gospel. I quickly encountered a major obstacle–money–or more to the point, the lack of it. My father worked for the Gulf oil refinery in Port Arthur, and a boilermaker’s salary in 1977 did not allow an extra couple thousand dollars to send someone around the world, no matter the cause. At the point when it looked like this would be one of those grand ideas that never materialized, my mother suggested I write to a wealthy Christian business woman and describe my need. At Mom’s prompting and using my best high school penmanship, I wrote to Mary Crowley, founder of Home Interiors and Gifts, Inc. of Dallas, and asked her to help make it possible for me to go to South Korea with the World Evangelism Foundation. She responded with a kind note of encouragement and a generous check–both were game changers.
Mrs. Crowley’s gift to a total stranger enabled me to embark on a journey that opened up the world for a youth from southeast Texas, whose worldview up to that time consisted of Gulf Oil and Gulf beaches. The entire experience softened my heart and cultivated fertile ground that led to another journey two years later to a different part of South Korea, accompanied by an even stronger sense of divine communication. Sitting among missionaries in Bell Chapel one Sunday afternoon on a hillside in Kwang Ju, God’s Spirit spoke in language my heart understood, and I knew that His plan for me included cross-cultural ministry. I returned to college, altered my degree plan to a missions-specific one, and set my heart flint-like towards the nations. Most roads in life are circuitous rather than straight, and it took fourteen years for me to travel from that moment in Kwang Ju to arriving in East Africa under appointment of what was once known as the Foreign Mission Board. By God’s grace and with a strong sense of destiny, I lived and labored a total of nine years in Kenya and India. Now, some 38 years after that first journey to South Korea, I am privileged to help individuals, families, and churches fulfill their own passion to advance God’s kingdom around the world through the expansive ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. It all started with a small gift from a big heart for a teenage boy Mary Crowley would never meet. Never underestimate the power of generosity.

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