A Harvest of Hope

By Liz Wann
Orphan Sponsorship

Ron and Jennifer Gleason know a thing or two about root vegetables.  Jennifer’s family has run Hillside Gardens, a farm and produce company located in Ontario, Canada, and in the state of Georgia in the United States, for 50 years.  Half of that time Jennifer has been married to Ron, who is now the company president.

Ron and Jennifer are in another business as well: the business of giving. Ron speaks highly of his wife and her generosity; he says it runs in her family. In fact, the mission of Hillside Gardens always has been one of giving.

On October 3rd of this year, Hillside Gardens hosted a fundraiser for Covenant Mercies at their 50th Anniversary celebration.  Ron explained the fundraiser and how they met their goals:

“We asked for sponsors to donate raffle prizes (we had $2000 in prizing donated.) Hillside matched contributions dollar for dollar. We raised $1500 that night, and matched it with a $1500 donation. The next day my in-laws said they would donate $1000 to bring the total donation to $5000 with Hillside matching to reach our goal for the night. The next week I met with a customer who asked about the night. I explained what we did and why we thought it was important. He was very affected, and offered to make a $1000 contribution on the spot. That brought our total to $7000.”

Not only are the Gleasons and Hillside Gardens raising funds for Covenant Mercies, but the Gleasons personally sponsor 20 children in our Orphan Sponsorship Program.  She [Jennifer] has often been the one in our relationship to recognize opportunities to be generous before I have seen them.  So thankful she saw this one,” said Ron.

Ron and Jennifer have 4 grown children of their own, but look to the 20 orphans they sponsor as part of the family. When Executive Director, Doug Hayes, wrote to the Gleasons informing them of the passing of one of their sponsored children, Ron said they wept and wept. 

He continued, “We’re learning to love kids we’ve never met, and trying to make a difference. Very grateful for my (slowly) expanding awareness of a world where people need to encounter the love of Christ. CM helps us to do that. What a great privilege it is to love these children who are orphans, just like we were before Christ adopted us.”

When asked if he had the chance to meet anyone of his sponsored children, what would he tell them? Ron replied, “Think of what we do for you, as Jesus caring for you. If Jesus had not loved me first, and made me think differently about money and life, I would never have thought of helping anyone. I was selfish and hard. So if you think of thanking me, think of thanking Jesus.”

Lastly, Ron offers some encouragement for other sponsors in Covenant Mercies, and for those thinking of sponsoring a child:

“God generously ‘sponsored’ us, and every other redeemed sinner. It is hard to overstate the privilege of joining in His sponsoring work. It is hard to overstate the value of the regular reminder that sponsorship provides, to think on the fact that Christ did so much more for us. Few things in life hold the distinction of being able to produce joy and happiness. I think that many who sponsor one of these children will find that this ministry does. Most North Americans would gladly pay $1 day for that kind of result. $1 a day will sponsor an orphan. Most of us can afford the $1 and can’t afford to miss the opportunity.”

Ron and Jennifer do know a thing or two about harvesting root vegetables. But they realize there is a much greater harvest to invest in; an investment with eternal ramifications. It’s a harvest reaping hope for many orphans.

White Man Running

By Doug Hayes
RunFAR Uganda

It’s an annual tradition now.  Every year when I begin my RunFAR training, I go through the same internal struggle.  Though I’m “only” running in a 5K this time, my first few training runs this year prompted precisely the same self-questioning as in the past: Are you crazy?  Is it really necessary to put yourself through this?  Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway? 

When I am assaulted by these types of questions, my mind usually wanders back to the year my marathon training was reaching its peak just as I took off for a three-week trip to Africa.  This meant I needed to go on some LONG training runs in areas of the world where a white man running around in shorts is not a common sight.

Without question, my runs in rural Uganda evoked the most smiles, laughter, and head scratching from people I passed along the way.  It wasn’t simply the blinding whiteness of my legs that struck them as so unusual.  It was the fact that I was running for the sake of… running!  In rural Uganda, life itself is exercise.  So much energy is expended simply carrying out the tasks of daily subsistence, the thought of going out of one’s way for exercise is a novel thought indeed.  Daily chores such as fetching water, collecting firewood, working in the garden, and walking/bicycling wherever you need to go… these provide more than enough exercise.  

The memory of those puzzled stares has helped me through some difficult training runs, when I’ve questioned my own sanity and even pondered quitting. Running for the sake of running seemed strange to rural Ugandan onlookers because of the routine hardship of their lives, yet it’s something I do because of the relative ease of mine.  Might it therefore be good, right, and appropriate for me to endure some hardship -- even though I don’t need to -- so that they might benefit?  In the context of my comfortable life, can I challenge myself to intentionally embrace a bit of discomfort, in order to bring help and hope to those for whom it’s an everyday reality?

In this year’s RunFAR video (below), one of the boys in our Ethiopia program speaks of how he wants to be a Heart Specialist someday. 

RunFAR - The Amazing Race (Ethiopia) from Covenant Mercies on Vimeo.

Thanks to the funds we’re able to raise through RunFAR, our Orphan Sponsorship Program, and other means, kids like Abraham can dream of going to medical school and becoming a doctor.  No, I don’t think I’m crazy after all.  It is an absolute joy to stand in solidarity with them, embracing some small level of discomfort so that they might have opportunities to become everything God created them to be.