On a Saturday morning, we followed two trailers filled with new rugs, clothing, and non-perishable food as they wended their way into Kings Creek, Kentucky. For the second time in a month, this community without a post office, grocery store, or school, had flooded. Bill Meade, moved by the distress of his neighbors, coordinated an emergency response through his friends and business contacts.
Central to the life of Kings Creek is its volunteer fire department, led by Meade, who is the fire chief. The community uses the structure for celebrations and family gatherings, but also as a collective launching pad in crisis. We helped volunteer firefighters unload the goods, carefully arrange the relief packages, and open two boxes of In Touch Messengers. As the physical needs of the people were addressed, we prayed that the door to their spiritual needs would be opened. In Touch volunteer, Bill Loveless, spoke to the gathering about the impact Dr. Stanley’s messages have had upon his life. “We all face problems, right?” he asked. “Because you’re either in a storm, coming out of one, or going into one.”
This scene of compassionate care for neighbors is only the most recent example of many gospel-centered efforts we’ve seen where Americans are loving their neighbors well. Their stories are connected by the Messenger Lab tools that aid them—biblical resources that proclaim God’s good news, encourage believers, and equip disciple-makers.
Care for the Veteran
Our veterans harbor memories of many storms weathered during their military service, emotional and spiritual wounds that often require more care than their physical ones. Knowing this, Chaplain Michael Jones of the Long Beach VA Hospital integrated the Messenger into his model of care. “A lot of these guys complain about their eyes,” Jones said. “I can’t tell them to just go to the eye clinic. So I ask, ‘Would you like something in audio? We can give you the sermons of Charles Stanley and the New Testament’.” When he puts it this way, 90 percent of the veterans are interested in the cellphone-sized device.
Discipleship for the Prisoner
The call to “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them…” (Heb. 13:3) is not without challenges for Ann White, who uses a specially modified device called the Messenger Freedom to disciple women in prison. White endures security checkpoints, resistant staff members of correctional facilities, and skeptical inmates in order to share the gospel—the very power of God for salvation. Inside prison walls, White shares her struggles and slowly wins the trust of the women she serves. As they surrender to Christ, she rejoices. “Although they are still incarcerated, their hearts and spirits are freer than they’ve ever been!”
Hope for the Crew Member
The Messenger also enters the busy cargo ports on our country’s northwest border and the southeastern shores of Florida. The Canaveral Port Ministry buses crews from the docks to their hospitality center where they provide hot meals, computer access, transportation into town, and spiritual support. Every day the gospel is shared with those who come to the center, and within a library of gospel materials translated into more than 40 languages, the Messenger is a decidedly high-tech offering for the lonely travelers thousands of miles from their homes in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, and beyond.
Meanwhile, Phil DuFrene brings a hospitality center with him as he boards cargo ships in the Pacific Northwest. He supplies crews with essentials and carries a Wi-Fi router so they can connect with anxious family members back home. DuFrene hosts a short chapel service when he visits, but is always eager to find believers on board. If he can pour encouragement into those individuals, they’ll be equipped to do far more at sea than DuFrene can accomplish in a few short hours with the whole group. The Messenger will accompany these believers—and any others who take the device—as they wrestle with loneliness, concern for loved ones back home, and harmony on the ship.
Companionship for the Hiker
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a 2,180-mile footpath from Georgia to Maine, attracts thousands of short- and long-term hikers, many wrestling with emotional and relational pain they hope will be eased by the mountain air. Gary Longenecker, a production manager at In Touch, who’s been hiking the trail in sections, helped organize a small staff trip to Hiawassee, Georgia, where we served as “trail angels” to hikers as they exited the dense forest to cross a road along the route. Snacks, drinks, and comfort essentials were offered, including a Messenger modified for the hikers.
“By and large, many [through hikers] come to the trail with enormous baggage,” Longenecker said. People are working through personal tragedies, or seismic life changes such as divorce, the death of a loved one, job loss, and indecision about life. “Everybody’s got a story,” said Longenecker, “and those are the people I’ve fallen in love with.” As the day’s hikers pass our table, their eyes brighten and they stop to fill their water bottles. We share why we’re there, and many take a Messenger. Most give us permission to pray for them before they leave, but we silently pray for them all, that the God of hope would fill them with all joy and peace in believing, so that they would “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Goodness and Mercy
No matter the situation and regardless of the struggle, we know that only Jesus Christ can bring unshakable peace and eternal healing. Because this good news is wonderfully powerful, believers in Jesus have stepped into the pain of their neighbors and many are pursuing people in less familiar places—medical centers, prisons, cargo ships, and even in the forest—to share the love that has transformed their lives. They do this by serving, by listening, by speaking, and by sharing resources from our Messenger Lab.
“I am writing to say thank you for the incredible gift of the “In Touch Messenger.” It is so useful and handy in this environment. …Life behind these fences can be loud, trying, and very difficult at times. Being a follower of Christ in here is not the norm, but it is a rich mission field, and I can testify firsthand that it is life changing. The use of the Messenger has given me a way to hear the Word of God in the midst of the chaos; it has provided me with real, in-depth teachings relevant to living the Christian life in the midst of the darkness. It provides light where it is needed the most.” – An inmate in the Georgia prison system
Through your partnership, the good news of Jesus Christ is going where it’s needed most. Through the tools of the Messenger Lab, we’re reaching the lost, making disciples, and equipping pastors and Christian leaders as they obey the Great Commission.
Photography by Joshua Howard, Audra Melton, and Ben Rollins