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The Online Bridge: Winter 2005
Issue 10, January 2005

Jon Hoffman: Grenada building Trip

I was a student at NABC (Taylor) from 1996 to 2000 . The years I spent at NABC were great times, full of excellent friends, spiritual growth and ministry. But, I must admit that it wasn’t until I came to NAIT that I learned to study and get good marks. I am in my 2 nd year at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and will finish my accounting diploma this semester. After graduation, I will pursue the Certified Management Accountant designation.

Just after school I married my, shall I say, college sweetheart Donloree Dickau. Donloree and I attended Urbana 2000 (a huge mission’s conference near Chicago) with Michael, Jen and Christa. As I thought about missions and ministry I really felt that I needed a skill – through this God began to show me how I could use business and accounting to further his Kingdom. It took me three years to “figure myself out”, before I returned to school, during that time I had some construction jobs and served tables.

I heard about the opportunity in Grenada, organized by Samaritan’s Purse from my friend Paul Weinmaster, just two weeks before he was to leave. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief development organization commonly known for their Operation Christmas Child campaign. I was inspired to inquire about going because Donloree thought we could both go . I was surprised because I knew we couldn’t afford the $2400 fee needed in a few days or the time to leave work/school for nine days.

       

In the end, my brother Chris and I decided to go and Donloree stayed home due to other commitments. Though we were too late in registering to go with Paul, it worked out to see him for 15 minutes in Grenada because our trips overlapped. Another motivation for going was that in the last 3 years I have been interested in relief development, learning about opportunities to help poor countries through micro-enterprise. I knew this trip’s objective was building, but it was the perfect opportunity to see relief development in action.

The next step was to come up with a way to raise funds in a short time period. I had a number of ideas, selling my photography or repairing homes damaged from the flood Edmonton had in August, but quickly realized that I would have to sell of a lot of photography and I am not extremely handy. After more thought I realized that one thing I could do was run. Donloree’s grandfather, who lives in Wetaskiwin was celebrating his 80 th birthday, so I decided to collect pledges and run from Edmonton to Wetaskiwin on November 7, 2004.

My first plan of action was to announce the run at church on Sunday morning. Some laughed; others were excited about helping and collecting pledges. With people willing to collect pledges, I was blessed to have my brother-in-law, Justin Dickau – a graphic designer, create something professional. Many friends, family, teachers at NAIT, co-workers from Revenue Canada and friends from my running club took pledge sheets and returned them with an overwhelming response.

I was running out of time and realized I needed a drop-off spot for efficiency with pledges. I went to the bank, and they were very supportive, but it would take 30 days to set up an account. As a last resort, I called the local Christian radio station (105.9 Shine FM) and talked to the sales manager, who was very excited about what I was doing. He wanted to put me on the radio. It was not my intention to be on the radio when I called and definitely not my personality, but I had to lay that aside and be obedient to what God was doing. That Friday morning I was on two morning radio shows. Later I received a call from a radio station that I had never heard of (CFCW) to do an interview in the school library. I was able to share how God was going ahead of me.

 
       

I had a lot of support the day of the run as my church, friends and family were praying for me and my wife came along with a support vehicle. The day was colder than it had been all week. I thought it would warm up, but it became windy and in the last hour began snowing. God was so faithful all day to provide strength, joy and reminders of the beauty of his creation. I must confess that I felt like Forest Gump when some cows took off running faster than me and passed a donkey staring at me.

       

Near the start of the run, A Channel news (a local TV station) came out to film my progress and interview my wife. I was unsure what to do about video cameras on the side of the road, so I kept running. An hour later as I went down a hill, I was surprised to see more media. CFRN (another local TV Station) was more persistent in their approach. They insisted on driving beside me while I ran to get answers to their questions. I decided to talk to them while I walked up a steep hill. My biggest challenge was to not lose my mind from boredom. I was blessed when Jeff Dyer arrived to run and chat with me for the last 16 km.

After 4 hours, 45 minutes and 48 kilometres we made it to the water tower in Wetaskiwin and finished the journey.

Less than a week later, I arrived in Grenada. The conditions in Grenada are varied, as there rich and poor are living side by side. Most homes lost their roofs and some homes and businesses were completely destroyed. It was tragic to see how a country once lush with rainforests and a thriving spice industry, has been stripped of its natural resources. To our prairie standards it looks very green, but it will take many years for crops like nutmeg to fully come back. The poorest people are living under whatever they can find to construct a shelter until help comes to build a house.

       
 

My team went to a poor area where all of the people are living in a community center until homes are built. It was sad to see so many young single moms struggling to provide for their families, yet still full of joy and thankfulness.

Because of my experience in Grenada God showed me how important it is to live outside of my comfort zone, that is the place I totally depend on God to provide and lead me – and he is so faithful. I never felt that I was doing anything significant; I just felt I needed to be obedient in little decisions. It was phenomenal how he provided the people that I needed for every circumstance. Looking back, most of them were alumni of NABC, Jeremy Putz and Kristi Slavens helped me with the media, Tim Magee (former top-notch men’s basketball coach) organized the details for my run and so many friends from school that prayed for my journey and gave financially.

Since coming back to Alberta, I feel that God has used me to make others aware of missions and inspire them to get involved. It can be simple things, even choosing a country to learn about and pray for, getting to know an international student or exploring a first time short-term mission trip.

Please feel free to visit http://grenada.cubeinc.net/ for pictures of Grenada and my experience.