Baby steps to the mission field

By June 14, 2013

USA (MNN) — We tell you stories all the time about groups who are meeting physical needs all over the world. A team will typically arrive on the ground, set up, and start a distribution of goods.

Ever wonder how those goods get packed? Global Aid Network (GAiN USA) takes some of the mystery out of that. As the relief and development aid arm of Campus Crusade for Christ International, GAiN's ministry spans the globe helping to meet physical needs in areas of poverty and despair, and providing hope through evangelistic outreach.

All of their aid is packed by volunteers. Easy enough, until you start thinking of the volume they distribute in a year: 8,000+ pounds of used clothing, 34,000+ pounds of new clothing, nearly 169,000 pounds of rice and bean meals, hundreds of boxes of medical supplies, nearly 14,000 pairs of shoes, Care Packs, Harvester Packs, Gospel Aprons, bracelets, and more.

How many volunteers would that take? If you look at last year's aid levels, it would take over three thousand volunteers to pack all those goods about five days. That's a logistical nightmare, right?

Not really, answers Steve Watson, director of relief and development for GAiN USA. Next week, starting Tuesday, June 18, they're going to throw the doors open at their Distribution Center in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and welcome thousands of volunteers.

After a short tour of the facility, a brief rundown on the ministry, and a short training session, the teams are organized on a project and put to work. The enthusiasm spreads quickly, and he says, "For a week, we just pack everything we can pack. So we will wind up with 20,000 Gospel bead bracelets, thousands of CarePacks, thousands of pounds of food, and it's just amazing to see."

GAiN says there's something for people of all ages to do. They're encouraging families to join them, too. The materials being packed are destined for use supporting evangelistic work, but, Watson says, that's not the only place it happens. "The interesting thing is that we have people come in with school groups, or some are camp groups and things like that, some of whom are not believers. Throughout the day, they hear how we take the aid and share the Gospel."

They also have break times and tell the stories of the people who receive the aid the groups are packing. That, too, has results. "We actually share the Gospel throughout the day, and I've heard people who have come and have become believers while they're there."

Some people use the packing event as a family vacation. For others, it's a way to explore the world of missions. Watson explains, "People have that tug, but sometimes they're reluctant to go to Africa, or to Central America, or outside of their comfort zone. This is a way you can come in and do something tangible that isn't necessarily hard."

From there, he says, more than one volunteer has begun the journey of a lifetime. He recalled one volunteer who worked up the courage to go on a short-term trip after her involvement with the GAiN packing event. Since then, she's more than overcome her reluctance to go overseas, and has participated on eight trips outside of the United States.

Are you feeling that tug? Interested in giving the packing event a try? It starts June 18 and runs through June 22. You can register here.

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