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c hApter F our poor Are your Sheep

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (matthew 9:36)

Question: Who are your sheep?

There was no turning back In April 1998, during morning worship service, I announced my decision to the congregation to resign as pastor, effective in June. I told them I was leaving to begin a ministry to the poor. There was no turning back now. Then the depression began. I had trouble getting out of bed and did not want to see anyone. I made an appointment with a local doctor to determine what was wrong. After our discussion, he prescribed medication for depression. However, I felt even worse a month later. As the date approached for me to leave my position as pastor, the more depressed and defeated I felt. We had signed a contract for the new home, secured a loan and cleared the land on the farm where I grew up in Virginia. During the next few months, there were many changes that occurred, which only worsened the depression. My wife and I had secured a loan for our new home, which was to be built on my family’s farm. In June 1998, Jackie and I moved into my brother’s basement while our house was under construction. To afford this new home, I took a part-time appointment at a small country I DID It HIs Way


church. Being closer to family was wonderful. Even though our new living space was smaller than what we were used to, I loved being with my brother, his wife and son. Also, my mother’s basement apartment was the site of the office for our new ministry. I could see my Mom every day – she even fixed my lunch! Everything was in place, but I could not shake the constant depression, which also caused physical pain. My bones ached. The pills were not working. Depression had consumed my life and I felt that I could not fully concentrate on the work God had given me. I loved establishing the new gleaning ministry, but leaving a beautiful church, giving up a great salary, moving with my wife to a basement apartment and losing touch with people who had needed my guidance made me feel like a failure. I have always been a “people person” and enjoy having people around. This gleaning ministry was brand new, and I was the only employee. I was lonely, scared and dealing with an entirely new situation. I contacted a friend of mine, who is the most intelligent person I know, and asked him what could be wrong with me. He said, “I don’t know what your problem is. You asked for this and now you are depressed. Normally, when we get what we ask for, it makes us happy.” “You have lost your sheep” In August 1998, I was continuing to see my doctor, who offered to place me on long-term disability. I told him I did not want to go on disability at that time, but wanted to keep the option open. Suddenly, I began to cry. “What do you think is wrong with me?” I asked. My doctor put his notebook down, looked straight into my eyes 34

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and said: “Since you were young, you have had one calling—taking care of others. Now you are driving a truck picking up supplies. I am not trying to be Biblical, but you have lost your sheep. When you find them, this depression will lift.” I thought about his comment for a few minutes and asked the obvious question. “Who are my sheep?” I knew my problem was not about driving a truck compared with being a pastor. I loved driving and the long hours on the road. The stress was less, driving the truck was fun and the exercise of loading and unloading the supplies was great. However, there was something missing. At night, the darkness came to visit and nothing could make it leave. Without a change, I knew the depression would get worse. My question still hung in the air, so I asked again. “Who are my sheep?” Dr. Scott thought for a while, then gave me a brilliant answer. “The poor are your sheep now,” he said. “They do not have a voice. They are lonely and hungry. Few people really care whether they live or die.” He continued, “No government agency is going to be there long-term. Even many churches will not allow them to be members.” What came out of his mouth next went right to my heart. “The poor are your sheep now, and there are very few shepherds who care enough to help them.” After leaving the doctor’s office, I went home and cried and prayed for hours. Then an amazing thing happened; I literally felt the depression lift, and I had absolute knowledge that it was gone. I took my medication for depression and threw it away, knowing that it was no longer necessary. I finally realized what I had been missing - people. I had gone from leading a congregation of many people to leading no one. I DID It HIs Way


My doctor’s words were sinking in. The poor were now my sheep, my “congregation” if you will. I began to more fully comprehend the depth of the ministry to which God had called me. I was called not just to a cause—but to people in need. Once I had this epiphany and embraced it, the depression lifted. Occasionally, I will feel mildly depressed at times, but I have come to realize that is when I forget that God is in control and that he is the One who makes miracles happen. The gleaning ministry takes shape After I realized that I was a shepherd to the poor, the ministry really began to take shape. As I began to nail down some of the specifics of how the ministry would work, I received clear direction from the Lord that our ministry to the poor would be different from other ministries. Instead of having people on site doing the hard work of saving lives and saving souls, we would be working hard to salvage supplies and products to send to people in desperate need. We started small, but in a matter of time we began to do our gleaning from a number of businesses, government agencies, factories, hospitals and department stores. We began to see God provide many valuable items for us to ship to people in need. Through His blessing, we were able to bring in useful, life-saving supplies that would have ended up in a landfill or even destroyed, had we not taken the time to go get them. But because we did, many people were going to have a chance at a better life. The ministry goes global The ministry that I had envisioned and had described to my wife was a part-time ministry which provided supplies for homeless 36

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shelters, centers for abused women and people in poverty in the United States. My plans were regional at most, certainly not international. You see, I am not a world traveler. By 1998, I had only visited five states in America in my entire life. I had never even flown in a commercial aircraft, much less traveled internationally. I am a homebody at heart, and love to be home at night with my family, secure in my own environment. But God isn’t concerned about our comfort. He is concerned about our commitment to Him and our fellow man. I did not know it at the time, but God had a plan to take us international. The first large donation of supplies we received came from Halifax Memorial Hospital in Halifax, Virginia. The hospital’s materials manager had heard me speak at a church about Gleaning’s ministry in April1998. At the end of the service, he met me at the door to tell me that his hospital had collected a warehouse full of used beds, gurneys, exam tables and other hospital equipment. We could have anything we wanted. The next day, I met him at this three-story warehouse and could not believe that 12,000 square feet could hold everything I saw stored there. There was only one problem with this amazing donation we were about to receive. The beds, gurneys, exam tables and other supplies were older equipment and used; therefore, they could not be used in U.S. hospitals. It had never occurred to me before this point that our supplies would go anywhere but the U.S. I contacted a few friends, and found that they knew of a ministry in Texas. This ministry wanted everything we had for a medical ministry they were establishing in North Korea. The president of the Texas-based ministry had traveled to North Korea and worked out an agreement with the government to open a I DID It HIs Way


seven-story hospital and a four-story dental clinic. Since North Korea is not an approved government for American nonprofits to work in, sending supplies to this hospital had to be approved by the U.S. State Department. Once we secured that approval, which was accompanied by their offer to pay for the shipping, we were able to ship those supplies to the Christian ministry in North Korea. Now we had our product, a market for the product, and a chance to help open the only Western-style hospital in Communist North Korea.

Supplies from Gleaning For The World being delivered in Guatemala.

Just like that, God took Gleaning global. However, getting the supplies out of the warehouse and shipped to North Korea was to be a difficult process. Since the equipment had been stored for years, we had to take it down a freight elevator, wash it clean and load it into a 53-foot truck. It was summertime; the temperature on the third floor of 38

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the warehouse was over a hundred degrees with no breeze. With an army of volunteers we could have handled one truckload a day, working twelve hours a day. Unfortunately, I did not have an army of volunteers, but I did have one teenage boy, who volunteered and worked like a grown man, helping me load and unload supplies. Together, we cleaned, loaded and inventoried five 53foot trucks of supplies and four 24-foot trucks of equipment out of that three-story warehouse. It took many days, but knowing that a hospital in North Korea would be happily receiving and using the equipment made it all worth it. When God provides a product, He already has a place for it Soon after we had cleaned and loaded the tractor-trailers from Halifax Hospital, I got a call from a man at a local company. I had known him at my last church as a wonderful guy and a leader in the early service. His job was to pray for the offering, but there was a major problem. He talked so softly that no one could hear his prayers, so I asked him one morning if he could speak up so we could hear him. His response was typical. “When I bless the offering I am not talking to you,” he said. “God hears it and the rest just have to wait until I finish.” The company he worked with had four tractor-trailer loads of a cleansing product in Italy. This product was worth almost $1 million, but it had to leave Italy. It could be used anywhere else in the world; it was free and had good dating—so I took it. I have to admit that geography was not my strongest subject. I had to get a globe to find out where Italy is located. Later, when my brother asked me what I had gleaned that day, I told him about the cleansing product from Italy. He was curious how we were going to find a recipient for it. I told him, “I have learned that I DID It HIs Way


When we visited the coast of Sri Lanka, a small girl walked beside me the whole time and asked many questions. Where we were standing, the water from the Tsunami had been twenty feet high. She had lost her family and still wanted to learn and be loved

when God provides a product, He already has a place for it.� That is God’s job; my job is to find out where He wants the product sent. About an hour later, I received a call from the Texas ministry that had been instrumental in placing our first international shipment. I had sent out an email to several of my contacts that a cleansing product was available in Italy, but must be sent elsewhere. We discovered that this cleansing product had a high alcohol content. Every product has a primary use for which it is manufactured, but may be used for other purposes, depending on the ingredients. The challenge is finding out what these additional 40

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uses could be. We had researched the product and had an idea. In North Korea, they do not have a preoperative scrub to clean the skin before surgery. As a result, the infection rate is horrible; more people die from infections than from surgery. This cleansing product was approved to ship from Italy to North Korea to be used as a preoperative scrub. Now who, other than God, can take a product manufactured in Italy, arranged for shipment through a company located in Virginia, and send it to North Korea so that people can have a higher rate of survival after surgery? God can make anything happen This is when I first started to realize that God can make anything happen if we will stop being hard-headed, listen to Him and follow His calling for what he wants us to do. Many more of

During the visit to Haiti, Rev. Davidson met this small five-year-old girl. Most orphans had not seen a white man before, much less one that knew how to play. I DID It HIs Way


God’s children could be blessed if we would just open our eyes and see the needs of the people around us. I was setting up a nonprofit, Christian ministry for the poor in the United States, but in thirty days it became an international ministry changing the lives of thousands of people in North Korea. Soon, we were shipping supplies to the Republic of Georgia, then the Congo and dozens of other countries. In those early days, I realized God had used someone who had never flown on a commercial airplane, had not previously known where North Korea or Italy were located on a map, and had no idea how to ship supplies overseas. This was not a very impressive resume, but God had led me to care for the sheep I never knew existed.


I DID It HIs Way