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Churches learn to spread the wealth
When disaster strikes, the needs of many must also be balanced with ongoing efforts
Building a church in Zambia was a “growing experience” for Gainesville resident Mark Papp.
2010 World Mission Conference
What: Workshops, music, worship services and exhibits focusing on world missions
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 800 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville
When: Today-Sunday
More info: 770-532-0136

Every day, mission groups, nonprofit organizations and churches have to create a budget that divvies up donation dollars into equally needy places.

These groups have to somehow decide which needs are most important — from rebuilding an earthquake-ravaged country like Haiti to building African villagers a church, along with other desperate needs worldwide.

“There’s a lot of needs throughout the world and I think that if just each one of us responds to a need as we are called, then his plan is being worked out,” said Mark Papp, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville who has served as a missionary in Zambia with The Outreach Foundation.

Beginning today, First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville will set out, for the 11th year, to raise funds for about 10 mission organizations that provide Christian volunteers all over the world.

But this year there is a special focus on Haiti and rebuilding and recovery efforts in the devastated country.

“Our church took up a special collection for Haiti,” said Jack Hope, a member at First Presbyterian and a volunteer with the World Mission Conference. “It’s open to people that want to help out with Haiti relief and we wanted them to do it through the church. That way they would get credit for it and we could funnel the money through our two particular charities.”

Hope said on the first day of the conference the church will hand out two checks to the two organizations, in addition to the total goal for the weekend.

“We have a missions goal committee, consisting of five or six people, and then we decide first what our goal is going to be,” he said. “A couple of the big pieces of the goal goes to the Haiti Education Foundation. We have always given them like $20,000; that hasn’t changed. And the other one is our Outreach Foundation, which also gets a $20,000 donation.”

The rest of the money raised goes to the other organizations included in the conference.

“Then we have others such as Son Servants, Wycliffe Bible Translators and Solid Rock Missions. This has been set up for 11 years and we try to stick with it.

This year the total goal for donations to all of the organizations is $85,500.

“We had to cut our goal back this year,” Hope said. “Last year our goal was $95,000 ... in hard economic times we didn’t feel like we could ask people to give more than last year.”

But to the Rev. Hal Lowder Jr., president of Eagle Watch Catastrophe Services, the need in Haiti is so great that he has made it his personal mission to commit himself to the island country for the next five years.

“I have a contact on the ground, so that’s how we are able to get in and out,” said Lowder, a Flowery Branch resident and member of The Rock Church, Flowery Branch. “It’s chaos down there ... It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to Katrina, went to Hugo, I’ve been to floods — this was worse than Kuwait during the war. We are really rebuilding from scratch. Pictures don’t do it justice.”

But across the Atlantic Ocean, needs are great in places like Zambia. That’s where Mark Papp, a Gainesville resident and member of First Presbyterian, spent more than a month helping to build a church.

“Back at a World Mission Conference in 2006 my wife and I were listening to a sermon at our church ... and we felt like we felt a calling,” he said. “The message was that there are people out in the congregation that could go and actually go and build a new church. We felt it and my wife and I chatted and no more than about four months later, we found ourselves in Zambia, Africa. It was really quite something; it was a true calling.”

By the time Papp left Zambia, a new church had been built in a small village.

“We went to an outlying village and they had been worshipping around a few rocks on top of a hill, and they had been praying for a miracle that they would actually have a church building,” Papp said. “We actually worshipped under the roof before we left.”
The end result, he said, benefitted everyone involved.

“It has been a growing experience for my wife and I ... you really walk away from the experience being filled with rich blessings for yourself.”

Papp said we can’t be all things to everyone, but we all can take part.

“All of us can’t do everything, but each one of us has been given time and talents and opportunities to take part in his great plan,” he said. “He uses negative things in our world to bring us back to him, and I think that he of course knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s not always for us to know.”