If someone would have told me eleven years ago that, by 2014, Heaven’s Family would grow into the ministry it has since become, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Back then, our staff consisted of myself and my oldest daughter, Charity. Today, Heaven’s Familyhas a staff of 21 full- and part-time God-called servants.
Back then, we were involved in only one area of ministry, namely, leadership training. Today we’re involved in a significant range of ministries, from orphan care to disaster relief to agricultural education to reaching unreached people groups.
Back then, we had a small group of supporters who all knew me personally. Our first year’s income was about $80,000. Last year, 1,500 people from 33 countries collectively entrusted Heaven’s Family with almost $1.9 million dollars. Some of those countries where those contributors live are surprising, like Papua New Guinea, India, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Madagascar, and Croatia.
From the start, we’ve targeted tough places. One of the first countries where we engaged was Myanmar, then ruled by a military junta. When I visited, their police watched me closely and harassed our partners.
It wasn’t long before we began working in all the world’s remaining communist nations, namely Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos. Then we added other restricted nations such as Pakistan, war-torn regions like Sierra Leone, and deeply-impoverished countries such as Haiti.
This year, we don’t intend to retreat from hard places, but rather, advance. In January, along with staff member David Warnock, director of our Persecuted Christians Fund, I attended an invitation-only gathering of hundreds of Christian leaders from across North Africa and the Middle East. Those leaders are working in the most difficult places of the world, and with the friendships David and I forged at those gatherings, Heaven’s Family is now beginning to form some strategic partnerships.
New Staff Members
I’m happy to report that two new talented people have recently joined our staff. Dan Steward is taking an early retirement from IBM to take the directorship of our Micro-Loan Fund. As Vice President of Distribution Sector Growth for IBM, Dan traveled all over the world, and he and his wife Terry lived in China for several years. (Terry joined our staff last year, and directs our Christian Widows Fund.) Dan has already traveled with Heaven’s Family staff twice to Cuba, as well as to Rwanda, Kenya, DR Congo and Uganda. I’m thankful that the Lord has sent him to us at this time, and thankful that Dick Samuels, who has taken our Micro-Loan Fund so far in the past two years, will now be able to fully focus on his passion to direct our Farming God’s Way Fund.
Also joining our staff, but in a part-time capacity, is Ben Croft, who will work remotely from Colorado. Ben will be assuming directorship of our North Korean Christians Fund (formerly directed by my daughter, Elisabeth, who is having her first baby next month). Ben is very qualified for the job, as he has been serving North Korean Christians for seven years with one of our partner ministries. Newly married, Ben is also an accomplished singer/song writer and an avid outdoor enthusiast (but I don’t understand why he prefers Colorado over Pennsylvania).
More than ever, we’re taking advantage of technology. For example, we’ve begun making available some of the books I’ve written over the years as free e-books through Amazon.com. In the past nine months, more than 30,000 people have downloaded at least one of them.
Along those same lines, we offer free subscriptions to three daily e-devotionals. They are HeavenWord Daily, Family-Style Devotions, and our video devotional, HeavenWord 7. More than 4,450 people are currently subscribed to at least one of those.
We also recently received a one-year grant from Google worth $120,000 in “AdWords” advertising. That grant will enable us to tell thousands of caring believers how Heaven’s Family can link them to suffering saints.
Last year, our website traffic at HeavensFamily.org and ShepherdServe.org grew by 50%. We had 1.3 million unique page views from visitors from all but three of the world’s nations—North Korea, Western Sahara and Iceland. Incidentally, most all of this “new technology” has been developed because of gifts to our General Fund.
Our Greatest Current Need
It looks as if, before long, we’re going to have to move our offices. We’ve run out of space. Beyond that, our landlord is raising our rent and requiring us to sign another three-year lease. Please pray with us about that.
2014 is full of wonderful possibilities, all orchestrated by our wonderful God. We are honored to serve Him with you!