Ministry connects needs, would-be wasted productscomment (0)
July 16, 2009
About 73 million pounds of commercial products that would have been discarded in the United States have escaped the landfill. They’ve been shipped, instead, to some of the world’s neediest to help them become more self-sufficient, thanks to the vision and efforts of Baptist pastor Wendell Mettey.
Mettey created Matthew 25: Ministries in suburban Cincinnati to salvage products that corporations and manufacturers otherwise would throw away, such as slightly distressed or obsolete products and overstock inventory. These items provide the poorest of the poor with basic necessities, educational materials, medical supplies, cleaning supplies and personal care products — both within the U.S. and abroad.
In his book, “Are Not My People Worthy?,” Mettey described his first vision for this ministry, which he experienced in 1980. He saw an expanse of water separating two land masses. He stood alone on one side; on the other was a multitude of people in great pain and poverty, their arms extended toward him. As Mettey turned away from the dreadful sight, he heard a voice say, “Reach out and touch.”
After initially refusing, he finally reached out. “There, in the middle of the water which separated us, we touched. A feeling of peace came over me.”
Nonetheless he continued his career path as a Baptist pastor. About 10 years after first having the vision, Mettey hosted a Nicaraguan doctor in his home. A few months later, he visited the physician in his homeland. He saw hospitals with no antibiotics, pain medication, soap, surgical gowns, mattresses or sheets — basically operating with nothing. “I had never seen such poverty in my life,” he wrote. “It was unimaginable and deeply disturbing.”
On his second trip, he arrived with a microscope on his lap and a 70-pound suitcase of medical supplies.
While continuing to serve as senior pastor of Montgomery Community Baptist Church in a well-to-do Cincinnati suburb, Mettey founded Matthew 25 and began accumulating supplies for Nicaragua. Soon the work overwhelmed him and he resigned his pastorate. Living without a paycheck for 15 months, he used his family’s life savings to pay bills. His wife returned to work to help out.
He no longer had a wealthy church from which to solicit support and volunteers. The enthusiasm of those who first accompanied him to Nicaragua waned, Mettey recalled.
He also needed adequate, affordable space to receive, process and ship supplies to offshore locations. He found various locations during the next decade and often was alone in those warehouses driving the forklift, packaging supplies, offloading trucks and wondering how he would find the transportation and the money needed to ship the supplies.
“There were faith-testing times when I didn’t even know whether Matthew 25: Ministries would stay in existence,” he wrote in the group’s 2006 report.
Often he questioned the sanity of what he was doing, he said. Every time, however, he remembered the children in need. He resolved to keep his dream alive.
Mettey saw education as crucial to the country’s future. In 1992, according to Nicaragua’s minister of education, each teacher in the country was allotted only two pencils and 20 sheets of notebook paper for the entire year. The children received nothing.
Among the important supplies to come through Matthew 25’s warehouse were school materials. Fostering education became an important part of the organization’s program for recipient locations. “Education is not the pathway out of poverty; it is the superhighway out of poverty,” Mettey said.
As the organization grew, people expressed interest in creating a fellowship to coincide with their hands-on humanitarian work. Mettey began offering worship services on Sundays at the organization’s leased warehouses. They called themselves the Church of Matthew 25, and Mettey used his old skills as a pastor to shepherd the new group.
It takes a lot of volunteers to prepare and load the products, and they arrive almost daily at the recently purchased Cintas Processing Center in the Center for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief. During 2008, volunteers logged 19,658 hours preparing goods for shipping to millions of people around the globe.
Mettey can be seen in the center almost daily, although he no longer serves as pastor of the Church of Matthew 25. “Our volunteers are our most valuable resource,” he explained. “I want to make sure they are working efficiently and effectively but also comfortably and healthfully. If we can try something different that will enhance their experience, I want to do that.” (ABP)