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Moved by hungry Nicaraguan kids, Trussville Xerox serviceman decides to do somethingcomment (0)

July 30, 2009

By Grace Thornton

Was it the starving children in Nicaragua who first got to Mike Jones, who gave him a heart for missions?
No — oh, no.

They’ve stolen his heart in recent years, sure. But it was a steady job with Xerox that got the ball rolling and a trip to Japan with a black gospel choir that got his blood pumping.

He’s been to Honduras, the Philippines and Ecuador. He’s acquired old printing presses from donors to send overseas to create jobs. He’s helped start a home for orphans and shipped food to hundreds of thousands of hungry children.

And when Jones talks about these “works of God,” his grin is as broad as his ministry palette.

“I took my first missions trip in 1986, and ever since then, I’ve had a real desire to go serve,” said Jones, a member of First Baptist Church, Trussville, in Birmingham Baptist Association (BBA). “God’s always put missions on my heart — I love it.”

More than 30 years as a Xerox serviceman have earned him all kinds of freedom to go. He gets eight weeks of paid vacation a year.

But the job also has given Jones the liberty to stay. A flexible schedule lets him spend time hanging around Daniel Cason Ministries in downtown Birmingham, a sprawling building filled with food and clothing banks, multiple worship rooms, a soup kitchen and, tucked away on the top floor, a room labeled “New Hope Against Hunger.”

That’s where the Nicaraguan children come in.

Back in 1998, when Daniel Cason came through a Judgement House at First, Trussville, he met Jones and asked him if the church could do a similar drama at his ministry center.

Jones agreed wholeheartedly, though he laughs about it today.

“That Judgement House still hasn’t happened, but it’s still on my heart. We’re going to do it one day,” Jones said.

But it’s not as if the two haven’t been busy doing other things together. Jones helped with the kids’ camps at Cason’s ministry center for a while and then something magical happened — Cason invited him to go on a trip to El Crucero, Nicaragua, in 2005.

There, he met the children of More Than Conquerors Institute, a Christian school for more than 500 children in the area. The school was doing incredible ministry in the community but there was still a problem, Jones said. “We found out that sometimes kids weren’t coming to school for weeks at a time because they hadn’t eaten in a couple of weeks. There was a real need for food.”

Since then, nothing has been the same — especially not his bill for postage.

It wasn’t long after that trip that he became director of New Hope Against Hunger for Central Alabama, an effort that links an Iowa-based food collection ministry, Kids Against Hunger, with the foundation that runs the school.

Kids Against Hunger provides him with hundreds of thousands of packaged meals at a time, and then Jones is in charge of shipping them to the people in Nicaragua who need them.

“Right now, we’ve got more than 213,000 meals ready to ship,” he said, noting that this shipment will push the total number of meals given through New Hope Against Hunger over the 1 million mark.

But that’s not the most important number to him. The little numbers are the ones Jones is more excited about — the 990 boxes, each containing 36 bags filled with six meals each that can be divided up and handed out to 213,840 individuals.

“We have 135 feeding centers in Nicaragua, and most of these are churches,” said Jones, who does all his work with the organization on a volunteer basis. “The need is so great that when the children come home with food, the men oftentimes come back to the church to ask questions about what’s going on. This gives the churches an open door to reach the men.”

In addition to the handouts, the children are getting fed at school. They receive one meal each day of rice, beans and other nutritional items.

That makes Jones smile — that and the other things happening through the school’s umbrella organization, New Hope Children’s Foundation, founded by J. David Ford of Tennessee.

In the last several years, the organization not only started the school and the feeding centers but also has hosted medical teams for three months each year, provided an orphan home for children affected by Hurricane Felix and with help from the Venezuelan military, airlifted provisions into areas damaged by natural disasters.

“And we’re dreaming of more, too,” Jones said.

Those connected with the foundation already are working to start a vocational school to teach English, computer skills and more.

The idea first started as a way to help graduates of the Christian school find jobs but it quickly became a way to reach out to government officials, Jones said. “The government asked if their teachers could take classes, and the police chief asked if his officers could, too, and it just kept progressing from there.”

Jones is hoping to ship those printing presses to Nicaragua, too, as another avenue to train people in the vocational school and a way to provide jobs.

But for now, he’s focusing on sending that next shipment of food, which is packed and waiting at Daniel Cason Ministries. Each shipment costs about $5,000 to send, and all of the funds come from donations from churches and individuals.

New Hope Against Hunger’s first shipment was mailed in July 2007 with a single $5,000 donation from BBA after Mike McLemore, the executive director of missions, was “moved” during a benefit concert for the ministry and knew the association needed to help.

Jones loves moments like that when others can get a glimpse of what the ministry can provide for the hurting in Nicaragua. But he feels he’s got the most wonderful viewpoint of all.

“I’m one of the only ones who gets to see it from start to finish. I’ve seen the church people pack it up in Iowa, and I’ve seen an elderly lady (in Nicaragua) carrying a box of food away on top of her head and a horse carrying another one to a remote village,” Jones said. “You just can’t beat that kind of blessing.”

For more information about New Hope Against Hunger, visit newhopeagainsthunger.org. For more information about the foundation and Christian school, visit newhopechildrensfoundation.org.

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