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Faithful servants

Published 7:59pm Saturday, June 15, 2013

When most of us see news accounts of natural disasters and grinding poverty in remote foreign places, there’s a moment of sadness for the victims, perhaps a quick prayer lifted for their recovery, and then we move on with our lives. Sometimes we’re moved to the point of sending a check to some relief organization or another in hopes they’ll be able to help folks rebuild or improve their situations. And then we move on with our lives.

For people like Linwood Cook, former pastor of Magnolia United Methodist Church in Suffolk, moving on is not so easy to do. For Cook and many others around the city, hearts for missions and love for people they’ve never met from places they’ve never been translate into actions far more personal than simply writing a check.

In 1998, when Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras, a Central American nation that already suffered from abject poverty, Cook went there as part of the relief effort.

During that visit, he saw how desperately the nation needed help, and he convinced the Methodist Church to appoint him as an extension minister to Honduras. In 2000, he won approval from the IRS to operate a nonprofit organization, the Friends of Barnabas Foundation, which today provides the primary source of medical care and education to the Honduran communities it serves.

Volunteer medical teams now head into the mountain villages 11 times a year — once a month except for December — and provide medical care. They work with 25 villages, and each team visits five villages during their trip.

Cook’s foundation is just one example of the work that faith-based organizations are doing around the world to help change the lives of people for whom that change sometimes is the difference between life and death. Other individuals and groups have spent time recently or will be spending time soon in Haiti, in Africa and in other parts of the world, most of which have never even heard of Virginia, much less Suffolk.

For Christians, the mission trips are a response to the commands of Jesus Christ that his followers love their neighbors and go and make disciples among the nations. For Christians, the sacrificial love of people giving up their lives — even for a limited time — to go and serve others is a reflection of the love Jesus showed, and the acts of service offer opportunities to spread the Gospel.

Whatever the reasons that drive such people to make such sacrifices, the Spirit of love and peace they embody in doing so is the kind of spirit that changes the world — one starving child, one sick mother, one spiritually dead father, one homeless family and one waterless village at a time.

God bless these men and women for their faithful service.

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