My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership is an agency of the Diocese of West Tennessee that began in 2005 as an initial commitment of the Rev. Joe Porter and Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis. During the 29th Annual Convention of the Diocese of West Tennessee in 2010, a presentation and resolution about the new relationship as companion dioceses was offered and unanimously approved. Since then, it has grown into a diocesan-wide effort, with commitment to help the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti expressed in five ways: education, food, healthcare, learning and water. The purpose of the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership is to bring hope and healing to the poor children of St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port au Prince, Haiti. The center has children who suffer from physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or missing limbs or other crippling physical deformity. The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership sends medical teams twice a year to provide medical care to the children and staff, supporting the established clinic run by local Haitian doctors and nurses. Since the devastating earthquake of January 2010, the partnership’s work in Haiti is more important than ever.
The Forsaken Children traces its beginnings back to 2005 when current Executive Director Joe Bridges and Michael Granger traveled to Ethiopia on a short-term mission trip. They were shocked to see thousands of children living on the streets in the capital, Addis Ababa. They felt convicted to do something to not only provide shelter and love for these street children, but also to share the message and lasting hope of Jesus Christ with them. They met an Ethiopian man named Nega Meaza and Michael, Joe, and Nega sat down for what is now known as The Forsaken Children’s first meeting. At the end of this meeting, a commitment to the street children of Ethiopia was established. In 2006, the team grew to include Joe’s wife, Karyn. Joe and Karyn spent three months training in Addis Ababa, while also working with Nega to establish the mission and vision of the ministry. During this trip, the Ethiopian non-government organization for street child restoration was founded by Nega and five other Ethiopians in Addis Ababa. This organization became The Forsaken Children’s first partner and continues to be the hands and feet of its ministry on the ground, working to share lasting hope with street children and the community around them. The partnership with Nega, director of on the ground ministry efforts and staff, has helped this Ethiopian run project reach children in the impoverished area known as Lideta within Addis Ababa and now children in the rural community of Dorsi. Many of these beneficiaries have been rescued from the streets, placed in, or have remained in families due to the street child restoration ministry interventions. In 2008, Jonathan and Jessica Bridges joined The Forsaken Children team as the Sustainability Coordinator to create the Kota Ganate Agricultural Project. This project, a working farm in Chencha, is moving toward supporting the street child restoration ministry from within Ethiopia, ultimately leading the charge for project sustainability.
The Gideons International is an association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through sharing personally and by providing Bibles and New Testaments. While they are known worldwide for their work with hotels, they predominantly share Scriptures in schools and colleges, prisons and jails, hospitals, and medical offices. Founded in Wisconsin in 1899, The Gideons International is the oldest association of Christian businessmen and professional men in the USA. In 1898, John H. Nicholson of Janesville came to the Central Hotel at Boscobel for a night. The hotel being crowded, it was suggested that he take a bed in a double room with Samuel E. Hill of Beloit. The two men discovered that both were Christians. They had their evening devotions together, and on their knees before God the thoughts were given which later developed into an association. The two men met again at Beaver Dam, where they concluded to band Christian commercial travelers together for mutual recognition, personal evangelism, and united service for the Lord. They decided to call a meeting in Janesville, Wisconsin on July 1, 1899, in the Y.M.C.A. Only three men were present at that meeting: John H. Nicholson, Samuel E. Hill, and Will J. Knights. They organized with Hill as president, Knights as vice president, and Nicholson as secretary and treasurer. After prayer that God might lead them to select a name, Knights arose from his knees and said, “We shall be called Gideons.” He read the sixth and seventh chapters of Judges and showed the reason for adopting that name. Almost all of the Gideons in the early years of the association were traveling men. The question arose regarding how they might be more effective witnesses in the hotels where they spent so much of their time. One trustee suggested that the Gideons furnish a Bible for each bedroom of the hotels in the USA. This plan, which they called “The Bible Project,” was adopted at Louisville, Kentucky in 1908.