Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Feeding His Sheep

istock_000008380994smallJohn and Mary Murphy's vision to feed the poor grew into a worldwide hunger relief ministry in just seven years. Their recipe for helping people in need could work for your church.

Forklifts cruise down the warehouse aisles, their distinctive sounds warning workers and visitors alike of their presence. Several women stand at waist-high tables, packing cartons with groceries as the temperature in the building rises to its typical, uncomfortable Florida high. In the office area, the phone never seems to stop ringing. All around people are in constant motion--a group from Virginia, here for the last several days to observe the operation, leaves as a half-dozen or so people arrive to shop at what appears to be a company store.

But this is no busy supermarket warehouse. This is "God's storehouse," headquarters for Harvest Time International (HTI), a food distribution ministry that helps alleviate hunger for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. From this unassuming structure in an Orlando-area industrial park, a staff of 20, bolstered by the invaluable help of countless volunteers, oversees the ship-ping of tons of food, personal hygiene products, clothing and household goods to needy people in the United States and abroad.

It's also a far cry from the pickup truck John Murphy used to use to distribute food to the hungry. That was a mere seven years ago, when Murphy would preach and hand out food to vagrants in a crime-ridden, drug-infested park in a Washington, D.C., suburb. Little did he know then that the seed of compassion God had planted in his heart would blossom into a full-time ministry within a few short years.

But it did, though not without the struggles and lessons that often accompany God's work. At the start, Murphy, at the time a prominent builder, had to lose every last shred of dependence on man, including himself.

"When he first received the vision for this ministry, John was thinking his millions would accomplish it," says his wife, Mary. "But then the recession hit and depleted us of all our money." The couple lost their home and cars, and Murphy started a small house-painting business. Still, he did not lose sight of the vision.

In the meantime, the Murphys had become connected with the World Outreach Center near Orlando, which Benny Hinn pastored at the time. In 1994 a pastor on Hinn's staff called late one night to ask how soon the Murphys could relocate to Orlando. They left immediately and began distributing food locally from the church's parking lot.

In 1996 the Murphys moved the ministry to a 2,000-square-foot facility; their current warehouse provides 45,000 square feet of storage space. The ministry now distributes product throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Asia.

REACHING OUT

The Murphys attribute that kind of growth to two factors: (1) God's favor; and (2) the networking relationships they have with dozens of similar ministries.

"We see Harvest Time as part of an end-time Joseph ministry that's helping to fulfill Isaiah 58, God's chosen fast, with the promise of walking in Psalm 37," Mary says in describing the mandate they believe God has given them. "When God called us into this, we began to meet people who had the same mandate from God.

"He began to show all of us that as we give product to the needy--product that we pray over before it goes out--an abiding, residual anointing would go with it. The presence of God would stay after we had left."

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