Operation Love is the mission Arm of Hope 1 Ministries, Inc.
History of Operation Love
Operation Love began December 25, 2004 with four volunteers, which included my three children, ages four, eight, and sixteen, and me. I had prepared about twenty gifts that I wanted to distribute to those we would meet in the community. My children and I packed up a small amount of gifts that I received from clients of my Salon into our van. I took those items, along with gifts we had received from other sources and created gift bags to give to people in our neighborhood for Christmas. I had no vision, no plan but to help others even while my family and I were in crisis. My father in- law was in early stages of dementia. My husband had been diagnosed with diabetes as well as other challenges that we were facing as a family. I had spoken earlier that week with my pastor at the time about the challenges we were facing. Everything seemed so unbearable
During our conversation on the phone, my pastor prayed for me and suggested that I use what he called “my gift” After we said good bye, I realized that I did not comprehend what he meant by “my gift.” His comment had caught me by surprise. But then I remembered my pastor always calling me an evangelist. I knew very little about being an evangelist except for what I saw on television. I thought about the television evangelists and briefly said to myself, “I do not want to be like those TV evangelists”. However, God reminded me that as a child I enjoyed watching Earnest Angley, the famous healing evangelist on television. I would have my little brothers and sisters stand in a line while I would pretend to heal them like Earnest Angley. As weird as that may sound, it is the truth, and I enjoyed pretending to be him. But God forbid that someone would ask me about evangelism or missions. In 2004, the answer was always, “No, not me. So after praying, I decided that I would step out and do what my pastor suggested. At that point, I only wanted to keep my mind off what I was dealing with at home. I thought to myself, “Maybe, if I obey in this one thing, God will heal my family.” On Christmas Day 2004 around 9:00 AM my children and I headed out with the intention of passing out a few small gifts and coming home as soon as possible. After all, I had no vision or plan as to how we would locate people to receive the gifts we had prepared. We would have to lean on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us through this process. I was determined to go no matter what because I thought maybe this one offering to God would bring me the necessary help I needed in my own family. We loaded up the van and headed to the other side of town.
As I drove through several neighborhoods to see what could be done, we came upon an apartment complex for seniors. We pulled in and parked the van and passed out a few gift items and said, “Merry Christmas,” to the residents. Although I was apprehensive about greeting the people, they seemed appreciative of the gifts and the visit. Our next stop was a local park nearby, where we met a man and his son. We gave him a gift and said, “Merry Christmas.” The gentleman and his son smiled and said, “Thank you,” as we moved on to our next destination. We had several more gift bags to distribute. But I wondered how we were going to give them all away.
While we were praying about our next location, the Lord led us to a local housing project. I could feel myself becoming nervous as I approached the area. I thought about our safety, especially that of my children, as we approached the area. After all, it had been a long time since I had visited this place. My old neighborhood College Hill Projects was not far away. I had moved away in 1987 at the age of 17 and vowed to make a better life for myself and never to return again.
As we approached the area, memories of many unhappy Christmases growing up in the housing projects began to flood back into my mind. People were always fighting, drinking, and using drugs in our neighborhood. The drug dealers were always on the streets selling dope, and domestic violence increased during the holidays because of all the drinking and drug use. As I remembered the unhappy events of many Christmases in that neighborhood, I pondered questions such as “Will the people in the area reject us?” and “What do I say to them when I approach them?”
We finally arrived to the area and parked the van. My family and I got out of the van. Then, we walked through the neighborhood, greeting the people as we passed by, hoping someone would receive the gifts we brought with us. A few people rejected our gifts and did not want to have anything to do with us, but we kept pushing along because I understood how the people we met might have felt. Growing up in the area was very difficult, so we did not want to talk to anyone certainly, no one from the church telling us how much “better” things were going to be.
As we continued to walk through the neighborhood and say, “Merry Christmas,” and offer our little gifts, the ugly memories of living in poverty overwhelmed me. Money was always tight, especially with seven children. My parents could not always afford many Christmas gifts for us. Now, here I was back in the neighborhood trying to make a difference. I realized that I had not done enough to be that hand of hope for someone else. But on that day, I was there to make a difference in someone’s life.
As we visited one apartment after the other, knocking on people’s doors to say, “Merry Christmas,” and hand out some gift bags, I ran across a young lady I will never forget. As we approached her apartment, I saw that she was weeping. She had lost her sister the night before and was having a hard time dealing with that death. I asked her if we could pray for her, and she agreed. I gave her a hug and told her about the love of God. We said our goodbyes and promised her we would continue to pray for her. She seemed to be encouraged and expressed much appreciation for our prayers.
As we continued on our journey through the neighborhood, I approached another gentleman whom I also will never forget. He was a reflection of my past, of the many drug dealers trampling through our neighborhood selling drugs. As I walked towards him, he moved to the other side of the street. I greeted him by saying, “Merry Christmas,” and preceded to hand him a gift. He responded by saying, “No I don’t need it”. So, I said to him, “Sir, may I pray for you?” He replied, “Ma’am, I’m a straight up thug” as he shook his head and kept walking.
However, for some odd reason, I began to walk quickly towards him. I could feel fear upon me. Yet, as nervous as I was, something miraculous happened because out of my mouth came these words: “Sir, God loves thugs too. May I pray for you?”
Suddenly, I had his attention. He stood there for a moment and said, “Ok Ma’am, you’re right. Yes, you can pray for me”. We held hands and began to pray. I thanked him for allowing me to pray for him, and he thanked us for the prayer as he walked away.
It was amazing to see the power of God working in our midst.. I cannot explain the feeling of excitement that came over me. At that moment, I knew God had set up this encounter. I had been afraid to approach this guy, yet there came a sense of confidence and boldness beyond my natural ability. I knew this place was where I needed to be and that God had called us to be messengers of His love at this moment. I was very happy that God had given me the courage to witness to this man in spite of my fears. This encounter was the turning point in that day for me. I became more confident and bold about my faith as we continued to witness and pray for more people in the community. On that day, I discovered the calling on my life. Earlier that year, the Lord said to me “Your work will be on the outside of the church and not on the inside.” I did not understand this message at the time, but now this leading as well as what my pastor had spoken to me earlier was beginning to make sense.
What a joy it was to tell others about the love of Jesus Christ! My first thoughts after leaving my house that morning were fearful. I was afraid to approach the people that I would meet in the community. But seeing faith and boldness arise from the Holy Spirit working within us was an experience I vowed never to forget. I had found my place in the Body of Christ and had seen the fulfilment of what God had spoken to my heart earlier in the year.
With a little more confidence under my belt, we drove to downtown Tampa to distribute the rest of our gift bags to the homeless. When we approached the downtown area, many of the homeless people were standing on the streets. Presently, there are many ministries that come to downtown Tampa on Christmas Day to help the homeless, but back then, the homeless were practically on their own on Christmas. In fact, on that day, we were the only ones there, and we were certainly not prepared for what happen next.
As we exited the van and headed toward the people, we gave each person a gift. Several more people started to come, asking for a bag. All kinds of people were walking up to us: black, white, men and women — all homeless. We only came with a few gifts and were not expecting to see so many people in need. We soon ran out of gifts and had to tell the people we had nothing left to give. God was dealing with my heart. Seeing the people walking away with no gift bothered me, so I said, “Someone needs to do something about this.”
I did not realize that that “someone” would be me. God began to deal with my heart even more as I walked back to the van. In my heart, I knew something needed to be done and that I really would like to hand out gift bags here again.
By now, God had my attention. He had led me to the very thing He would have us do for His people for His glory. But how would I be able to accomplish this task, and where would I get the supplies? I did not have the answer yet. However, I was determined to find a way to help more people the next year.
As strange as it may sound, my mind was at peace after realizing how much I had enjoyed being among the people. The crisis we had left behind had no hold on us. I sensed God’s hand and presence all around us while we were out there. Although it was dangerous for us to be in some of the areas alone, God took care of us while we were taking care of His people.
When the children and I were back in the van, I thought to myself, “God what have I done?” What I thought would be a quick in-and-out experience became a two-hour life changing, inspiring, and thought provoking day– a day I will never forget. All the people we had met on that unforgettable Christmas day were people like us: hopeless, anxious, and feeling abandoned.
There were people we met who were dealing with issues worse than ours. God had given us an opportunity to experience His Love for all the people we met on that Christmas Day. Sure, we all do things that may place us in a bad situation, but God’s love never fails. God is not there to condemn us but to bless us. What I believe God was telling us is, “When you are facing challenging times and I send help your way, you must grab hold of this life line so that I can pull you out. You must trust Me, and I will get you through”.
It is experiencing the Love of God that helps us overcome. I will never ever forget Christmas 2004, for that was the day that I experienced the love of God that surpasses knowledge. I found my place in the body of Christ. That place for me is evangelism and missions. People need to see the Love of God in action, not in words alone.
We thought God was sending us to bring some gifts to help other people. And He did indeed use us to bless those we meet in 2004. But while doing so, God was also healing us. We returned home to enjoy our Christmas with many family and friends and carried on with our lives.
I don’t remember saying too much about what we had done on that day to the rest of my family until later. I was still pondering all that had taken place on our trip through the neighborhood. Much has happened since 2004. I can’t say everything changed for my family and me overnight. It has been a gradual deliverance and changing process that has continued to happen in this family. I’m thankful for what God has brought us through and for what He will continue to do for and through us. He has never left me alone to face any of the challenges of being a wife and mother. My father-in-law went home to be with the Lord after the effects of dementia in 2005, but it was a quiet peaceful transition for him. I know he is with the Lord and that we will see him again.
So each year, the volunteers of Operation Love get to celebrate the birth of our Savior together by passing out gift bags to the homeless as a symbol of God’s love poured out upon us. We ask the Lord each year to send us to hurting people, hurting families like our own who need to experience the love of God that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).
Since that Christmas of 2004, we have continued to minister on Christmas Day. What started out as a one day endeavor has become an annual life changing outreach event known as Operation Love with a mission to show compassion and loving-kindness to those in need. God has allowed us to minister to over a thousand people in the last ten years. All these people have come from different walks of life. Not all of the people we have met are bad people according to society’s standards. We have learned that no matter what your reason for being on the streets homeless, living alone, or in any facility, God will meet you right where you are. He will always send someone to encourage you along the way.
During the second year of out ministry, one company sent over 200 travel sized deodorants to our salon. That had never happened before, and for the next two years, I would get the same size box of deodorants which I would use to supply our personal care packs. That was another confirmation to let us know we were on the right track. And for the next several years God would send people to help us with distribution on Christmas Day. We went from four volunteers in the beginning to 20 -25 people to help pack and distribute gift bags.
After several years of ministering to the people by encouraging the homeless, visiting the elderly in a nursing home, and supporting single families, we have learned that everyone is special in the eyes of God and that He cares about every detail of all our lives. We have more in common with each other than we think, and we should never look down on others because of their situations. However, in love, we should esteem others more highly than ourselves as the word of God tells us in Philippians 2:3.
We can do so by lending a hand to lift the load off the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in crisis. In doing so, we truly become burden bearers as the Bible also directs us in Galatians 6:2. People should be in a better state when we leave than they were when we arrived. They should be changed by the power and presence of God in our lives, a presence which effectively inspires, encourages, and provokes people everywhere to become something better than they were previously.
SUMMARY OF OPERATION LOVE
. Operation Love is the main outreach event of Hope 1 Ministries which involves the distribution of 175 personal hygiene bags to the homeless, 35 gifts bags to senior citizens in the community and abroad, 14 food boxes for single families in need, clothes and gift bags for children in low-income housing on Christmas Day, along with developing, organizing, and training 30 volunteers. Many of the in- kind donations we receive have come from the support of our community, family, friends, clients, and church members. After many years of hosting this annual Christmas Day give away event in the community, we have since gained much more support from our churches (River of Life, Walk by Faith Ministry -Orlando), business owners in our community, and social clubs (Tampa North Rotary Club).
WHY WE CHOOSE TO HELP THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE
Much of what I do comes from personal experience growing up poor, living in low-income housing. My siblings and I experienced firsthand unhappy feelings as we watched other families enjoy the holidays while our family was merely trying to survive. The feeling was surreal as we watched other children enjoying a new toy or saw the expression on their face when receiving several gifts for Christmas. Many years later, we all have our own families, and God has been good to us.
My family expanded after my father in-law suffered a severe stroke and could no longer live alone. We were able to care for him in our home for the next ten years of his life until he passed away in 2005 from the effects of dementia. We are thankful for the time we shared together with him, and we are happy that he did not have to endure this illness alone. We were able to enjoy many holidays together.
Because of the relationship I had with my father-in-law, God placed compassion in my heart for seniors. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of visiting with many senior citizens in nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, and in their own homes. For many of them, the holidays can be tough because of the memories of families and friends who have died or just do not visit any more.
The volunteers of Operation Love make sure they visit our seniors on Christmas Day and bring them a beautiful Christmas gift bag, which helps to make their holiday special. This gift distribution is God’s way of saying to the elderly, “You are not forgotten, and you are not alone.” Each year, we get to experience the joy they feel and the smile we see on their faces when we come and spend time with them on Christmas.
Our volunteers will participate in our downtown outreach event to the homeless. A personal hygiene bag is placed into the hands of every homeless person we encounter. The homeless are extremely thankful for the gifts donated by Operation Love. Quite often, many of these people have no expectation of something good happening to them. We have witnessed joy glowing on their faces when a gift is placed into their hands. The volunteers’ greetings and prayers with them give the homeless a sense of hope and confidence for better things to come. For many of us, a small bag of toiletry items is not much, but for some, it is a great blessing.
We have listened to many stories while ministering on the streets in downtown Tampa for the past ten years. The people we meet on the streets are all coming from different walks of life, different ethnic groups, and different genders. The common factor in all of their stories is hopelessness. Somewhere in life, many have lost hope in themselves and have no confidence in their ability to do better.
So the gift bag they receive from the volunteers of Operation Love on Christmas is a symbol of love that can bring a sense of hope back into their hearts. Several of the people we meet throughout the year are simply people in need of encouragement and support to pull through some of the most difficult times in their lives.
In the meantime, the volunteers and I are there to show compassion and mercy along with loads of encouragement for better days to come. It does not take much to inspire hope in others. All it takes is a little compassion, mercy, and a lot of encouragement. Small acts of kindness can change someone’s life forever. So throughout the year, whether we are distributing gifts during the holidays or collecting food for individual families or shoes for people in another country, we are expressing God’s love to the world.
WHY WE BECAME HOPE 1 MINISTRIES
A NEW BEGINING
One Christmas Eve, as we were about to close for the evening, a new client called in need of hair services. We asked him to come as soon as possible because we were about to close. Our Salon staff, volunteers every year to help us prepare the gift bags for Operation Love. When he arrived, this gentleman observed as some of us were preparing the items for distribution the next day. After the stylist finished his hair service, he complimented us on what we were doing and encouraged us to continue with what God had asked us to do. He then asked if he could pray for us, and we said, “Yes.” Not only did he want to pray for us, but he also wanted to donate money to Operation Love. We were quite excited because no one had ever donated money before. Here again, was another turning point in our ministry. God was teaching me along the way how to lead, evangelize, and do mission work. He also was leading me to bring more order to our small group at the time, especially now that people were donating money to our organization. Hearing from the Holy Spirit a couple months later, we started two more outreach ministries. Elite Girls came several months later, and several years after that, Women of The Word was organized. We wanted to be accountable with the things we were doing for God. We began to pray and ask the Lord for direction. After much prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit, I sensed God name our organization. The name came from a phrase He brought to my mind. This is what I received from the Lord: “bringing hope to the world one person at a time.” Out of this motto came the direction for what we had been called to do and the name of our organization.
Consequently, Hope 1 Ministries Inc. was established in April 2014 to further support the growing needs of Operation Love which began as an annual Christmas Outreach event. Since that time, we now have established other ministries developed from the basis of Operation Love, such as the previously mentioned Elite Girls (established in 2005), a leadership and mentor group designed for girls’ ages 5-12, and Women of the Word (established in 2011), a weekly discipleship Bible study. Operation Love is the largest outreach event of Hope 1 Ministries.
HOPE 1 MINISTRIES IS:
Hope 1 Ministries is the hands and feet of Jesus, going wherever there is a need to show compassion and mercy to people around the world who need resources, supplies, and solutions, one person at time.
WHAT WE DO
- We prepare and distribute personal hygiene gift bags to the homeless on Christmas Day.
- We purchase beautiful items to prepare gift bags to deliver to many seniors in our community on Christmas Day.
- We support a local Assisted Living Facility that houses 6-8 residents with personal hygiene items and other lovely gifts on Christmas D
- We provide other seniors in other states and within the community with personal care items throughout the year.
- We collect and prepare food boxes for families in need during the holidays and throughout the year.
- We collect eye wear and toiletry items to donate to people in Jamaica in need of resources and supplies.
- We will collect and distribute clothing, personal care items, and other supplies for families and children in New Mexico.
- We purchase school supplies to be distributed to children in need during back-to- school time in our community.
- We support a local Christian school by supplying supportive items to the teaching staff and administrators.
- We also train, develop, and educate leaders in the areas of missions and evangelism
- We purchase and distribute gifts to build the self-esteem of girls
HOW CAN WE HELP
By personal observation and experience participating in various outreach events, both locally and abroad, we have discovered that the number of homeless people and single families has increased in our nation. Resources, solutions, and supplies are in great demand because of these growing needs. We acknowledge the fact that we cannot meet these needs alone. Our goal is to partner with other organizations to bring the necessary resources, solutions, and supplies to help people in need. We desire to be a part of the solution by helping to eliminate the number of homeless people in our nation, families without food, resources, and supplies to sustain their daily living. We want to help people who are looking for solutions to improve their lives.
We believe this goal can be accomplished by our partnership with other entrepreneurial support groups in the bay area and around the world to bring hope to the world one person at a time. Our desire is to help provide the necessary resources, supplies, and solutions to people everywhere and to see others thriving in their own personal lives, thus becoming something more than what they previously were. We want to disciple, educate, and train them to provide the same support, resources, and solutions to those they will meet along the way.
Will you become part of the solution by providing resources and supplies to meet the needs of many families without hope? Will you partner with us to bring a little encouragement into the lives of others and see families restored, lives changed, and people hopeful again? We are inspiring, motivating, and provoking others to become something more than they previously were. To see people restored and hopeful again–that is our goal.
OPERATION LOVE SERVING IN THE COMMUNITY FOR 10YRS.
December 25, 2014 marked Operation Love’s tenth year meeting the needs of those within our community. Currently, Operation Love prepares 175 personal hygiene bags containing small toiletry items for the homeless, 35 Christmas gift bags for the seniors we support in our community, 14 food boxes for single families in need during the Christmas holiday, and 150 gift bags for children in the Robles Park housing projects.
- Participate in our downtown outreach event where a personal hygiene bag is placed into the hands of every homeless person we meet.
- Distribute gift bags to the children in the Robles Park Housing Projects
- Prepare and transport food boxes to families in need within our community
- Visit senior citizens in our community on Christmas Day and throughout the year.
- Stuff and prepare gift bags for distribution to the homeless on Christmas Day.
- Pray for the sick
- Inspire, encourage and provoke people everywhere to become something better that they previously were.