(As told by Matt Sharp to the Wooster Kiwanis Club, Wooster, Ohio, May 2002)
I'd like to give you a picture of my friend, Mike Thompson (Director of Mountain Vision Ministries).
Mike was born in 1953 in Sardis, Ohio (down in the southeast Appalachian quarter of the state on the Ohio River). Mike moved with his family to the Wooster area in 1967, and graduated from Waynedale in the class of '72.
For nearly all of his working career Mike has been a mechanic - a fair and honest one (Diogenes would be satisfied). I first got to know Mike when he was in charge of the repair shop of 300 Tire Service. Then he took on support of all vehicles at CCHO (Christian Children's Home of Ohio), which is more than a fulltime task.
Mike is married and has a family. He and his wife Jill are parents, have been foster parents and became adoptive parents. They have four children.
Mountain Vision started in 1993. Mike was feeding his baby son, JJ, while watching a Feed-The-Children special on TV. He was struck by the contrast between the child in his arms and the needy children he was seeing on screen. He felt God was calling him to do something about it. He would do whatever was necessary to send a truckload of food to Appalachia.
That was in April of 1993. In August the first load went to Coal Mountain, West Virginia. Mike thought there would only be one trip, but following an article in The Daily Record he was approached about doing a Christmas Load, too. In the years since the loads of food have exceeded 116 truckloads (3.5 million pounds) in addition to approximately 40 loads of clothing and other donated non-food items.
Mountain Vision Ministries is based at the First Church of God (on Akron Road, Wooster, Ohio). But from the start it was an ecumenical mission, and to this day Mountain Vision is sup- ported by many other churches, organizations and individuals. In many ways Mountain Vision is like People To People Ministries, only with Mountain Vision none of the folk served are from our local communities.
Most of the time the only significant overhead costs are fuel to haul loads to their destinations, and sometimes even that is provided. Most of the time everything is donated - materials, labor and transport.
Mike is still employed fulltime at CCHO. But Mike sees Mountain Vision as part of his calling as a Christian and offers his service directing it as his mission in the name of Jesus Christ.
One time when I was working at Every Woman's House with a group of College Of Wooster student volunteers it came out that I worked for the Christian Children's Home. One girl asked me if I knew Mike Thompson. I said yes. She had gotten to know him through Mountain Vision and said simply, "He's one of my heroes."
What is a hero? We know a hero is not necessarily someone perfect or superhuman, but one who perseveres in trying to do what is right, accomplishes more that normally thought possible and whose actions are worth emulating.
Now, I am not telling you Mike is perfect, angelic or saintly. He will tell you he has his ups-and-downs. However, now that I am done embarrassing him, I can say that the only major league fault I know about him is that he is an unreconstructed Yankees fan.
That student volunteer was right. Along with the rest of his crew, Mike is one of my heroes, too.
Thank you for your heart for the poor of Appalachia. I am looking forward to our next Mountain Vision trip. We will leave from the Wooster First Church of God. Travel time is 6 to 7 hours. Upon arrival we will sleep in a church. Please bring sleeping bag and pillow etc. Saturday morning after breakfast, we will unload a semi-truck load of food and visit several families in their homes. This is a great time to share Christ.
Non-perishable food items and toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, toilet paper etc) are desperately needed. We should be back in Wooster by 11:30 on Saturday evening.
If people would rather donate money, for $100.00 we can purchase and transport 1000 pounds of food. Our goal each summer is to send 150,000 pounds of food. In thirteen years of Mountain Vision working with churches like yours, we have sent 4,000,000 pounds of food to the poor of Appalachia. Thousands of Bibles have changed lives for eternity. What a great message it sends to a hurting world when Christians of varied denomination join hands to feed His sheep first physically and most important, spiritually.
In Christ's love,
Mike Thompson, Director
Mountain Vision Ministries
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