The chorus, “I will trust in you,” rang out over 540 people at the Rolling Hills Franklin Campus on the evening of September 29. We gathered to celebrate God’s work through Justice & Mercy International over the past year and to listen to incredible stories from leaders on the ground. We gathered in a collective belief that God would provide for the big dreams of what’s next.
Above our heads, varying hues of blue ribbon hung from the ceiling as part of the event’s Mediterranean theme. Guests sat around candlelit tables–some knowing JMI well, others learning about our work for the first time–brought together for a shared purpose.
“Tonight we’re celebrating who He is,” said host and JMI partner, Kelly Minter, as she set the stage for a memorable night. “A God who cares for the orphaned, the poor, and the forgotten.”The 11th annual An Evening with JMI proved to be the largest yet. It’s a highly anticipated night, where faithful supporters hear powerful messages straight from JMI’s national directors, learn about bold future plans for partnering together to change lives, and see how God will provide for this work financially.
Special music was provided by Brian Nhira, known from NBC’s The Voice, who has a mission to be a catalyst of hope through song. As guests finished their meals from Flavor Catering, Brian’s smooth and lyrical “I am a child of God” set a reverent tone in the room.
Immersive video navigating a canopy of trees on the Amazon filled the large screens as Sarah Rodrigues, National Director of Justice & Mercy Amazon, took the stage. With a warm presence, Sarah spoke to the guests like old friends, knowing they share a heart for the people of Brazil.
“God continues to answer the prayers of those who were in completely isolated places in the jungle,” she said. After a devastating 2021 on the frontlines of COVID, she emphasized how 2022 ushered in a season of new beginnings.
Her team was able to reach an unprecedented 400 villages this year with over 15,000 food bags, 900 hygiene bags, and 3,000 units of medication. Sarah highlighted the amazing work of the jungle pastors we partner with who make all of this possible. These faithful men and women travel the river caring for the vulnerable and creating a lifeline of hope for people who feel forgotten. She called the jungle pastors “ordinary people who are willing to join God in doing extraordinary things.”
Sarah’s message resonated around the tables as believers from all walks of life identified with the often-daunting calling to follow God into the unknown and were encouraged by the bravery of these pastors and the JMI Amazon staff.
Next, an endless field of sunflowers filled the screens as Alina Magdaliuc, National Director of Justice & Mercy Moldova ascended the stage. Her resilience and wisdom shone through as she spoke about the unforeseen challenge of leading her team through the Ukrainian refugee crisis. As 500,000 refugees flooded their small country of three million, JMI Moldova established a new department that worked around the clock to distribute over 1,400 food bags, 1,800 hygiene kits, 1,200 blankets, 1,200 pieces of clothing and more.
Alina said it has been especially impactful to watch her fellow Moldovans who have little to give, open their homes to the refugees. “I love the people who give not when they have, but when they don’t have,” she said.
Along with the crisis outreach, the team in Moldova maintained their ongoing work, including caring for 849 sponsored children, 22 kids with special needs, and 62 vulnerable teens, who stepped up in a major way to help the refugees and run summer camps. Because of the crisis, the team on the ground hosted the camps for over 942 kids without the usual support from US volunteers.
Throughout the evening, a powerful thread emerged in the stories from both countries–a theme of staying put in the face of challenges. We stay when COVID hits the Amazon. We stay when a war threatens Moldova. We stay because God has called us to care for defenseless children and families and address the most acute needs of the poor and marginalized.
Every year, the end of the event buzzes with excitement as the giving thermometer inches toward the goal. This year’s goal was to raise $350,000 for the work of JMI. While Kelly Minter and Rolling Hills’ Founder and Lead Pastor Jeff Simmons wrapped up the evening, cheers erupted from the crowd. The goal was not only met, but surpassed by $100,000 after the grand totals came in.
Everyone stood to clap and sing, “Out of the darkness into the glorious day.” We walk forward into 2023 with confidence that God will continue to meet the needs of the poor, orphaned, and forgotten through Justice & Mercy International, as he calls us all out into his dazzling Light.
Thank you to everyone who came, watched online, gave, and prayed for this event. Because of you, An Evening with JMI was a wonderful success.