Since it's start in 2005, the Hands of Hope Foundation has grown from a fundraiser event, to a missions team, into a nonprofit, and is now a multinational outreach and church planting organization. We are grateful for over a decade of friends, partners, and opportunities that have allowed us to grow from a single event into an organization with a global impact.
Origins - 2005
Hands of Hope began as the vision of a single-event, gathering together a cluster of local churches in the Springfield area of Illinois in an effort, to raise resources to assist in the Hurricane Katrina-Rita recovery in August 2005. The Rev. Dr. Troy D. Benitone, then pastoring in Pawnee, Il., was one of the co-coordinators of the event, and was inspired by God in developing the image and persona for the event which was "The Church living out its mandate to be God's Hands, Hands of Hope, to the victims of the disaster." Pastor Troy worked with an artist to develop the logo for that event called Hands of Hope: Hurricane Katrine/Rita Relief Aid. On October 9, 2005, the family-day concert event raised over $35,000 worth of cash and relief items The items were sent to the relief efforts of the Hurricane Victims through the United Methodist Commission on Relief via the Midwest Distribution Center and Hands of Hope was complete.
Entering Liberia - 2008
In 2008, Rev. Benitone was asked by his superintendent for the Sangamon River District of the UM Church to lead a district-wide effort to fund the building of a District Center and Parsonage for a war-torn sister church in the Weala District of the Liberian Conference of the UMC of West Africa. Liberia had gone through a devastating 14 year civil war. Our district was partnered with Rev. Paye Cooper Mondolo, the Wealah district superintendent, and his people to help in restoring hope to the people of Liberia. When asked to take on the goal of raising $51,000 for the building of a District Center and Parsonage, Pastor Troy having met Rev. Mondolo and working with Rev. Sylvester Weatherall and Springfield 1st UMC, Pastor Dr. Roger Ross, all church planters, struck an agreement with our District Superintendent Rev. Jerry King, that every dollar raised beyond the $51,000 needed would go to crusade to establish new churches in the war torn district. We had a dream to do three! It was then that Rev. Benitone said it was time for Hands of Hope to ride again. The logo was revised Hands of Hope "Build from the Center", Sangamon River District Liberian Initiative. This time an entire district of churches came together to celebrate their fund-raising efforts through another even larger and more powerful family day. This event surpassed the $51,000 goal for the district center and exceeded $135,000. Not only was the center built, but we rebuilt or upgraded 4 war ravaged churches and planted the three new churches. Rev. Benitone and Rev. Ross made trips to Liberia in 2009 and took a team of 13 in January 2010 to use the resources raised to fulfill the dream of holding the crusades and planting three new churches with Rev. Mondolo in the regions of Salala, Totota and Village #7 in Liberia. Those churches are thriving today.
Community of Faith and Church Expansion - 2010
Just months after returning from the 2010 crusades, Rev. Benitone became the Directing Pastor of Community of Faith Church, a non-denominational church located in Southern Illinois. During the transition Rev. Benitone shared his heart to continue this work with, Bishop, Gregary Palmer. With his blessing and with the invitation of the Liberian Bishop, John G. Innis, Rev, Benitone and the Elders of Community of Faith Church entered into an independent partnership with the Liberian church to continuing the work that God was doing in Liberia through Hands of Hope.
By early 2010, the work in Liberia had grown to include not only new church crusades, but doors were opening to enhance the churches work through Christian education, providing safe-drinking water wells, and helping to re-establishing medical services to strengthen the life of the Church. It was clear Hands of Hope had moved way beyond a couple of events and now was a full-blown ministry drawing others to be God's Hands of Hope.
Hope Scholars and Medical Expansion - 2011
During this time, the vision of Hands of Hope was flourishing in its new home at Community of Faith Church. In February 2011, Rev. Benitone took another education, crusade, new church building and medical mission team called Hands of Hope: Community of Faith, composed of 15 from several area churches. During that trip the Weale Medical Clinic was launched and we developed our John Wesley K-12 Sponsors program for over 50 children and our Hope Scholars program were birthed. During this trip a vision plan was developed for Hands of Hope to go to the next level in planting and building new churches, expanding the Christian School, supporting the Weala Medical clinic and so much more. It was on this trip that Rev. Andy Johnson, COF Executive Pastor, suggested we rename and purpose The Refuge Home Foundation to give Hands of Hope a non-governmental (NGO) faith-based 501©3 organization to build on. After seeking God's heart for wisdom, the Elders of Community of Faith Church, also acting as the Board of the suspended Refuge Home, renamed and purposed the ministry into one ready for the next level. Today, Hands of Hope Foundation with a vision of Offering Hope in Christ in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15 is the result. Hands of Hope now sports its most recent logo upgrade and operates out of its own facility based out of what is now Community House (the former Refuge Home) on the 18 acre campus of Community of Faith Church.
Entering Bulgaria - 2012
Overview - 2013
Ebola Crisis - 2014
A New Look and Strategy- 2015
2015 brought a new season for the Hands of Hope Foundation. We developed a growing staff both nationally and internationally. As we began to look towards the future, long term project sustainability become a major goal and focus. This year birthed an agricultural project in Liberia, new projects in Thailand, and continued relief work in all the countries we serve in. Liberia was declared Ebola free which allowed us to move back into the country to continue our work with boots on the ground. This was a defining year for our foundation that changed the trajectory of future projects and events. We also gave a facelift to our global look. Moving forward into 2016, we anticipate multiple global trips and new events in the U.S. that will continue the growth and impact of the Hands of Hope Foundation.
Thailand Expansion - 2015
Hands of Hope Foundation has opened up a new front in the battle against human trafficking and poverty and is offering Hope with our new friends we have made in Pattaya, Thailand over the last couple of years.
We have been nurturing and developing a partnership with two incredible ministries in Pattaya—Tamar Center and Hand to Hand Foundation. The Tamar Center works to provide hope to the over 30,000 bar girls and “ladyboys” that populate the human trafficking trade in Pattaya. Hand to Hand Foundation is offering the hand of Christ to those that are in prison and to those living in poverty in the various slums that surround Pattaya. Their ministry is impacting the lives of abandoned babies, children and elderly in amazing ways through outreach and education. Both of these incredible ministries have created a solid and credible foundation through the grace, mercy and love of Christ that is now crying for a Church to be built upon it. As a result, Hands of Hope Foundation’s Operation Hope Initiative has expanded our focus by partnering with these great ministries and taking their work to the next level and launching a series of new churches on a frontier that exhibits very little evidence of Christianity.
Why Pattaya? Pattaya was born as the beach-recreation destination of the Asian world. It is surrounded by the nations of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma and China. If you take Las Vegas/San Francisco/New Orleans-Bourbon Street and put them together on a scenic Gulf Coast with beaches, then you have Pattaya. It is the place where many personnel from all the militaries of the world, involved in the various conflicts in this region for the last 100 years, have gone for SHORE-LEAVE. As a result, it has flourished as one of the most indulgent sin-city meccas of the world. The world has created this place and it is to the “utter most” regions of the world that Jesus has called the Church “to go and be His Witnesses!”
Our three week trip included incredible miracles and breakthrough. The Tamar Center and Hand to Hand Foundation had been preparing the ground for our successful outreach for years. Because of their hard work and the trust they have earned with locals, we saw hundreds of salvations, people being delivered and set free through worship and prayer, and incredible physical healing. There are now four Community of Faith churches that are run by local pastors and worship leaders with oversight by Hands of Hope Foundation, Hand to Hand Foundation, and Tamar Center. With Thailand being less than 1% Christian, this is a huge opportunity!