The Peanut Butter Project is not the most ordinary name for a ministry assignment, but then neither is Walk by Faith Ministry the most ordinary ministry. I have yet to come across another Christian ministry that shares the Gospel as it ministers the Lord’s love to miracle cases of people and homeless dogs, too. Add to that the fact Walk by Faith Ministry specializes in the people and homeless dogs the world has given up on as it demonstrates that it is never too late to know the love of God. Not to mention the ministry is directed by me – a woman who grew up in a Jewish home without God, became an atheist, then agnostic, and had just about every odd against her to even stay alive given the challenges I have faced and the choices I made along the way. Ordinary would hardly describe any aspect of this particularly phenomenal testimony of the Lord at work.
But then our God is so in the business of the extraordinary and supernatural that He can whip up the most magnificent miracle with the incredibly odd, and seemingly mismatched, and undeniably unique, ingredients of – $40,000 worth of peanut butter, a rather unique ministry that has drawn its fair share of judgment and curiosity for its one-of-a-kind mission, a ministry director whose testimony of the Lord’s work of transformation is miraculous in and of itself, a homeless beagle run over by a car with a broken pelvis, a pastor who walked out of a building demolished in the Haiti earthquake without a scratch, and starving children in a third world nation.
Only the Creator of the universe and the Father of mankind could whip up the phenomenal – and international – miracle that manifested just weeks ago. Lest I ever forget that God sees the whole picture, from start to finish, from one side of the world to the other, through time and over the miles, this testimony will help me to remember – and likely an unestimable number of other people, too.
“Lara, I have something I need you to do for me,” Pastor Freddie, my long-time pastor and father in Christ, told me around the start of April 2010.
Uh oh, I thought to myself. My plate as director of Walk by Faith Ministry could not have been fuller. I could not come close to keeping up with the work set before me, and yet I knew that I had a heart to help Pastor Freddie with the work the Lord had called him to do in the ministry he directs. Although Pastor Freddie is a board member and pastor for Walk by Faith Ministry, he has his hands and heart as full with the work he does for Christian Revival Center in Savannah, GA, and Mission 2 Haiti, as I have my hands and heart full with my work for Walk by Faith Ministry.
“Okay, this is what I need you to do,” he told me over the telephone.
I knew it was too late. He would not even consider how busy I was.
“The Skippy peanut butter company has donated $40,000 of peanut butter for the 1500 children who come daily to the feeding stations in Port Au Prince, Haiti,” Pastor Freddie explained. “I need you to get it moved from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Miami, Florida, where it will be shipped to Haiti.”
What could I say? You’re kidding me! No way! Are you joking? Don’t you know how busy I am? I don’t have the experience? This is not what I am trained to do? I don’t have the skills for this? Pastor Freddie, are you crazy?!
I must have taken a deep breath. If I did not, I should have. I should have inhaled many breaths, at that point. I could not imagine any more stress in my daily work life than I already had.
Pastor Freddie interrupted my thoughts – with his next instruction.
“I need the peanut butter moved as soon as possible. Next week would be great,” he added.
Oh my God!
The only response I recalled?
“Pastor Freddie, I can’t do that. If this is going to get done, it will have to be God.” I am sure I groaned, hopefully in a way he would not hear over the telephone.
“That’s why I picked you, Lara,” Pastor Freddie said. “You have the faith He will do it.”
I wonder if Pastor Freddie knew when he birthed me into the Kingdom of God and gave me some of the strongest Bible teaching I have ever received as a new Christian that the Lord would use him to put my faith to the test.
Pastor Freddie, making certain that my plate now overflowed as much as it possibly could, gave me another assignment, too. Then, gratefully, I said goodbye, a quick I love you no doubt, and got off the phone as quickly as I could politely do.
I will never forget the few days following the Haiti earthquake when I cried out to the Lord to save Pastor Freddie, who had flown into Haiti two days before the earthquake and had gone missing. He had been ministering in Haiti along with pastoring in inner city Savannah for years, but nothing came close to the level of labor of love he poured out as soon as the earthquake hit. The Lord saved my father in Christ to serve like never before in Haiti, and little did I know I would slowly get swept into the cause at hand.
The Peanut Butter Project got off to a quick start. After all, no matter how busy I already was with Walk by Faith Ministry, how could I not jump in to help get that much food to starving children? How could I say no to my father in Christ, and if this was truly the Lord, how could I possibly say no to Him?
The challenges were obvious from the start. I have no idea to this day where Arkansas is. I have no sense of geography. I am fortunate if I remember where I parked my car at the grocery store parking lot. I know nothing about trucks. I have never seen a 40-foot container. I still do not know what a chassis is. I can guess what a trailer is. My life could not be any fuller. I am exhausted sometimes daily. I had no long time frame to address my learning curve issue. And Pastor Freddie is almost always impossible to reach by phone and e-mail.
But then, as I have learned through the years, and as the Bible teaches, the Lord is my provider. He supplies everything I need, and His wisdom through His Holy Spirit means the impossible can truly be possible. Through faith in Christ, I really can do what I cannot do without Him. But, of course, when the mountain of impossibility stands before us, with the giant of time standing by with its good friend intimidation, and when the devil cries out, “you can’t! you can’t!”, it can be a bit of a hurdle to move forward.
“Alright Lord,” I prayed, “You do it.”
I had been challenged beyond description. Now I had thrown the challenge right back where it belonged – on the Lord.
I can be as tenacious as a pit bull terrier, and when I go after something, I go after it hard and fast. And, so I did. I started the footwork. Stress came quickly, but I pressed forward.
I made calls. I sent e-mails. I called the office of the governor of Arkansas, the plant manager from Skippy peanut butter, the office of the mayor of Little Rock, and so on. I searched for trucking associations and companies, and contacted them. I left messages everywhere I could think of.
Then, I had the most wonderful idea. I decided to quit. I used human wisdom, clearly not God’s, and thought I better set some big boundaries with Pastor Freddie and let him know I was through helping him. Clearly, he did not understand my limitations. I talked to a few people, planned to write him a letter of resignation (not that I had a job with him!), and chose to call instead to give him my big not-so-well-planned speech.
“Pastor Freddie, I do not have the time to help you. You do not see how busy I am.”
I could have saved myself a few breaths, to say the least. I continued talking for a good five minutes straight, clearly delineating my boundaries just as the world teaches.
“And,” I added with my big, sometimes still so self-righteous heart, “I will finish up this project for you because I started it.” I pat myself on the back as I spoke, as I proceeded to follow everything a good psychiatrist would have taught me. “And then I am done. You will have to find someone else to help with these kind of projects. I do not have the administrative skills nor the time to help you.”
Pastor Freddie responded in love, as he always does. He did not argue, and only later would I discover why. When God showed up on the scene with his miracle, and I called Pastor Freddie to celebrate the amazing news, Pastor Freddie shared with me his secret. He told me he knew all he had to do after our conversation was go to the Lord in prayer. Pastor Freddie knew as good as the Lord did I would obey.
Despite, or perhaps thanks to my extremely limited resources and skills in the area I had been assigned regarding the Peanut Butter Project, I had to rely on the only one who would make it all happen. God.
A few nights after the Peanut Butter Project got off to such a seemingly poor start, I had a thought. I cannot say it was a joyful thought, but it was a thought about Joy. I am not speaking of the joy of the Lord, or of joy in general. Quite simply, I remembered Joy.
The e-mail had arrived about a year and a half before. At the time, I was receiving thousands of descriptions and photos weekly from around the country of dogs scheduled for euthanization in overcrowded shelters due to people choosing not to spay and neuter their pets. I had long since learned not to read all the e-mails, and just like every other organization that took in homeless dogs I was constantly bursting at the seams. Nevertheless, I have always had a heart for the underdogs. So if any e-mail would have grabbed my attention, it would be a case involving a dog the world would have given up on. For years, the Lord had used the homeless dogs in my life to lead me to people in need, and vice versa.
“How do you know which dogs to pick when there are so many?” people would ask me. “Why do you take dogs from long distances away when there are local dogs in need?” others would ask. The answer was always the same.
“I pray and go where the Lord leads,” I would respond. And, inevitably, in one way or another, the Lord would show me why He had led me to take in a certain dog – or help a certain person. He truly does see the whole picture.
The e-mail concerning the dog Joy was actually about a dog named Jeanine. I later named her after her rescuer, and with the thought that the Lord is the true source of real joy. Jeanine, now Joy, was a beagle found stray with a fellow beagle. She had been run over, had a broken pelvis and slightly mangled leg, could barely walk, and had a worse fate awaiting her. Her rescuer knew Joy would be euthanized at the local shelter, yet her boyfriend would not let her keep the dog on the porch for much longer. The rescuer needed a miracle, Joy needed a few miracles to say the least, and the last thing I needed was another dog.
Anyone wondering what a beagle run over by a car has to do with my beloved pastor, my endlessly busy ministry life, peanut butter, and starving children in Haiti could hardly be called a fool. In fact, truly the only foolish one would have been me to take in an injured dog that could require $3000 surgery and a year and a half later a Peanut Butter Project that would only bring more stress in my life.
Joy was shipped across the country in a special rescue dog RV equipped like a vet clinic, and needed a miracle as big as the fact she had been spared euthanization. She needed a working pelvis, as she could barely walk at all. She was underweight, needed worming, had kennel cough, and there was barely enough room for her at my “inn”. Needless to say, I needed a miracle just as big. Her surgery would require at least $3000. I decided prayer was a much better option. God healed her pelvis without an ounce of surgery, she returned to a running, playing, rambunctious life, and she was adopted by a friend’s father who fell head over heels in love with little Joy.
When the Peanut Butter Project arrived in my life, I could not help but think of Joy for the first time in quite a while. Why? Joy was shipped to Walk by Faith Ministry in Virginia from Arkansas. I did not know where in Arkansas, but I did know Skippy was located in Little Rock. And, most importantly, I knew nobody in the entire state of Arkansas except by e-mail the lady who had rescued Joy and the man who had coordinated Joy’s transport on the RV.
So I e-mailed him asking if he had any suggestions. I knew nothing about the man, other than he must like dogs and coordinates rescue dog transports. The next morning, I received a reply. He told me to call him, and that he might know someone who could help. I called eagerly, but was disappointed when I quickly learned his friend would not be able to help because of various aspects of the container to be shipped.
“You know,” I told him, “I really don’t know anything about trucks or containers, and you’re telling me to search on the Internet. Would you be willing to act as an advisor to help me figure out the aspects of shipping the peanut butter?”
He readily agreed.
Why would this random man I have never met in my life agree to help with working out the transport even if he knew nobody that could help? It just so turned out he is a truck driver who works for a trucking company, and was talking to me while on the job.
“Could you do me one more favor?” I asked. “Since I really don’t know if I’m giving you the correct information about the shipment, would you talk to Pastor Freddie directly?”
Why would a complete stranger at work take the time to talk to another stranger on the other side of the country? God knew what He was doing.
“Sure, I’ll talk to him,” the man agreed.
About five hours later, I received a phone call.
“It’s done,” the man said.
“What do you mean it’s done?” I asked. “Did you talk to Pastor Freddie?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s done.”
“What do you mean?”
“I went to my company. They are going to the vendors. We are raising the money. My truck company is transporting the peanut butter to Miami from Arkansas to feed the children in Haiti. Everything is taken care of, and the entire transport will be fully donated.”
My God. Only God. Yes, the Lord. The Lord, the Lord. Only the Lord, the Creator of the universe, could have created a miracle of this magnitude spanning so much time, involving so many strangers, knowing everything that would be needed, across all the miles, and touching so many lives – including those who will hear the testimony for years to come.
God had used a homeless beagle run over by a car, a truck driver who coordinates dog rescue transports, a unique ministry across the country, a a former atheist with endless odds against her who directs a unique Christian ministry, a pastor who survived an earthquake without a single scratch, and a peanut butter company with an enormous heart, to feed starving children in a nation in dire need.
Some recipes take certain special ingredients to hold everything together and to create the best possible outcome. This miracle had two necessary ingredients of its own – faith in God, and love.
“I knew it would get done,” Pastor Freddie said when we discussed the Peanut Butter Project miracle. “And I knew you would do what you needed to do. These kind of things take faith, and they take willing hearts.”
The Bible says: “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26 KJV).”
It amazes me that even as I bent down low to give medication to little Joy when she first arrived in my heart and life, that God knew even then he would use her and all the rest of us to feed the children in Haiti that would be in more dire need than ever following the earthquake. Truly, He sees the whole picture. All things are possible with Him.
Walk by Faith Ministry is seeking 100 HUGE HEARTS to donate $1 per day to help us continue to fulfill the vision we have been given to share the Gospel as we minister the Lord’s love to people & homeless dogs, too. If you would like to sign up to be a sponsor, please sign up on our SPONSOR US page, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 540-878-9230.