Nine years ago, Merrie Johnson sat in the corner of Hatch Auditorium at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell praying that God would show her how she could incorporate a missions component to summer youth weeks.
Johnson, senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, had already been directing summer youth weeks for a number of years, but she felt that middle and high school students attending camp each summer on the shores of Oak Island could have an impact in another part of the world.
Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, Johnson connected with a missionary and through a ministry partnership, campers began packing meals that have now been sent to Haiti for the past eight summers.
In 2018, Johnson, her staff and attendees at summer youth weeks surpassed a major milestone since the ministry began in 2011 — the packaging of the 2 millionth meal that will be delivered to Haiti later this year.
Johnson says the results have been more than she could have imagined, but not more than she knew God could accomplish.
“I said from the beginning if this is what God wants to do, it will all work out,” Johnson said.
Working with Fenel Bruna, a native Haitian missionary, meals packed during youth weeks are delivered to Jacmel, Haiti, and distributed to children living at the House of Abraham, an orphan care ministry that Bruna helps operate. The ministry has now expanded into three nearby villages, local hospitals and two local Haitian schools.
The meals are not only helping address physical hunger. As each meal is distributed, the gospel is shared.
And during a recent trip to Haiti, Johnson got to see and experience firsthand how God is moving and doing more than she could imagine when campers first started packing and sending meals.
“A principal at one of the schools told me, ‘We have seen a rise in the test scores over these years that we believe are a direct result of the nourishment the students are receiving that is helping them pay attention and learn more,’” Johnson said. “She said, ‘This will make Haiti a stronger nation.’”