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Our Beginning

The Dream Giver: the ministry testimony of Bob & Gretchen DeVoe, Lifeline's Founders
written by Gretchen DeVoe for Lifeline's 25th anniversary in 2005

You may have read Bruce Wilkenson's book "The Dream Giver"; we received it as a gift. As I read through the pages it was "deja-vu". Considered a modern day parable, the book's central character is a Nobody named Ordinary. Ordinary leaves the Land of Familiar to pursue his Big Dream. Once the Dream Giver (God) convinces Ordinary to leave his comfort zone the journey of his life begins. The author describes the process and how Ordinary must overcome enormous obstacles. Bruce Wilkenson serves as the Dream Coach, offers the reader insights and practical solutions to finding that Dream and overcoming obstacles, and the process of the Big Dream becoming a reality. The Dream Giver has planted deep within each of his children a Dream; some call it a Vision. As I turned the pages of the book the words in the forward jumped out at me...."You may not be able to describe it. You may have forgotten it. You may even no longer believe in it. But it's there.". And it all came flooding back to me, memory after memory...

Allow me to take you back to the year 1976. Bob and I were living a life filled with the world and self. But all was not perfect. Bob owned his own contracting businesses and was "successful" by the world's standard: owned our beautiful home in the suburbs, an in-ground swimming pool, several acres of land, several Corvette sport cars, country club memberships, tennis clubs, racquet ball, golf, etc. Bob was even listed in "Who's Who In American Business Men", and our home was featured in the elegant homes section of the Columbus newspaper. Get the picture?

We had been raised in Christian homes with traditional values. In retrospect we believe that our marriage was truly one "made in heaven", but things were not all roses on the home front. Bob worked day, night and weekends building his little empire and raising our three precious children (Rob, Renee' and Ron) was left to me. Weekends (my only time home from my successful, high paying job as an administrator of a large medical practice) found me spending time with the children but without Bob. Although our common faith had bound us together during our courtship, the world pulled us away from our Lord shortly after marriage. Sound familiar?

By 1975 I was lonely and seeking. I began attending church again with Bob's family. Ralph Lemmon had recently become the preacher at our home church, Minerva Park Church of Christ. Bob and I were married there in 1963 and Bob, his parents and some of his siblings actually helped start it back in the 1950's. Although it was a struggle on Sunday mornings getting our three children ready for church and convincing them that they must go, even though Dad didn't because he spent his Sundays working, the sense of loneliness and hunger was beginning to be filled.

Ralph was teaching a series of Sunday evening lessons on prayer that motivated me to begin praying regularly for Bob. I prayed that he too would desire to return to the "Lord of his youth"; at one time in his younger years Bob had actually wanted to be a minister. One evening Ralph's lesson emphasized the need to allow us to be used by God to have our prayers answered. I remember Ralph telling us to pray specifically "Lord, WHATEVER it takes (answer my prayer)". This was my prayer for Bob for the next 6 months. Little did I know...

In April of 1976 Bob was diagnosed with Stage IV malignant melanoma that metastasized to his axillary lymph nodes. The doctors informed us that Bob's time was short; there was no known effective treatment for melanoma at this stage and that maybe he would have 60 days to live. While still in the hospital Bob went to the chapel and turned his life back over to Christ. When sharing his personal testimony, he recalls saying "Lord, whatever your will for me is, I accept it."

Upon leaving the hospital and following more tests and biopsies, the healing began. Not just physical, but spiritual healing. Each day, week and month that went by we became more convinced that God had other plans for us. There was a peace that we had never felt before. Suddenly what used to be important was insignificant, while at the same time a great yearning to serve Christ began to grow inside our hearts. It wasn't until months later that we began to put the pieces of the puzzle together...this was answered prayer! God had performed what many call a miracle. For some reason God answered our prayers with divine intervention.

Dreams began to sprout from seeds of praise and gratitude, planted over a period of about three years. Bob and I continued to grow spiritually and were filled with an overwhelming gratitude for a "second chance" (a favorite song of ours is Ray Boltz's "God Gave Me Back My Tomorrow"). We became very active in our home church and grew in our friendship with Ralph and Jane Lemmon. Bob's priorities had changed and his relationship with our children changed for the better. He even began coaching their pee wee football teams.

In December 1979, Bob was chairman of our Missions Ministry and had asked Bob Reeves, Executive Director of FAME, to be our mission rally speaker. Bob Reeves' theme for the rally was that we were to pray this prayer "Lord, what would you have ME do (about missions)?" We prayed this prayer earnestly every day and night and at the conclusion of that rally Bob Reeves shared with a group of us about FAME's work in the country of Haiti. He shared that FAME needed people to go to Haiti and build a clinic there in Port au Prince. As the evening unfolded it became clear that a vision was being imparted...everyone was excited, and Bob DeVoe the builder began dreaming. This was December 6, 1979; January 8, 1980 Bob was in Haiti with Bob Reeves and Ralph Lemmon on a survey trip to see if the clinic for FAME was a project our church could undertake.

After five days in Haiti they came home and Bob made preparations to return to Haiti in late January to build the clinic. He left his business in the care of his brother and spent nearly three months overseeing the construction. The last three weeks of his time there our parents took our three children and I joined Bob in Haiti. It was there that God really revealed his dream to us. We fell in love with Haiti, with the precious children, the beautiful people and country, the "romance" of ministry and mostly with serving God.

I will never forget our last Sunday in Haiti. We went to the beach after church and drove west of town on the main road until we saw a sign that looked was for May's Beach. As we spent the day on the beach, with no one else there but the owner, we could see this beautiful mountain off to the west a mile or so. We named that "Our Mountain". Little did we know that if we'd gone one more mile we would have been to the village of Grand Goave, Haiti. Two days later as we were at the airport about to return to the states, we were talking, crying and Bob made the statement, "This was a nice place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live here!" (God absolutely has a sense of humor). That was April. In November 1980, after praying and struggling to determine God's vision and will, Bob accepted God's call and Lifeline Christian Mission was founded. Ralph Lemmon remained an integral part of the work and contributed as friend and minister. In January 1981, Bob returned to Haiti for three months to research and determine how, what, when and where! It was during that time that Bob and Lifeline's first Haitian minister, Dieuseul Anefils, found Grand Goave. They knew this was where Lifeline was being called to begin ministry.

That was over 25 year's ago and God continues to reveal new and greater visions. In 1986, expansion into Honduras became a reality. By 2004, Cuba was part of Lifeline's ministry and in 2005, a new work in El Salvador has begun. It is amazing to see what God has done through Lifeline.

Part of the original Big Dream, in addition to evangelizing (and those physical ministries that allow the mission to reach needy people with the message of Christ) was to provide opportunities for others to find their Big Dream. Lifeline has been a facilitator for God to call people to service for Him. Many have gone to the mission fields and experienced much of what we experienced; others have caught a vision here at home. And as we share this, our testimony and history of Lifeline, our desire is that others will see that people who are Ordinary, like us, who once were really Nobody can step out of their comfort zones and allow the Dream Giver to take them on the adventure of their lives.

These past few years we have begun to plan and prepare for a time when we will no longer be part of this ministry. Our Lord Jesus has led great people to this mission to work and many administrative practices and procedures have been put in place that will allow for a smooth transition when that day comes. Others are still needed to fill key roles.

In the book, Bruce concludes by saying "You were born for more. You are called to go after larger and larger Dreams for God. And He will go with you. So when you hear Him say 'Come Further', pick up your knapsack. Your horizon is full of promise. Another big Dream is out there waiting for you and if you don't pursue it, something important WON'T happen." Our prayer for you is that you too have listened to the call of The Dream Giver and that your Big Dream is within your grasp.

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