Jon French is a Network Relations Director at Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization that leads humanitarian initiatives across the United States and around the world. Through Convoy of Hope, families receive supplies and resources through community outreaches, international children’s feeding programs, job training for mothers, agriculture initiatives, and disaster relief. Having served in church ministry for more than 20 years, Jon loves the local church and is a strong advocate for many pastors. He has a passion to bring messages of hope to those around him. As a Stage 4 cancer survivor, he understands what it means for hope to be attacked. But after an intense battle, by God’s grace, he is in complete remission. Jon uses authenticity, humor, and the Word of God to encourage people in that — no matter what they’ve done — they matter to God. He and his beautiful wife, Dori, have three children: Sophia, Jonathan, and Caden
Facebook: (5) Convoy of Hope | Facebook
Christ’s Church of the Valley: https://ccv.church/
CCV Missions: www.ccv.church/missions
Pastor Larrie Fraley: linkedin.com/in/larrie-fraley-53445032
Larrie: [00:00:02] Welcome to another episode of Let's Go 360. Let's Go 360 is a podcast for listeners who want to know more about what God is doing around the world here, near and far. This podcast is sponsored by Christ’s Church of the Valley, also known as CCV. One Church with many locations across the Greater Phoenix area with plans to expand wherever God wants to go. And as always, our show notes will have links to helpful information discussed in each podcast episode, along with a complete transcript of every episode. Check out all episodes on Let's Go 360.org and be sure to check out CCV at CCV’s website, CCV.church. My name is Larrie Fraley. I'm your host and lead pastor of the local and global missions here at CCV.
Well, Jon French is a network relations director at Convoy of Hope. It's a faith based non-profit organization that leads humanitarian initiatives all across the United States and around the world. And through Convoy of Hope, families receive supplies and resources through community outreaches, international children, feeding programs, job training for mothers, agricultural initiatives, and disaster relief. Having served the church ministry for more than 20 years, Jon loves the local church and is a strong advocate for many pastors. He has a passion to bring messages of hope to those around him. Now as a stage four cancer survivor, he understands what it means for hope to be attacked. But after an intense battle. By God's grace, he's in complete remission. Jon uses authenticity, humor and the Word of God to encourage people that no matter what they've done, they matter to God. He and his beautiful wife, Dori, have three children Sophia, Jonathan and Caden. Jon, welcome to the show.
Jon: [00:02:10] Thank you so much for having me. And Convoy of hope. It is such an honor and a privilege to be a part of what you got going.
Larrie: [00:02:19] Well, you know, I feel like I should know you better. I mean, as I read about you and hear about what you are doing, I feel like I'm reading about myself, especially during this COVID thing. I mean, as COVID hit, you know, I was we were all obviously trying to figure out what we were going to do. The church shut down, no one was at the office and everybody was home except for the missions team. And the missions team began to kick into overdrive. And we were down helping the homeless. We were feeding the homeless. We were opening up blood drive stations, we were setting up COVID testing stations. And as I read about why you were involved with it seems like you were involved in a lot of the same stuff.
Jon: [00:03:07] Yes, absolutely. You know, I think we didn't realize how well we were set up for a COVID response. One of our initiatives is disaster response. And so whenever disaster strikes, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, we're usually one of the first ones on the ground there supplying relief. And so whenever COVID happened and everything began to shut down, we have semi trucks, we have warehousing, we have connections all over the country that we were able to immediately hop into action. And actually, we're able to provide over 200 million meals during that year through the local church. Our heart is the local church. And so we partnered with local churches in communities to be able to get them the resources they need to reach out and bring some hope during that desperate time, especially when we were all in lockdown. And so, yeah, what we didn't realize God knew what he was doing. Just like with your missions team, he was preparing a way that whenever disaster strikes, he had some people that were in great positions to be able to respond accordingly. And we saw God do some incredible, amazing things through that time. And so I think what a lot of people saw as evil, we were able to respond in good.
Larrie: [00:04:19] Well put, well put. You know, before we get too much into Convoy of Hope. Tell us a little bit about you and maybe your story.
Jon: [00:04:27] Absolutely. So 20 years, full time ministry, everything from youth, pastor, media director, college and career leadership college. Back in 2017, 18, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and went through chemo, full stem cell transplant, that whole nine yards in the middle of that. You know, one of the main things they talk about whenever you're dealing battling something with your health is sleep. Sleep is vitally important. So in my process, I created this nightly routine, almost like you do with kids. You turn off the lights, you turn on the sound, you do this nightly routine. So I created this nightly routine for myself. And the last thing I wanted to do before I went to sleep was I wanted to read about something other than myself, because in those moments we get all about ourselves a lot of times, and all rightfully so. And I got a book by Hal Donaldson, the founder of Convoy of Hope, called Your Next 24 Hours 24 short chapters about how to love your neighbor. Real simple stuff like get a candy bar and tell them you think they're good and put it on their doorstep. I mean, real simple. And those first 24 days of reading that really endeared my heart to my neighbors and also to how the author to see his authenticity and love for people. And so when we came out of that season of cancer, right, as we kind of came to the end, I got the amazing chance to talk with Hal and he said, Hey, would you like to come work for us? And the door opened up for us to be able to transition and move over to Convoy of Hope. And so now I get this amazing opportunity to share my story, as well as be an advocate for pastors and help people that are in need and some of people's darkest times. We're able to bring hope and light into those situations. So that's a little bit of of how we got to convoy. And convoy is just a place of hope, a place that loves the local church and loves bringing light to people on dark days.
Larrie: [00:06:17] Well, I've learned more about Convoy of Hope over the years. I can remember a time when I thought, Oh, Convoy of Hope. That's that's the guys that, you know, kind of show up at churches with a semi truck and everybody brings some food and they distribute it. But you're much bigger than that. So tell us about Convoy of Hope. You guys are huge.
Jon: [00:06:38] Absolutely. So, you know, I think the one of the main things for convoy is, we say we follow the miracles. And over the last 26 years, we have just seen God do some incredible miracles for Convoy of Hope. I mean, what started as our founder, Hal, taking a couple of hundred dollars out of his paycheck and delivering food to people in need in the areas around where he lived to now last year, over 17 million of product giving out during disaster relief time. That just shows I mean, that's only God can do those kind of miracles. So we've been around for 26 years. Our founder at a young age, his father was killed by a drunk driver. It sent his family into extreme poverty so he understood what poverty was. After high school, he began to pursue his degrees, became an author, writing a lot of books, a lot of ghostwriting, and got a chance to go to India and meet Mother Teresa. And Mother Teresa asked him what he was doing to help the poor and suffering. And his words, Are you better not lie to Mother Teresa? And so he says, Honestly, I'm not doing much.
Jon: [00:07:39] And Mother Teresa said, Everyone can do something. And that was really the birthplace of Convoy of Hope was in that moment as he came home and began to struggle with that, in his mind, he began to dream God, what does that look like? And so we have a driving passion to to feed people, to feed the world. Many times we believe that a full belly will lead to a full spirit. And so it's our goal to be able to help fill people's bellies in times of disaster. And that disaster can be manmade or Nature made. And so right now we're currently in 29 countries feeding over 435,000 kids every school day. Last year, we were able to empower over 35,000 women and girls into having a better life. We were able to help out over 17,000 farmers respond to over 60 natural disasters, helping over 2 million people. I think last year our touch was right around. We touch around 29 million people. Last year we were able to bring hope to in their lives.
Larrie: [00:08:32] Wow. So tell us how it works. How does Convoy go about doing all of this?
Jon: [00:08:40] So with Convoy it all works in and through the local church. To be honest, our heart is that no one ever knows the name of Convoy of Hope, because if a disaster strikes, convoy wants to come in and empower that local church to reach into their community, to give hope. And so we work with local churches, both partnering for helping us receive and on the front end, as well as on the back end, giving out through the local church. Because at some point, Convoy of Hope wants to have an exit strategy. And everything we do, our goal is to be the first in in the last out. But at some point we do want to leave, we say with our children's programming, we love feeding these kids, but we would not love to feed their grandkids. We want to help those communities come out of poverty, begin to run for themselves. So everything we do is through that local church so that whenever a convoy of hope does leave, we are then able to empower that local church to keep loving their community. When somebody has that disaster happen in their life, they know the local church helped them. They know the local church was the one that that came alongside them in the time of that. And so we do that also through our partnerships. We have an incredible group of partners, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hostess. I mean, you can kind of go down the line. We just finished our world distribution center, 250,000 square feet, and it stays pretty full. And that's because of our incredible partners that are continually I mean, we have semis on the on the road at all times that are being able to help make that happen. So between churches and partners, it's really what makes the magic sauce, I guess you will of convoy.
Larrie: [00:10:07] Let's let's shift gears a little bit. The world is focused right now on Ukraine. I mean, just a few weeks ago before the war, we were all focused on COVID. And it seems like overnight in one day, the world's focus shifted on Ukraine. Now, you mentioned earlier that you guys are positioned to help in this situation. So tell us how Convoy of Hope responded to Ukraine.
Jon: [00:10:35] So one of the things, again, kind of like with COVID that helped us is that we already had people working in Eastern Europe. We've been working with the gypsies, refugees, the immigration patterns that have been going through Eastern Europe. We've already been working inside of those areas. So whenever Ukraine happened, we were blessed to have people in the area able to respond. So we're currently responding in eight different countries. We're in Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Moldova, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. So we're currently in all those areas working with refugees. I think we've been able to serve about 100,000 at this point, but to be honest, this is just the beginning. So like I said, with Convoy, we're one of the First Inns and last out. We see this as going to it's going to be a long term recovery because even if our prayers and hopes were granted today, we know that the devastation is going to take years to get past. And so our goal is that we're going to be able to set up a foundation where we can help people for the long term, not just the short term. We want to be able to help people with everything from food, hygiene, water, clothing, tents, lanterns, all those kind of things are the things that we're taking in both around and we're also running into Ukraine. We're able to help people actually inside the borders of Ukraine. And so our goal is long term, not short term, but that's kind of the way we're responding currently.
Larrie: [00:11:51] Now, I know we're involved. We have a missionary in Ukraine and Sasha Mutko, and so we've had two episodes to episodes with Sasha on Let's Go 360. And I know we're in the process right now of trying to get Convoy of Hope connected with him so that you guys can help him in his efforts there with the local church. I don't know whether you know how that's going, but I know that's in process. That's one thing. The other thing that's going on right now is we are in discussions with you on how to use our Stars sports program, which has about 20,000 players right now, youth players, which translates into a lot of families. And they're in the process of trying to come up with some kit or hygiene kit that will be assembled by them and then provided to you guys for distribution. So we're excited about how we can help you in that realm.
Jon: [00:12:51] That's awesome. I would encourage you as as we step forward into these hygiene kits, they're really amazing. My family, we do them. It's a lot of fun because you can run to the dollar store and pick up the items that it says inside of there. And it's a whole family kind of thing. And here's the promise that we can make. When you make a hygiene kit, it is going to go from your hands to the hands of somebody that is in need. Like that is a direct way that you can touch a need and have a response, as if you say, How do I get involved? I can't leave. You can leave, you can put the love in that package. And that package is going to go from your hands into somebody else's hands. And the only the only warning I give with them is please stay to what's on the list, because a lot of families will think, well, they would love a chocolate bar and they probably would, but they're not going to love it when it has to go through the airport and it's going to have to go through all these things where by the time it gets to them, it's probably not a chocolate bar anymore. So the main thing with those kits is that you stick to it. But I got to tell you, man, there's not much more encouraging thing than to know that when I pack this, it's going in the hands of someone that needs it.
Larrie: [00:13:51] Well, we're looking forward to participating with that now. I know we responded our congregation responded a few weeks ago when we began taking gifts and offerings for Ukraine. And so I know a lot of that has ended up in in Convoy of Hope’s hand. And so how have you been using that?
Jon: [00:14:11] Just directly into response. So, you know, the one of the issues right now is getting product into the areas. As you can imagine, there's a lot of things that have just been destroyed, a lot of product lines. So we've actually just finished up getting all the paperwork done. We're actually now able to send things in there. So we're not just usually in our disaster response internationally, it looks different than our national, but internationally. Usually we try to take cash into those areas that have been have had the devastation to pump the economy because we want to try to get that economy moving. So you want to try to buy things there. Right now we're having to ship things in so that money is going directly to help feed families, to help get them. You know, a lot of people just came across the borders and they had nothing but maybe one suitcase, if even a suitcase they didn't have clothes to be able to wear. They didn't have a place to stay. So we're trying to get them those shelters, that food, those clothing, those basic needs that are able to help sustain them to hopefully they can go home. But as we know, there is no end in sight for that. We can pray that that happens soon. And so that's where that money is going, is directly helping feed, clothe and get shelter to those individuals that are that are crossing the borders.
Larrie: [00:15:22] And so this is where Convoy of Hope is is really strategic because a lot of those refugees that leaving Ukraine, all the supplies pouring into Ukraine to help those, but then there's millions that's leaving. Well, some of that doesn't go with them. So now the problem has shifted to another country. So now you've got these millions of refugees leaving Ukraine and arriving in Poland or or Romania or wherever there's going. And so now there's a there's a shortage in that country.
Jon: [00:15:51] Correct.
Larrie: [00:15:51] And so that's where you guys it's so important for you to have those networks in place to be able to shift that and move those to different places.
Jon: [00:16:01] Yes, absolutely. You know, it's I think, you know, I saw a graphic of showing the amount of states that the refugees amount to. I mean, it is a lot of refugees that I don't think we can wrap our head around because numbers anymore. I feel like in our society kind of just get washed out of what those numbers actually mean. And so there's a lot of people on the move and a lot of them are women and children, that they're not just able to move somewhere and pick up a new job and get everything rolling. And so you're looking at a lot of a lot of people coming in to new areas where they can be forced into poverty quickly. And so those countries around it, we want to be able to help all those countries.
Larrie: [00:16:39] Now, I know you have many examples, but if you could just share with us a story of perhaps some family or someone that's been helped by Convoy of Hope or some other organization that has been able to help them get out of the situation they're in.
Jon: [00:16:57] Absolutely, man. There's so many. I think probably one of my favorite is when the Bahamas happened a couple of years ago. We're still there helping the Bahamas rebuild, being a part of it. And there was a family that literally their house was leveled to the ground, lost everything. And in those moments, praying for someone is great, but it's really hard for them to keep moving on. And so Convoy was able to come in and because of some of our partners in the area, we were able to help them rebuild their house. We were able to help them get furnishings inside of the house, get their lives back up, back up and moving in a way that they felt like would never happen. You know, in in many of our lives, we have things like home insurance, things that are going to help us rebuild. In other countries, They're not so fortunate. And so the ability for us to go in and rebuild and also another great story is in that same area in the Bahamas, a whole fishing community lost their boats and had no way of livelihood. And we had a great partner of ours come in and give all of those fishermen new boats so that they can go out and begin to work. I believe it was 11 new boats that they were able to supply them so they could go back out. The boats were better than the ones they had before, get their livelihood back rolling. And so then they could get that community back on its feet. And honestly, there's examples of that all over the world that we're seeing. And and the amount of women that we're seeing empowered in in third world countries where they aren't seen as much more than honestly cattle to be traded. And we're able to see those women change their lives, be able to see their children's lives changed, and be able to see them running businesses. It's just incredible to see that that life change.
Larrie: [00:18:43] So I know Convoy has always been an organization that seems to be not on the bleeding edge of things, but certainly on the leading edge. And tell us what you see for the future. Are there any new opportunities?
Jon: [00:18:58] You know, I think in the church world, you know, I think engagement is really the new opportunity. You can get podcasts everywhere now. You can get videos everywhere. But people are looking to engage their local community and the global community with the Gospel of Christ. And I think COVID showed us not just Convoy of Hope, I mean, us big C churches in general, that our buildings are great, important, but loving those around us that sometimes we don't even know love. I think one of the things that we saw during COVID was how many people in our own backyards have needs, how many, how much food insecurity around just our own worlds, our own communities around the world. I think it opened our eyes. Now, it seems to me, and I could be wrong, there was a real strong spiritual component to COVID. I believe. I believe there's a strong spiritual component to Ukraine, too. But I think that it really opened the eyes of people to the needs of others and to wanting to help other people and to see how they can be a part. And so I think that the next leading edge, I think, is just finding ways. And this is a question I think a lot of churches, a lot of missions organizations are trying to find is how do we get more people engaged because they want to be engaged.
Jon: [00:20:11] They want to be boots on. I mean, I can't tell you how many people just want to fly to Ukraine and help. And as great as that is in the heart, I don't know how safe that is, if that makes sense. And so people just there's it seems like people right now want to do things. They want to be engaged. They want they want to be a part of something. And so I think figuring out how that works inside the local church, how that works inside of convoy, we have so many people wanting to volunteer. But as you know, sometimes too many volunteers can hurt as opposed to help. And so how do you manage that struggle? So I don't know if that answers, but I think I think that we're really seeing right now for us for coming on the side is also how do we do all the things we do overseas inside of the United States, the women's empowerments, the agriculture, the children's feeding that's all needed right here inside of the United States. So that we're looking at that as well. So, yeah, I think the cutting edge right now is just engagement of people. People want to be engaged. They want to be in action.
Larrie: [00:21:07] Well, we're looking forward with our relationship, Jon, because, you know, I have the opportunity and the privilege and the honor of working with so many different organizations, a lot of them nonprofits, para- church organizations, humanitarian organizations. But every once in a while, we'll run across an organization who's not a para-church organization, they're a pro church organization. And there's a difference. And so Convoy of Hope is a pro church organization. And that's why we are attracted to working with you, because you understand the church. And so we look forward to that. As we wrap up here, how can we pray for you?
Jon: [00:21:52] Safety. Right now as we are going into the Ukraine, safety that we are able to get to the people that need it. Wisdom. That we just see, Okay, God, what is it you're doing that we can be prepared for? I think those are safety, wisdom and favor as we go into these places. A lot of countries have the doors fly open because favor and so just praying for favor in those areas those are really the main things for us that help Convoy of Hope, become who we are.
Larrie: [00:22:23] Well, Jon will certainly do that as we pray for safety, wisdom and favor. So thanks, Jon, for coming on the show today.
Jon: [00:22:31] Oh, my pleasure. Thank you again. Thank you. To the entire church, to you. You are incredible partners of ours. We appreciate you. We would not be able to do without you and churches like you that have a heart for people, that have a heart to help people in their hurting times. And so, again, thank you so much. We could not do what we do without you.
Larrie: [00:22:50] Well, as we wrap up today's show, we want to thank you for listening. You can follow us on your favorite podcast app and leave us a five star review if you like what you've heard today and want to hear more. That way more people can hear about what God is doing around the world. Also, you can follow us on our website at
www.letsgo360.org. You can also check out at CCV’s website at CCV.church. Thanks for joining us. And as we talk with those living out the great commission, inspired by the Great Commandments so that we might stand before the great multitudes, before the throne, when the mission of God is complete. May God bless you as we go and send those here near and far.