Getaways With Purpose

There are several organizations in 417-land that are helping construct homes, feed children and end poverty all over the world. Learn a little about these ministries and how you can help out by planning your own mission trip or even volunteering in Spring

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.


There are several organizations in 417-land that are helping construct homes, feed children and end poverty all over the world. Learn a little about these ministries and how you can help out by planning your own mission trip or even volunteering in Springfield.

The Rainbow Network

This faith-based organization works to end extreme poverty in Nicaragua through housing, health care, education, micro-finance and sustainable agriculture. 

About the Organization: 

Founded in Springfield in 1995 by Keith and Karen Jaspers, The Rainbow Network has been working toward rebuilding the country of Nicaragua for 16 years. The organization, which has an international board of directors, focuses on community development and long-term results. Its goal is to end poverty in Nicaragua by doing things like building housing, creating jobs and providing medical care. Currently the organization feeds between 8,000 and 9,000 children a day, and it provides scholarships for about 900 high school students.

The organization offers three main programs: Tours are educational experiences where people visit and learn about restrained poverty, what it’s like to live in Nicaragua and what can be done to help. Traditional mission trips or work trips are hands-on opportunities for churches or community groups to build houses, or for medical doctors to take trips to see patients. And finally, village partnerships make it possible for organizations to underwrite and partner with a community.

The Rainbow Network has more than 50 people on staff in Nicaragua working all year. It has eight physicians on staff who see patients six days a week, 52 weeks a year. And the plan is to keep it up. Robert Carolla, the volunteer executive director of the Rainbow Network, says the organization also offers Nicaraguans a micro-loan program that helps with job opportunities.

An Insider’s View:

Brad Wadle has been on three mission trips with The Rainbow Network in 2006, 2007 and 2010, and he and his wife have sponsored several high school students through The Rainbow Network for the past six years. Wadle’s congregation, National Avenue Christian Church, pioneered the village sponsorship program with a partnership with Hilapo Dos. “I decided to travel to Hilapo Dos, our partner village, to meet the people there and to see in what ways our congregation could help in addition to providing financial support,” Wadle says. 

Wadle speaks of many positive experiences on the trip, including something that happened on his first visit. “We were able to arrange for an operation for a young boy who could not hear,” Wadle says. The operation, which cost less than $1,000, restored his hearing. “Seeing the joy on his face during my second visit made me realize how life-changing our involvement had been on both sides,” Wadle says. 

How to Get Involved:

Find more information about going on a trip or donating to The Rainbow Network by visiting or calling 417-889-8088.


Project H.O.P.E.

Project H.O.P.E. is an organization that strives to meet the immediate physical needs of impoverished people while sharing religious beliefs.

About the Organization:

Kim Bradley, president of Project H.O.P.E., says the organization started with a group of guys who used to vacation together and started doing mission work. After Hurricane Mitch flooded Nicaragua in 1998, this group of guys went down in 1999 for a building trip. “It was just friends and wives,” Bradley says. “We did a camp out and built 37 small homes. People at that time didn’t have anything. That had sticks and black plastic that they were living in.” 

Project H.O.P.E. became a not-for-profit that spring, and then became a registered non-governmental organization. Soon, they returned to Nicaragua with a team of 35 people and built approximately 30more houses. 

“We thought we would do one or two of those trips a year,” Bradley says. “But then it skyrocketed.” At press time, the organization had already done 17 trips in 2011. And while the organization does its main work in Nicaragua, it has also sent a team to Haiti to help an orphanage expand their facilities.

Project H.O.P.E. is primarily a mission facilitator, helping people and organizations go on mission trips. Since it started, the organization has built 1,070 homes and helped serve more than 100,000 people medically. 

An Insider’s View:

“There are homeless people in the in the U.S. who have better living conditions than the homes these people have,” says Jamie Hathcock. He is referring to the Nicaraguans he helped and worked with on his first mission trip with Project H.O.P.E. in June 2011. He describes the experience as truly life-changing. 

In addition to being blown away by how little the people have, Hathcock is even more touched at how giving they are. He describes an experience in which he tried to offer a man his boots on his last day on the trip. “He didn’t have any shoes,” Hathcock says. “He had helped me a lot through the week, and I offered to give him my boots. But he took me to a friend’s house that he thought needed them more than he did.”

And when it comes to working, the Nicaraguans are more than willing to help. Hathcock describes how the Nicaraguans would work all night long to help the mission trip workers build homes. “We would go there the next morning, and there would be 8 or 10 more houses for us,” Hathcock says. “Not only do they need the help, but they’re engaged to help you.” 

How to Get Involved:

Find more information about going on a mission trip with Project H.O.P.E. by calling 417-886-4673, visiting or visiting their office at 1419 S. Enterprise Ave., Springfield.



Watoto is a holistic care program that was initiated as a response to the overwhelming number of orphaned children and vulnerable women in Uganda whose lives have been ravaged by war and disease.

About the Organization: 

Gary Skinner, who founded Watoto with his wife, Marilyn, had moved with his family to Uganda in 1980. The country was famous for violence and poverty. The Skinners planted a church in the country’s capital, Kampala. In 1988, Skinner met a 79-year-old widow who had lost her husband and six children to AIDS. And her last surviving daughter was dying of the same disease. His visit with this woman helped birth Watoto Child Care Ministries from Watoto Church in 1994. 

The organization, whose development office is in Springfield, believes in holistic care for Uganda. It is positioned to rescue children, raise them and help them rebuild their nation. Rather than orphanages, the organization strives to create homes, villages and families for the children. Watoto (which is the Swahili word for children) involves physical care, medical intervention that includes HIV/AIDS treatment, education, trauma counseling and spiritual discipleship. “There are a little more than 2,000 children in Watoto homes right now,” says Deana Belote, retail coordinator at Watoto. 

Individuals, groups and churches send teams to do mission work with Watoto, and sponsorship is also key to growth. Watoto raises money on United States soil with the organization’s choir, which travels the country by bus to perform and raise awareness and donations. 

An Insider’s View:

“My daughter came to me one day and said, ‘Mom, we’re going to Africa. A group from our church is going, and I feel like God is calling us.’” Deana Belote says. “We made the journey, and it was truly life-changing.” 

Belote says a defining moment on her trip was one she shared with a little boy. “His mom and dad had died of AIDS, and he was caring for his grandmother,” Belote says. “He wanted something simple for his grandmother. I gave him some shoes, and tears started to come down his face. He was so touched.” After this, Belote felt she was called to do more. She started selling products made by Living Hope, a group of Ugandan women that Watoto teaches to sew and make jewelry. Eventually, a full-time position opened, so she joined the Watoto team. 

How to Get Involved:

To learn about going on a trip with Watoto or donate, visit or call 417-831-0772


Convoy of Hope

Convoy of Hope is a faith-based organization with a driving passion for children’s feeding initiatives, community outreach, disaster response and more.

About the Organization:

Convoy of Hope, which was started 17 years ago and has been in Springfield for the past 15 years, has multiple focuses.

The children’s feeding initiatives started a couple of years ago. They were feeding approximately 11,000 kids around the world, mostly in developing countries including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Kenya. And the number rose. “When we were at about 30,000, our president said, ‘I believe that we need to establish a goal of feeding 100,000 children on a regular basis,’” says Jeff Nene, senior director of public relations. 

Convoy of Hope’s Community Outreach one-day events take six to nine months to plan. Each year Convoy hosts 30 to 50 of these events, which mainly take place domestically. They often draw 3,000 to 4,000 guests—but they have had as many as 14,000. The events have kid-friendly activities, as well as areas such as haircut tents and medical tents that provide services. “A staple of the event is the free groceries we give,” Nene says. “Every adult walks away with two bags of free groceries.” The organization plans to hit all 50 states in 2012 and 2013.

Disaster response is what the organization’s best known for in the Springfield area. When a disaster strikes, no matter where in the world it is, Convoy of Hope is there to help. “Mainly, we provide food, water, supplies, ice. All the things that are most needed in those hours and days immediately following a natural disaster.” Since the Joplin tornado in May 2011, Convoy of Hope has delivered between 70 and 80 tractor trailers of food, water and other necessities to the city.

Convoy of Hope assists like-minded organizations with their partner resourcing initiative. Nene talks about bottled water as an example of this. “Through relationships with manufacturers and vendors, we get more bottled water than we’d ever be able to use,” he says. “So we give it to someone else.” 

An Insider’s View:

Dr. Chad Carter can be found volunteering for Convoy of Hope almost every Tuesday evening. An optometrist by trade, Dr. Carter has been on four mission trips to serve patients around the world. “The good thing about Convoy is they show passion and compassion for people, and they demonstrate it through feeding initiatives,” Dr. Carter says. “What better way to show you love someone than to feed them, especially in an area where they don’t have access to those resources?” 

Dr. Carter says most of his volunteer time is spent bagging groceries, or sorting foods and repacking them so they can be sent to disaster areas or to feed poor and malnourished children. “In my mind, it’s the perfect opportunity to help those in need without having to leave Springfield to do it,” Dr. Carter says. 

How to Get Involved:

Convoy of Hope offers volunteer opportunities in which guests do everything from repackaging food to sorting supplies, every Tuesday night from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at 330 S. Patterson Ave.,  Springfield, 417-823-8998.  Learn more at

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