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Newsletter from Woody

24/12/2010

This is our boss’s newsletter.  I cannot get it to load with pictures unfortunately.  Those of you who support Vine International or the McCutcheon’s financially will soon get the hard copy of this letter. I am speaking at Calvary Chapel of Asheville this Sunday morning 26 Dec., and at Community Chapel in Greeneville SC on Wednesday evening 29 Dec.  Cindy and I will be meeting with Mike Davis team that Wednesday as well.  We will meet with the Missionary Alliance/Clemmons team in Boone NC this coming Monday.  We are looking forward to Christmas with Olivia and our children.

We are born again Christians and celebrate the most Precious Gift of all time in this season.  Emmanuel God with us/Jesus God Who Saves came as a baby, suffered every temptation, lived a sinless life, died a tortured death and was raised from the dead that all who believe could have eternal life.  There is no greater gift.  Accept it.

Woody’s newsletter follows:

Good Questions & Thoughtful Answers

Reflecting over the past year causes me to reflect on Vine’s history.  My office is a museum of my life.  Most everything displayed has a story – & anyone visiting me knows not to get me started – asking, “Why in the world is that hanging on the wall?”  Since 1993, pictures have become historical – meaning what seems like yesterday was actually years ago – even decades now.  Did we really drive those school buses through Mexico to Guatemala?  It also causes me to think about why we do what we do – & what we’ve learned over the years.  The truth is, we have contemplated these questions countless times.  They’re good, honest questions deserving thoughtful answers, & I thought it would be interesting to bring up a couple in each letter.

Q.Shouldn’t we just take care of the poor right here at home?

A. – Yes, but why not both?  Isn’t God bigger than our community?  If yes, then it’s an issue of God’s “calling” – some to serve the poor here – & some there.  Frankly, I believe every child of God is a “missionary” – not a question of “if” – but “where” we serve.  Acts 1:8, “…you will be My witnesses…in Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria, &… the remotest part of the earth.” It could be the poor or those who are not.  It could be our kids or neighbor, our work – or our city, nation, Africa, Haiti, or Guatemala.  It’s never a question of small or great.  Frankly, I think Jesus would say talking to the woman at the well was just as significant as teaching 5,000.  Food for thought.

Q.With so much need there, are you really helping all that much?

A. – Two thoughts.  First…the infinite value of one person to God & the incredible extent He goes to meet a need.  Second…the fruit of our labor is His responsibility.  The fruit is not a product of the branch, but of the branch staying attached to the trunk or vine, receiving everything to bear fruit.  John 15:4, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” I love the story of the boy chucking some of the thousands of beached starfish back to the sea – even as a man asks how his effort really mattered.  Picking up another, he heaves it back into the water, & claims, “It mattered to that one!”

Over-all – Wow…what a year!  Now…having said that – you know I rarely define fruitfulness by numbers.  Issues of the heart & the ripple-effects of seemingly small things go far beyond what numbers can tell us.  I would contend the small often determines the fruitfulness of the large – a.k.a. – being “faithful with a few things.”  But I do pay attention to some numbers – because they speak of God’s faithfulness.  For years, Vine rocked along excited & content – shipping 6-8 containers a year, valued in the $2-$3 million range.  2009 took a major jump, & now 2010 another major jump – 22 containers & $12 million in aid value.  Interestingly, it’s not a result of large increases in donations, but more to do with God’s economy – taking what we have & leveraging it with a larger volume of more valuable aid like medicines & vitamins.  Example.  A container of free, donated aid – mixed with supplies & equipment – will typically be worth $250,000.  But, a container partnership cost of $6,000 with MAP Int’l, loaded with Rx-prenatal vitamins is valued about $2.5 million.  Both bandages & vitamins are greatly needed – it’s simply a function of the $-value.

North-end –  Kudos to Bruce White, our Collection Center Manager here in Knoxville.  What a warrior!  His container loads are works of exacting art…but alas, time-consuming.  Years ago, we would recruit volunteers to help load one.  Now, by mostly palletizing & shrink-wrapping –  it takes Bruce & me less than an hour.  This leads to another reason for our increased volume.  Our Designated Shipping Service (DSS) has grown dramatically – allowing other organizations to share the cost & consolidate their smaller loads with ours – to get them to their projects.  Why?  Because there’s no good way to ship small loads to Guatemala – much less pass through the import quagmire.  Bruce is finding that often half our containers contain these DSS items.  Another part of the growth equation is our resource partners.  Most containers never pass through Knoxville – shipped from all over – including MAP International (medicines) – Samaritan’s Purse (medical supplies & equipment) – Joni & Friends – & Wheels of Hope (wheelchairs & disability).  Two containers were shipped to Guatemala from outside the US – from Hope Haven Canada.  Some containers are DSS loads of disability items going directly to Bethel Ministries in Guatemala – & hospital supplies & equipment for the Shalom Foundation hospital project in Guatemala City.  As you might expect, importing aid will always have issues to deal with & we work through them.  It’s the nature of what we do.

South-end – And more kudos to Dennis & Cindy McCutcheon – managing our 7,500 square-foot distribution center near Guatemala City.  It’s been a year & a half since they took the baton from the Rice’s who retired after several years of building Vine’s network.  The Mac’s had worked for years developing Vine’s biomed-tech services – meaning they were already very familiar with our work.  Yet, I don’t believe they had any idea of the extent of a couple of things.  (1) Just how incredible it is to give that much stuff away to so many people.  Actually over 120 projects & growing.  Where do they all come from guys?  And then…(2) How much time & running & frustration is involved with importing containers – not to mention all the appointments & truck loading required when folks retrieve items from our warehouse.  But they’ve taken the work on with much gusto – & I can almost hear a “yippee-ki-ya-ye amigo” coming from 2,500 miles south-of-the-border.  For a wealth of stories & pictures, you can access their blog – http://www.dennis51.wordpress.com.

Your-end - Yep…your end!  Meaning none of this happens without partners like you giving from their hearts – not only enabling this work to happen daily – but allowing us to be in a place to experience such incredible growth.  Here is one more number I love to track.  Did you know in 2010 every dollar given translated to $30+ in value of aid shipped?  A 1:10 ratio is a worthy goal, but this blows me away.  One reason is our “lean & mean” experienced staff & efficient overhead expenses.  It also explains why our emails & telephone calls get stacked up – not to mention why you only received two newsletters this year.  Hopefully, you will see improvement in that arena as we work on getting up to speed in the social media world & revamping our website.  I’ve been kicking & screaming the whole way – but look for it in the near future.  As a matter of fact, part of that will be E-news, so this would be a great time for you to update your email address via the response card.  But let me circle back to the Q & A thoughts.  As important as the volume & the value seems, the real bottom line is people – from enhancing our brothers’ & sisters’ abilities to meet great physical need – to encouraging the poor as they see God’s compassion through Christ indwelling each of us.  As Immanuel (God with us) is celebrated this season – today, too, we find life – & give life – by abiding in His Life.

Muchas gracias for being our partners – & Feliz Navidad ya’ll.

><>  Blessings – Woody Woodson & the Vine Family  <><

P.O Box 52086 – Knoxville, TN 37950 – (865) 690-6857 – woody@vineinternational.org –  www.vineinternational.org


In Christ,
Dennis and Cindy McCutcheon

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