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Thursday, Oct 19, 2017
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Group has plan to help Haiti

TAMPA - If year-end reports weren't due for his ministry, Russ Montgomery would have flown to Haiti the day of the catastrophic earthquake. He goes every second Tuesday of the month. But instead of being relieved at this seeming good fortune, he fretted about it. The way he sees it, there's a lot to be done in the devastated country, and he could have had a running start. "While most people were trying to flee out of the country after the disaster, we were trying to find a way back in," Montgomery said earlier this week.
On Wednesday, he got to Croix-des-Bouquets, about 12 miles from Port-au-Prince. That's the site of an eye clinic run by Living in Faith, the nonprofit agency he founded in 1995. It also operates in Cuba. The clinic - a solid two-story structure with living quarters built by American volunteers - suffered no damage. In fact, the entire village was unscathed. With so much damage in the capital city, Living in Faith's mission of providing eye exams, glasses and cataract surgeries is on hold. The clinic is being transformed into a surgical center for quake victims, who'll be treated by 40 volunteer doctors and nurses. They have an advantage over many of the makeshift Port-au-Prince facilities. "Just last month, we brought in a big container of medical supplies, clothing and mattresses," he said. "It was as if God was preparing us for what was to come." To Montgomery, Haiti is a second home. He's made some 50 trips to the Caribbean country since 2000, keeping the ministry's focus on three areas: providing eye care, setting up water purification systems for communities and leading spiritual programs that promote family and biblical values. "It's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why we concentrate on specific areas, and do the best job we can," he said. A member of Van Dyke United Methodist Church in Lutz, Montgomery used to work in sales. But after a trip to Cuba in 1996, he saw that vision care would greatly improve the lives there. What began as a humanitarian trip evolved into a full-time ministry, which later expanded to Haiti. Living in Faith, a registered 501(c)3 corporation is supported solely by donations from individuals, churches and some businesses. In 2008, it brought in about $100,000. According to Montgomery, "every dollar we get, we stretch to about $15." Despite a shaky economy, he thinks the 2009 donations will show a slight increase. Besides Montgomery, the Tampa office is staffed by Julie and Jon Brigner, also from Van Dyke United Methodist. They, too, left real jobs to dedicate their lives to mission work. "This definitely was not in our plan. But the Lord called us, and until he says otherwise, this is what we will keep doing," Julie Brigner said. "This work is an incredible blessing. We've built wonderful relationships with the people and we've seen what a positive impact the ministry is making." That work was challenging before the earthquake. Now it's even more so for Living in Faith and its Haitian ministry partner, Double Harvest. But Montgomery thinks some good is going to come out of this tragedy. "I think a lot of the people realized how much life can change in just 30 seconds, and made them think about how they will spend eternity," he said. "Spiritually, I think this could be a great opportunity for transformation."

To learn how to support Living in Faith's efforts, join the February mission trip or see photos from the post-earthquake work at the clinic, go to http://livinginfaith.net. See the ministry in action on Michelle Bearden's "Keeping the Faith" segment at 9

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