As you read this history of Allegany Region Missions (ARM), I think you will come to the same conclusion as I: God has plans for His
children that we can't see and can't fathom - we just need to be faithful in the journey. What began as a small group of individuals
interested in serving Christ in Haiti grew into a larger group initially interested in joining with others to encourage short-term
mission endeavors; however, the Lord had more in mind. ARM has continued to grow even further as its members have listened to
His leading and have been willing to let Him take us for an incredible journey, a journey that keeps unfolding both locally and across
the seas. Thank you Lord Jesus for using each of us for your greatest plan and bringing more of your servants to join in Your
ARM and Short-term Missions
March 25 - April 3, 2000, a group of 10, led by Patty Wilcox, went to Haiti to hold a medical
clinic in a yet-to-be completed health center being built by Christian Service International (CSI, Muncie, Indiana). The team
included a surgeon and a nurse practitioner, Bert and Mary Rappole, who would be instrumental in answering God's call to form a ministry.
After returning home, the team members spread the word about the incredible journey and soon another team was traveling to Haiti
in 2001. The team of 15 included a surgical team, mobile medical team and a construction team. The surgeries were
perfromed in the newly-opened Christian Service International health center. The mobile medical team held its clinics in the
church of the rural village of Galette and the construction crew built needed items a the health center.
The Lord continued
to bless the groups by growing the next team in January 2002 and 20 members. Then, amazingly, there were so many people interested
in going in 2003, the team had to split, creating two teams that traveled back-to-back in January 2003. The first team
had 20 members, the second team had 19 members! The groups' focus included combinations of surgical, mobile medical, construction
and vacation Bible school teams. Since then, God continues to add new members to each team, forming the perfect combinations
of people to complete His tasks.
Seeing that the Lord wasn't going to let this group of people stop their activities, team
members began talking about forming a not-for-profit organization. The group had been blessed by the East Randolph United Methodist
Church (the home church of some of the team members) which allowed ARM to set up a staging area and a budget line for teams,
but the group's growth now necessitated stepping out on our own. Needing a name for the new group, Lillian Cable suggested "Allegany
Region Missions" since our group had grown to encompass a diverse group of people from western NY and northern PA, and the acronym
A.R.M. would show the desire to reach out to help others in need. On April 2, 2003, the group voted their agreement
and ARM was born. Meeting in the Rappole's home in the early months of 2003 with two guest lawyers, the groundwork was
laid for the process of applying for the NYS non-profit status and then federal 501(c)(3) tax-exemption. Officers were also
named, David Messinger, President; Mary Rappole, Vice President; Judy Messinger, Treasurer; and Michele Harms, Secretary. The
Lord continued to bless this newly-forming organization. When applications for non-profit organizations often takes years to
get through the system, ARM's paperwork was accepted on the first submission. In December 2003, ARM received its NYS non-profit
corporation status and on August 5, 2004, ARM was granted 501(c)(3) status (effective date December 30, 2003). The August
2004 Board of Directors meeting began with prayer and applause - God's blessings were abounding. Since that glorious day, the
Lord has blessed ARM with many activities in our home area and short-term mission trips to Haiti, Jamaica, Mississippi and beyond.
The journey is only beginning!
Teacher Sponsorship Program
At this same time, God was working in another area of ARM. Samuel
Huffman went on a trip to Haiti in late January 2003. This was his first experience to a third-world nation and the needs of
the people astounded him as it had many of the team members. Sam, not one to sit back and let the world solve its own problems,
began to brainstorm on ways he could help his new love, the Haitian people. A methane digester or a water wheel were a couple
ideas for ways to create electricity in the rural town of Galette and, Sam's favorite, a child sponsorship program to help the local
children. Sam outlined his ideas to the amazed and excited March 2004 ARM Board of Directors and asked the members of the upcoming
April team to investigate the feasibility of these endeavors with the CSI missionaries in Haiti. Armed with Sam's tentative
sponsorship brochure and matching Sam's excitement, team members met with the CSI Haiti missionaries and the Galette school director
and discussions blossomed into a creative concept - a teacher sponsorship program. With concerns over the vast administrative
job required to run a child sponsorship program (other similar program already exist in Haiti) and other cultural-related issues,
the idea of sponsoring the teachers emerged as a powerful approach. The tuition the parents pay for their children to go to
school pays the teacher's salaries and other school-related needs, and many times, the cost of tuition is too much for a struggling
family and their ability to help their children better themselves is lost. By providing for the teachers' salaries through a
sponsorship program, a child could go to school tuition free, and by paying good wages, the school could entice and hire quality teachers,
too. The God-ordained beauty of this plan was that (1) the administrative job was minimal, (2) the invasiveness of the program
into the culture and lives of the Haitians would be minimal, (3) it wouldn't compound the "have and have not" class system prevalent
in Haiti, and (4) best of all, it would reach the maximum number of children all at the same time, no matter their level of need.
This win-win situation for all involved heightened the excitement level of the ARM team and they couldn't wait to go back home and
share this excitement with Sam; his dream was about to become a reality, even sooner and smoother than he had hoped - God was
continuing to shower blessing.
Clothing Ministry and More
With the Teacher Sponsorship Program well underway, Sam
focused his energies on another ministry that was growing in front of his eyes - clothing ministry. With a core group of
people in Randolph, NY, clothing would be gathered, inspected, rolled and boxed. Much of the clothing was being shipped to Haiti,
Jamaica, Kentucky, Moldova and more. A store was donated and a retail outlet for inexpensive used clothing was begun in
Randolph - the first "Depot Store" (named by Sam due to his love of trains). With the need for more volunteers, Sam connected
with the area organizations needing to have people work their community service hours and a new aspect of the ministry began to unfold.
Now, not only were people being helped with clothing, but the workers helping prepare the clothing were also being ministered
to. As the clothing ministry continued to grow, Sam met Gary Lynn, a local businessman, and philanthropist, and together, the
ministry expanded to include a location in Falconer, NY. Then, unexpectedly, Sam Huffman was called Home to meet the Lord
on February 25, 2006. The shock to The Depot ministry, the whole ARM organization, friends, family and his Haitian-ministry
family was felt deep. Not to let Sam's dream die, others stepped forward to keep the ministry working for Christ.
In the months following Sam's death, the ministry began to mold into the vision that Sam was beginning to unfold and a partnership
with Community Helping Hands was formed. The Falconer Depot store was moved to Jamestown, NY as part of the Gateway Center.
After establishment, the Depot was turned over to Community Helping Hands to combine with their already growing ministry of providing
gently-used appliances and furniture. Community service workers continue to staff the store and its donation rooms. Individuals
and families continue to receive personal care as they are referred to the Community Helping Hands Depot for needs from area churches
and service organizations.
ARM ran a small gently-used clothing and household items store in Randolph, NY. The Randolph
Depot was run by ministry volunteers who took on this project of love to serve their local community's needs. The store became
a vital part of the "downtown" of Randolph, NY, and many returning customers were thankful for its ministry and the loving personal
attention. The Randolph Depot closed its doors in 2021.
ARM has worked alongside a privately run Christian school
in Galette, Haiti. The desire to keep supporting this school and see the children of Haiti prepared to change the future of
Haiti with their strong foundation in Christian education, makes this currently a vital focus of ARM's ministry.
We know that
our Lord is not done molding, growing, forming, building and changing ARM. As we stop in our busyness and remember where we
have been and look to where we are going, it is through His eyes we long to see and with His heart we long to feel and with His hands
we long to act. With Jesus as our focus and cornerstone, we will continue on this journey, watching and marveling at where He
will take us and who He will bring with us along the way. Is He calling you?