missionsvideoROSEBURG, Ore. — A video produced by the North American Mission Board for the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering came at just the right time for Vine Street Baptist Church members Rick and Melinda Benton and Rick and Christy Burson in Roseburg, Ore. The video featured Pastor Luis Rodriguez of Coama Baptist Raham Church and school in Coamo, Puerto Rico.
As the words “Time is Short” flashed across the screen and Rodriguez began talking about Puerto Rico, the Bentons began to feel the Holy Spirit working.
“I had just been praying about going back to Puerto Rico for vacation and was asking the Lord to let me know if this was the right thing for us,” Melinda Benton said. “My husband had lost his job in November, so our financial security changed. He started a small business which was bringing in enough to pay all our bills, but we never knew for sure if work would come in.”
The Bentons had vacationed in Puerto Rico the previous summer, falling in love with the island’s beauty and slower pace of life.
“Unexpectedly, I received some extra income for work that I had done earlier in the year. The money was enough to pay for the plane tickets, but I told the Lord that I didn’t want to go unless I knew for sure that this was his will. When I saw the video and heard Pastor Luis, I started crying and I just knew this was for us,” Benton explained.
As the video played, Rick Benton thought of his longstanding desire to help a mission by using his technical skills as a network analyst. He began to wonder if his former employer would be willing to give the Coamo school the extra computers they had when their subsidiary computer business shut down.
The Bentons then shared their idea with fellow Vine Street Baptist Church member and friend Rick Burson, an IT specialist at the college where Benton teaches.
As Rick Benton mentioned he was thinking about setting up a computer lab for Coamo Christian Academy, Burson instantly replied, “I’m going.”
Donations started coming in as more people began to hear about the project. Rick Hahn, director of education and associate pastor at Vine Street, researched ways that the project could be coordinated with the North American Mission Board, and the Southwest Oregon Baptist Association. Hahn was able to secure some funding for the project to purchase the Christian curriculum software for the school and to finance the computer shipment from Roseburg to Puerto Rico. Church members donated funds to cover travel expenses for Rick Burson, purchase a printer for the lab and provide installation components.
“One of the things that surprised me the most was how God worked to bring in the equipment we needed,” said Rick Benton. “He used people from all over the U.S. We even had someone who works at Travis Air Force Base in California give us 1,000 feet of network cable. Local companies gave us switches and servers and when my former employer was unable to provide us the computers as they had hoped, Colorado Christian University offered to give us 17 lab computers, exactly the number requested.”
Finances for a project 4,000 miles away can be intimidating. Instead of becoming an obstacle, however, the funding turned out to be a testimony to God’s faithfulness.
“My wife and I were concerned about the travel expenses,” said Burson. “We knew that if it was God’s will for me to go, then everything would be taken care of. So that’s what we prayed for. As it turned out, everything – food, housing, transportation—was taken care of.”
Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the project did not have to clear customs. It did have shipping obstacles, however.
“Our schedule for the project got rearranged when the first set of computers fell through, leaving us a limited amount of time for shipping,” explained Christy Burson. “We had to wait for the second set of computers and then fly out to Colorado to pick them up and drive them to Roseburg. We quickly got the software installed and did some repair work, then mailed 20 boxes of computers and supplies. We were told the shipping would take 7 to 10 days, but it ended up taking 14 days.”
The delay meant the computers and the team members almost missed each other. The team in Puerto Rico, which included Rick Burson, the Bentons, and the Bentons’ 23-year-old daughter Katie, had left for the island a few days after the packages. They started work on the wiring while waiting for the computers to arrive.
“One of my favorite parts of the project was teaching some of the guys in the Coamo youth group how to do the wiring. They seemed to really enjoy that,” said Rick Burson who was responsible for setting up all of the cable in the small building that Coamo Baptist supplied for the computer lab.
On the last day before team members had to leave Puerto Rico, the computers finally arrived.
The computer lab will allow the Coamo Academy children access to better curriculum at a more reasonable price, plus will provide much needed administrative software for the principal and pastor who must keep track of each student’s progress. Since the average per capita income in this region of Puerto Rico is only about $6,000, the church’s access to resources is limited.
The school, which has 65 children enrolled for fall, had been using printed copies of individualized curriculum and self-instruction units. The school’s new computer lab will provide educational software from the same company but will allow students to have a more interactive learning experience where they can work ahead without additional expense to parents.
As the Bentons prepared to leave Puerto Rico, some of the parents and schoolchildren, many of whom only speak Spanish, toured their new facility.
The team was so encouraged by the project’s success that they hope to get a chance to do it all again somewhere else if God leads in the future.
“God blessed all of us so much through this project,” Melinda Benton added. “Coamo Baptist is such an amazing church full of love and so mature in their faith. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church built so solidly on a foundation of prayer.”
“One of the first questions some of the prospective parents ask about our school is what type of technology we have. Now we can tell them about our new computer lab,” noted Rodriguez
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