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Take me there now  or  I want to stay here

The United Nation’s World Food Program states that more than 800 million people know what it’s like to go to bed hungry every day. This statistic is as unreal as it is alarming. Sitting in the comfort of our homes it is difficult to understand or even visualise that every 5 seconds, a child dies from hunger and its related causes. Travelling to 53 countries in less than 15 years, Jean-Pierre Rummens is one man who understands the uncomfortable truth of these statements. In May 1991 Jean-Pierre Rummens was approached by Dr. Lester Sumrall to help start up a local FTH office in Germany. Jean-Pierre well understood that his role was simply to get the office running, and that a different person would be appointed to take over. After the initial foundational meeting, Dr. Sumrall made the comment “I want you to stay”, and Jean-Pierre has been there ever since.

FEED THE HUNGRY VISION

“You know, when I meet someone who has visions I usually try to give them as wide-a-berth as possible… you have to be very careful with these people because they seem to have brand new ones every week! But not Dr. Sumrall. Not the vision of Feed The Hungry” says Jean-Pierre. “This vision is real, and it came through. Of course it’s not fulfilled; it’s still unfolding all around us. But it’s real and genuine and it’s a strong motivating force for me to see it continue to unfold. I love the vision. To me it means that God still cares for people. It’s a reminder, a confirmation that God does listen to our prayers. I don’t have a favorite part, because I was captivated by the whole of it.”

> This is one of my favourite photos. I took this during a project in “Kuckes” Kosovo. The Refugees were separated from all kinds of help through this barbed wire fence.  JP 001

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Answering the call to join FTH was a life-changing event. No less significant than the story of his encounter with Christ. Jean-Pierre was once a well known television personality in Germany as a news anchorman spending much time in front of cameras and living the lifestyle of a star. Working in television studios, Jean-Pierre was surrounded by lights. Lights so bright that you could not see the studio crew or the audience. As he looked down the barrel of the camera Jean-Pierre could sense people around him but he could not see them, there was no contact. When the show finishes, and the technicians turn off the lights, it takes a few moments for the eyes to adjust to the darkness levels. Often, by the time Jean-Pierre could see again, the room was almost empty and the room was cold in comparison to the heat that radiated off the big studio lights. “One day I eventually came to the realisation that my life was like that studio audience. Sure I had a lot of people around me – and some who even called me friend. But they were not really there. I lived in the light, or the limelight. I had all the attention. I surrounded myself with other lights – other forms of attention – like the Jaguar and Mazarati I drove at the time”, remembers Jean-Pierre, “But inside I was so cold, I might have been frozen. I came to a church in Salzburg/Austria, and the owner of the hotel I was staying at was a Christian. He got on my case everyday – so much that I ended up going along to his church – just to stop him bugging me”, says Jean-Pierre, “That night, I became a Christian. A few weeks later I felt the LORD tell me to sell all the things that I used to think were so important to me. I remember the exact spot – I can point it out to you. When I sold my possessions, my so called friends dropped off. Life isn’t as comfortable as it once was – but I don’t miss it. My life has never been the same.”

JP 002  < During a distribution in Fanfan at the Ethiopian border of Somalia, a few pieces of corn or rice fell into the dirt. This little girl took the rice and picked off the dirt. I struggle to understand the kind of hunger that forces people to do that.

FEED THE HUNGRY FAMILY

“I am so proud to be a part of FTH. We’re like a family. But it never ceases to amaze me that God would even consider using me even with all my many mistakes.” Jean-Pierre Rummens was honoured to work with Dr. Sumrall for five years before he passed away. Dr. Sumrall traveled to Europe twice a year and they were able to meet in Germany and in different parts of Europe. “I remember meeting a Pastor in Leipzig/Germany who hosted Dr. Sumrall and me at a very fine and fancy restaurant. The pastor booked a private room for the eight of us, with an exclusive menu and three waitresses just for our room. I’ll never forget the look on the pastor’s face, when Dr. Sumrall just ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce. I think the pastor wanted to slide off his chair and hide under the table!”
“My first son was born two months premature. There was a time when it really looked dangerous for both my wife and my son. But I knew Dr. Sumrall was praying. And sure enough everything turned out ok. Afterwards Dr. Sumrall sent me a handwritten fax which I still have today.”

> I met this lady just recently in Pakistan after their terrible earthquakes. This lady now has to take care of her two grandchildren because she is the only one alive from her whole family. JP 003

 FIRST FIELD TRIP

Jean-Pierre is widely travelled – just over 300 trips to 53 countries in the last 15 years and counting. Although his favourite destination is Hong Kong and the region most on his heart is China & North Korea, his first trip was to Albania. Having travelled to Eastern Europe before, Jean-Pierre didn’t experience the culture-shock we would expect, but it was an experience he’ll never forget. “Albania was a country that mentioned in their statutes that there is no God. At that time the communist regime had just been put out of office. The whole country was just a disaster. I could only get around with a bodyguard named Ben, because it was so dangerous. Under the previous dictatorship the people could not do anything without having orders or permission. But now there was nobody to give orders any more. So people just stood around. Day in and day out. Nobody took any initiative to change something. There was so much to do, but nobody really took the opportunity. That was such a shock.”

 JP 004  < This little orphaned boy was handed over to us, his mother died while giving birth. I remember his skin was dry like sandpaper. He was maybe three months old . His guardian was only able to feed him lemon juice mixed with dirty water from the river. We took the baby and just began to cry, we were grown up men, we had gone through much hardship in life, seared through pain and tragedy – yet this child made us cry like little boys. We took the boy to a hospital, but the doctors gave zero chances of survival. But we believed God for a miracle. We traveled to the Ugandan border and bought some baby formula and praise God within the week he was okay. The most amazing thing is that all this effort: the trip to get milk, Traveling to the hospital, buying the medicine, and food for the guardian cost us a measly $20 yet this baby almost didn’t make it.

CULINARY EXPERIENCES

Travelling around the world gives you the opportunity to try exotic foods. Jean-Pierre loves to eat “Hoppers” when in Sri Lanka and “Ingera” in Ethiopia. Jean-Pierre shares one of his culinary experiences from Albania. “Ben my bodyguard felt compelled to invite me to an Albanian restaurant in the capital Tirana because I had paid for his meals all the time. I bought pizza every day from the same shop; because that was the only place I could find that was almost clean. Ben took me to a little shady place across from the main bus station. When we entered, the “Chef” for lack of a better word was standing behind the door. His hands looked as though he had just done an oil change on his car!” Undeterred, Ben ordered hot dogs for us and for the two other guys that were with us that day. When they were ready, the cook ripped off a few pages out of a former communist book and passed them out to us as napkins. The sausages were really small like the pinkie on my hand. He also passed out some bread and margarine.  The three other guys were laughing about the place and made a lot of fun of it. When the cook “served” the meal I said let us pray. But they kept on laughing. And somehow they arranged that I got the sausage with a big bubble of fat at one end. I prayed hard. But the one with the fat bubble I dropped to the floor. It was not the first one I saw on the floor. Ben paid the bill and we got up to leave. Just outside the door the two guys with us, got sick and threw up. Ben got sick later that night. I guess he has a stomach like trash can. One guy who was with me, got really sick during the night – he had blood poison and one of his kidneys stopped working. His muscles locked up and he was close to death. It took me two hours to find a doctor and medicine. Praise God he survived. I found out later that buses that stopped at the bus station coming from Greece and Turkey often had dogs from those countries. It was no secret that dog meat was often eaten at that time in Albania. So I’ve often wondered if the cook, who was so close to this bus station or I should say to the “source”, if maybe he actually did serve us a hot dog? Of course you don’t have to go to the mission-field to get sick; I once got sick from frozen yogurt in the shopping mall near our US head office!”

> Traveling all over the world I meet interesting people. I saw this guy recently in Hong Kong. He reminds me of the cartoon character Popeye. JP 005

FAITH ADVENTURES

Jean-Pierre has many more stories from around the world: Arrested in Mostar/Bosnia during the war and facing gunmen for two hours with no idea what was about to happen; or His first trip to South Sudan getting caught up in the outbreak of war with no idea how to get home when he discovers his wife is pregnant with his second child, just to name a few. But thankfully not all of Jean-Pierre’s trips are so eventful. “On a project in Ethiopia a number of years ago I was working with a particular Pastor. I found him quite strange, a bit moody as I never saw him smiling. It was not easy to be around him. I am more the ‘funny’ person, very light-hearted. So I was not sure, should I make a joke? Could I make a joke? Is this pastor so spiritual that I cannot do things like that? “He had a friend who came with us on a trip to Awasa. The main reason for him to come along was that he was an auto-mechanic – we needed his help twice on that trip. The Land Rover the pastor was driving was old. I mean old. I was sure that this was not the very first one that was ever built, but maybe it was the second or third one that came off the conveyor belt in the Rover factory. “In a warehouse, where we bought food for a village and a bible school, the auto mechanic put himself on a big scale to check his weight. The scale was designed to measure a whole pallet. So he did not realise that I put my foot also on the scale to give him some overweight. He looked really strangely at the display and was really wondering about his weight. The pastor saw the whole scene and broke out in laughter. Since then the ice was really broken and every time we meet now we have a good time. And I am looking forward to seeing him again on our next Ethiopia project in February 2006.”

JP 006  < This child from Awasa Ethiopia is too weak to chase away flies.

FAVOURITE PROJECTS

When quizzed about his favourite project, Jean-Pierre mentioned two: “Well, this was not really a project but my visit to North Korea last year was really something special. It was so terrible to realise that children are dying like flies and that nobody really cares. Most of the time, orphaned babies don’t even get a name. Because most of them die within 3 years, there’s a general apathy to their registration – why do the paperwork if all the work is ultimately for nothing! Such a strange thought to me, because we all do everything for our children.”
“The second thing that always impacts me is the way people who get hit by some kind of catastrophe, move on in life. They stand up and start all over again. That is also something I admire Dr. Sumrall for. I remember when he told us, about two in the morning, when the radio or TV station burnt down. He just started to build a new one. That is something we often miss and don’t do, even sometimes as Christians. Something happens and we throw a pity-party instead of trusting God and moving on with life.”

 > I remember this little girls beautiful smile joy over receiving a simple orange. She was living in a refugee camp “Roeishca” during the 2003 Iraq war. JP 007

YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

“Just finally let me say this. In my experience people are too often driven by the thought that in order to make a difference they have to give a lot of money. But this is not true, even a small gift can make a world of difference. After all, most people don’t have much – not here in Europe and probably not where you are too. But if you give just five or ten dollars to FTH you can change the world! Not the whole world, but the world of somebody, somewhere who has less than you or I. Someone who maybe has nothing to wear and nothing to eat. Regardless of how much you give, your giving will help. You have my word on this”, promises Jean-Pierre.

 JP 008  < Visiting the Great Wall of China was a great experience – it preached a message to me. There are two ways to climb up onto the wall. You can go to the right which is the easy way and used by most Tourists, or to the left which is much harder to walk on – you might have to climb or crawl over different parts to move on. But there are hidden rewards for taking the hard route. The vantage point at the end of the trail is beautiful – you can see the surrounding Chinese mountains and the wall snaking through to the horizon. When I looked at the people on the other side – it seemed to me that all you could see were thousands of tourists with their cameras, coca-colas and fast food. On the hard road, I encountered less than 20 people in the two hour trek it took me – one of them was a German of course. The walk with God is just like that – the way is often hard and we’re ready to turn back and try the easy one… but if we keep going the reward will be great.

 

 

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