Hudsonville-based International Needs Serves as Jesus’ Hands, Feet Worldwide

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

International Needs Cutline No. 1 International Needs president/CEO Michael Cooper stands on a rooftop in Nepal last November. Michael T. Cooper gets around.

So far, he's journeyed to 14 or 15 countries since becoming president and CEO last October of Hudsonville-based International Needs.

In the future, the ministry's big tent goals will take him to various nations in the world, including Turkey, Nepal, Burkina Faso in West Africa and Columbia.

That's to be expected when you're head of a multi-prong ministry like International Needs, founded in 1974 by Ray Harrison.

"I love being around folks from around the world," said an enthused Cooper. "We have staff and national workers spread across the globe, where we pray and dream with them in how they're going to reach their countries and fulfill their vision to spread the gospel."

Core mission: Jesus' hands and feet

The ministry's core mission is believers reaching their neighbors for Christ, and in so doing, fulfilling the Lord's mandate found in Mark 12:30-31 (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] There is no commandment greater than these.)

"We want to be the hands and feet as well as the voice of Jesus," said Cooper. "That's why we have a comprehensive focus in terms of how we engage communities with the gospel."

Wide-ranging focus

A classroom of smiling school children in Columbia.A classroom of smiling school children in Columbia. International Needs wide-ranging focus is in 17 countries it ministers in, and includes education programs that consists of child sponsorships for around 4,000 students around the world, school facilities, technology tools, teacher support and scholarships for secondary education.

"We sponsor their education by providing tuition for their education, school uniforms, books and, in many cases, provide nutritious food," said Cooper. "In many cases, it might be the only nutritious food they receive in the course of the day."

Its gospel outreach programs include church planting, Bible distribution, Seminary-in-a-Suitcase program, children and youth ministries, refugee camp ministry, and disaster relief.

Health and sanitation programs include medical clinics, medical teams, pharmaceuticals and equipment, and support for emergency medical needs.

Economic development programs include vocational training, micro-finance and empowerment, livestock ownership program, and the agricultural seed program.

Food and water programs include water systems, community and school food programs, and capital projects.

Annual Christmas food program

"We do a Christmas food program every year that provides food for sponsored children and the friends of sponsored children," said Cooper. "We try to get food to families in need that are in all of our educational institutions across the world. During the Christmas months, children who are not in school are more susceptible to not receiving proper nutrition."

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Then there are research trips that focus on strategic planning, economic development opportunities, theological training for church planters and evangelism and discipleship.

"We try to understand what the needs and opportunities are in a community in order to bring the gospel," said Cooper.

These are all ambitious goals, and in fact, are merely a thumbnail sketch of what International Needs works to accomplish.

That's why the ministry works alongside other ministries and Christian organizations, such as the Jesus Project.

"And we have Christian veterinarians in Nepal right now to provide training for community leaders in area of animal healthcare," said Cooper.

Volunteers are welcome

International Needs also relies on volunteers from West Michigan to join Cooper on international jaunts. Weighing especially on his heart and in his prayers are farmers from West Michigan available to join him in traveling to Nepal, which has a short food-growing season, that results in a dearth of food during the winter months for this country in southern Asia.

"I'd love to have West Michigan farmers help join me to help overcome that challenge," said Cooper.

"We're always looking for people with expertise in different areas whether it would be water acquisition, healthcare, sanitation, or education," added Cooper. "We're passionate about helping educators around the world in how they can integrate their faith with learning."

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www.internationalneeds.us

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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