Update from Florida

We just concluded an incredible day of meetings with city officials and the Bay County school board. Panama City is facing a crisis this summer. They have thousands of children still homeless due to the hurricane and are looking to Mercy Chefs for help.

I came today to finalize arrangements with city officials for Mercy Chefs to use one of the public schools -- Patterson Elementary -- to conduct ongoing feeding programs for children in the community. From this location, we'll be serving meals directly as well as sending food out to community programs throughout the city.

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I'm headed to FL . Here's why...

Tomorrow (Sunday), I'm flying to Panama City for meetings beginning on Monday with school officials and a number of church partners.

I'm fully committed to this project. That's why I'm going now, to finalize plans so I can get our teams moving. The total cost through the summer could exceed $200,000, but more urgently we need support right now to keep our "Beacon Of Hope" long-term kitchen on track for a June 1 opening.

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"Maybe it's a rumor"

As we were in the midst of developing our plans to establish a "Beacon Of Hope" long-term kitchen in Panama City -- and before things were finalized -- I received a phone call that really shook me up.

It was from one of the pastors in Panama City with whom we developed a strong friendship during our many weeks of service in his community. We caught up on a number of things before he got to the point of his call...

"I've heard, but maybe it's a rumor..."

He could barely get the words out before he burst into tears and blurted out...

"Are y'all coming back this summer?"

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Congress blocking FL disaster aid?

As I've been sharing, Mercy Chefs is moving quickly to establish a "Beacon Of Hope" long-term kitchen on the Florida Panhandle to provide hot meals to the 5,500 children left HOMELESS as a result of Hurricane Michael.

This is one of the largest long-term disaster recovery projects we have taken on. The cost will be in excess of $200,000, but the need is that urgent in part because of this alarming fact:

To date, Congress has not allocated even ONE DOLLAR of disaster relief for Hurricane Michael victims -- despite the fact that this was the third-largest storm ever to hit the U.S. and was just upgraded to a Category Five hurricane!

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Our hope...

As we celebrate the Easter season, we are reminded that our hope rests entirely on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! As Matthew's Gospel records:

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

He is risen indeed!

Thank you for partnering with Mercy Chefs, and may the resurrection of Christ fill your heart and your home!

Gary and Ann LeBlanc
Mercy Chefs

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Thousands still homeless from storm

We are facing a post-hurricane humanitarian crisis on the Florida Panhandle unlike anything I have ever seen. This crisis has left THOUSANDS homeless at a time when key FEMA aid is shutting down -- making matters even worse.

In the past few weeks, I have been in close contact with city officials there regarding the situation. Hurricane Michael was the fourth largest storm in U.S. history -- but has received less aid than any hurricane that Mercy Chefs has ever seen. To exacerbate things, we just received word that FEMA recently cut funding for temporary housing. With 40% of all buildings in Panama City still uninhabitable and funds drying up, thousands are being forced to the streets. Reports indicate at least 5,500 children are now homeless, and with summer coming, they will be without access to regular meals. (Bay County only reported 858 homeless students prior to the hurricane.)

What has happened in Panama City and the Florida Panhandle is the greatest gap between need and relief that I have seen in the history of Mercy Chefs. It is tragic, and the victims are good people -- families and children who are suffering, many living on the streets or in tent cities. But God is making a way...

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I must move quickly

As you know, we've been busy finalizing our plans to rebuild the Haiti kitchen that was destroyed by fire. I must move quickly to secure the funding due to the aggressive goal of having the kitchen rebuilt by early June.

God has done amazing things through this kitchen. He placed Mercy Chefs' kitchen right at the epicenter of a powerful mission that is leading a restoration of this entire region -- reaching more than 100,000 residents!

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Inside look at Haiti (video)

As I've shared, it was a real "gut punch" when I first learned that our kitchen in Haiti has been destroyed by fire. My team prepared a video of our time in Haiti designed to give you a taste of why my heart is so moved by these wonderful people and this important mission:

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She walked miles... for a meal!

As I shared with you yesterday, with the fire destroying our Mercy Chefs kitchen, the team there is working out of a container with one burner, one oven and a table. They prep the food and wash the dishes out in the open because the container is so small.

But in Haiti, even the makeshift kitchen is a lifeline of hope....

+ + These moms walked miles for nutrition...

While we were at the site of the destroyed kitchen, we noticed that moms with their infants were coming to the makeshift complex where our kitchen resides. It turns out that many of these moms had walked miles with their babies to come to take part in the nutrition program sponsored by the mission.

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Deeply moved

I never dreamed I would see this...

Over the weekend while in Haiti, we visited the city of Onaville -- which is about a mile and a half from the mission which is home to our Mercy Chefs kitchen that was recently destroyed by fire.

+ + A tent city... transformed!

A few years ago, Onaville was nothing more than a "tent city" -- a place the poorest of the poor in Haiti were relocating in hopes of a better life. Providentially, God placed our kitchen just a short distance from this tent city. And over the years, that tent city has become a real city of 90,000 residents with homes and buildings and businesses. 

How did it happen?

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