In November 1986, retired Pastor Oliver Knell and Phoenix businessman Harold McKamish drove an old pickup truck across the Mexican border looking for someone in need of help. On the drive down, they prayed, “Lord let us be a blessing to these people.” They had no way of knowing as they uttered those words that a full-time, multi-faceted ministry called Caring Hearts would be born from their impromptu foray into San Luis, R.C., Sonora.
An orphanage would be refurbished and expanded, and a boys’ home with a vocational training facility would be built and staffed. A Bible school, church, and Blind Center would be established. Over the decades to come, vans filled with volunteers and tractor trailers loaded with supplies would follow in the tracks of that old pickup truck for hundreds of missions trips year round. Church groups from every denomination, college students, and trade union workers from across the U.S. would build dormitories, churches, homes, and drug rehab centers.
Partnering with a local feeding facility called the Lord’s Kitchen, they would distribute tons of rice and beans, thousands of Spanish Bibles, and cases of medicine. On medical missions trips, thousands of people with little or no healthcare would receive treatment from volunteer medical professionals. Most importantly of all, tens of thousands would hear the gospel preached with the overwhelming majority of them making a decision for Christ. Only God knows how many of these precious people have come to know Jesus through this ministry.
The vision that God gave to Pastor Knell and Harold McKamish was this:
- Be a financial support for destitute children
- Be an encouragement to the staff helping them to provide a Christian family environment for the children
- Teach the children skills that will enable them to earn a living when they reach adulthood
- Form a ministry that will involve all denominations working together to help serve the poor and needy of San Luis
- Provide the opportunity for short-term mission trips
- Start a Bible school
- Be a blessing to the community
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”