OTTUMWA — The Jacob’s Gift Foundation, an Ottumwa-based missionary group, will be celebrating its 20th year of service this weekend.
“We always say it’s a bittersweet thing,” said Debbie Hall, who founded the group alongside her husband Richard. “It’s to bring something good out of the ashes. It helps you to keep moving.”
The Halls founded Jacob’s Gift after they lost their son Jacob in an accident in 1999. He was 11 at the time.
After they found a poem Jacob had written, in which he spoke about his dream of working as a missionary, the Halls donated the money raised at his memorial to Advancing Native Missions, an international missionary group.
Since that time, Jacob’s Gift has raised money for philanthropic construction projects across the globe. Most have been for the benefit of children living between the 10th and 40th parallels, where many of the world’s most impoverished communities reside. This includes places north and central Africa, the Middle East, India, and southeast Asia.
“When we go over there it’s such a humbling thing, because they treat us like royalty,” Hall said. “They all touch my heart. There are so many things out there, so many people in need.”
Jacob’s Gift has raised money for the construction of a number of schools in the Philippines, a hospital in India, a shelter for orphans in Kenya, a children’s camp in Ukraine, and other projects. Their most recent project was the construction of a birthing center in a remote part of Kenya.
“The roads are what we would consider a dry riverbed, with lots of boulders and things like that,” Hall said.
The group had previously contributed to the construction of a library in that same community, and was inspired to build the birthing center after they learned about the area’s high mortality rate for infants and mothers. The community’s remoteness only worsens the problem, so Jacob’s Gift is now trying to raise the money to purchase an ambulance for the birthing center.
Thousands of workers have aided in these efforts over the years, most of them local to the area the group is lending assistance to. Hall said they prefer to rely on locals, and always donate their tools to the community once a project is completed.
“That way you’re helping them earn some money,” she said. “Plus, you’re teaching them to learn a trade.”
Now, Jacob’s Gift would like to thank all the people who have helped them or donated over the years with an open house on Saturday. They invite others interested in the group to attend as well. There will be a meet and greet, a slideshow, and individual testimonies.
The event will run from 2-7 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Sycamore Park Shelter at the Beach Ottumwa. Those with additional questions can contact the group by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on their website, jacobsgift.org.