THIS MINISTRY is simple because people love dogs,” said Steve Kesler.
Kesler is a chaplain and vice president for Canines for Christ ministry, an international Christian-based, non-profit, animal-assisted therapy started in 2007 by Larry Randolph and his wife, Susan, in Lutz, Fla.
“The main mission of this ministry is to bring love, comfort, joy, hope and peace to the many people that are in need of God’s amazing grace and salvation,” said Randolph. “We bring the good news of the gospel using these beautiful creatures that God has given us to open the lines of communication to share this message.”
Canines for Christ uses ordinary people and their dogs to share God’s love with those who are hurting. The ministry has more than 900 volunteers in 35 states and five foreign countries – including one volunteer in Arkansas.
Barbara Brewer, a member of First Baptist Church, Rogers, and her dog, Snowball, volunteer their time to Canines for Christ.
“I was searching the Web for things to go and do with Snowball,” said Brewer. “We went through six years of training, and I wanted to put that to use in a good way. I contacted Canines for Christ and just took off.”
Brewer takes Snowball to church, hospitals and nursing homes. Snowball enjoys walking around communities and greeting everyone, said Brewer. Snowball is also a mascot for a baseball team, and they attend all the games.
“I enjoy the smiles,” said Brewer. “Even in hospitals, doctors and nurses stop to love on Snowball and say, ‘I needed this.’
“There is so much sadness in the world. Snowball brings the smiles and I bring Christ,” said Brewer.
Ministry volunteers visit cancer centers, grief centers, hospitals, hospice facilities, special-needs facilities, prisons, schools and crisis disaster response locations.
“The dogs are the instant ice breaker,” said Randolph. “They open the door so that people who are shy about talking to strangers and shy about talking about their faith will have the opportunity to share through the dog.
“We are not pressing the gospel, but we are there as ambassadors for Christ. Many times, people will open up to the volunteers and allow us to pray, witness to them and have the opportunity to lead them to Christ,” he said.
Randolph and his dog, Gracie, have gone on mission trips to Tanzania and Guatemala. They have also worked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas; Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., and Parkland school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“We had several chaplains with their canines visit Parkland school last year to comfort and consult the students and victims. This is one of our main parts of our ministry as we have volunteers all over the country that are open to responding to crisis situations like these disasters,” he said.
Randolph said that people see God’s love come through the “dog’s warm nose and wagging tail” and through the volunteer’s prayer.
“The ministry is so simple and so easy, yet so beautiful and powerful,” Kesler added. “A statement I make all day long when I take my dog, Bruce, out is, ‘God loves you unconditionally, and so do dogs.’
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