Coastline Calvary Chapel: Bryson Turner

Coastline Calvary Chapel: Bryson Turner
Coastline Calvary Chapel: Bryson Turner

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Faith Like a Child: Teen from a Florida Calvary Chapel Leads Effort to Feed Thousands of Haitians

Story by Jonathan Erdman
Photos courtesy of Mhari Turner and Coastline CC Destin, FL

In June of 2021, in a crowded Florida convention center filled with over 800 volunteers, 14-year-old Bryson Turner of Coastline Calvary Chapel in Destin, FL, stood at a table packing hundreds of bags with dehydrated vegetables, rice, soy, and other items to send to hungry children in Haiti. Perhaps other than the fact that he is 6-foot 3-inches tall, he blended into the jovial scene as just another worker. Yet it was this normal, soccer-loving teenager who the Lord used to oversee, organize, and coordinate the entire event.

A Seed Planted

In 2010, when Bryson was only 3 years old, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Even though he was very young, Bryson recalls hearing the news and being impacted to the point where he began praying for Haiti every day. At such a young age a seed had been planted in his heart for the struggling country.

So Jesus said to them, “… Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

People working together

On June 12, 2021, more than 800 people from the Destin, FL, area met at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Destin to pack bags of food for hungry children in Haiti. The bags of dehydrated vegetables, rice, soy, and other items were sent to Mission of Hope in Haiti. Bryson Turner, 14 years old and from Coastline Calvary Chapel Destin, organized the event and its fundraising.

Four years later, on a Sunday morning in church, a children’s ministry leader announced an upcoming trip to Haiti, and 7-year-old Bryson was immediately intrigued. Coastline Calvary Chapel in Destin had taken groups to Haiti for several years to work with Mission of Hope, an organization responsible for distributing over 113,000 meals every day to hungry children. The church was going to take another trip, and it was Bryson who first mentioned the idea to his parents.

“You’ll never complain about driving on a bumpy road in the U.S. after driving around in Haiti,” Bryson recounted. “It was all very eye-opening,” he said. “There were beggars everywhere, and the average person lives off less than a dollar a day. It’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, yet they give generously in spite of having so little,” he shared.

(This article sponsored by Pritchard Websites and Calvary Web. Click here to read more.)

Kids working

Coastline Calvary Chapel Destin youth Aaron and Adam Acosta with friends Sophia and Lexi have fun as they serve, packing meals at the 2021 event. God provided the funds as Bryson Turner helped to raise $85,000, enough to pack 250,000 meals for Haitian children.

Bryson and the team from Coastline Destin spent a large portion of their week feeding the children at Mission of Hope’s campus just outside Port-au-Prince. He witnessed firsthand the hardships Haitian children face; many of the children would save their own food to help feed their families. “It was a decent-sized meal, but the kids would only eat a portion of it and ask for another plate. They would take the food back to their families and share it with whichever family member had not eaten for that day.” This, and other similar experiences, made a mark on Bryson’s heart, even after he returned home. The idea of so many going without food every day left him wondering if there was anything more that he could do to help.

People working together

Bryson (second from left) traveled to Haiti in December 2020, helping with food distribution to local schools that partner with Mission of Hope. He first travelled to Haiti with Coastline CC Destin at 7 years old, where he witnessed firsthand the hardships Haitian children face.

Crushing Cans and Crushing Goals

“We said No for a year because we just weren’t up for it,” Bryson’s mother Mhari confessed when she recalled how Bryson continued to tell her he wanted to raise money to send food for Haiti. Bryson was young, and he also had three younger siblings. She certainly wanted to help the children in Haiti but wasn’t sure if Bryson fully understood what such an undertaking involved—or if he was up for the commitment. The Turner home was a busy one, and it could have been just a passing notion, after all. But Bryson would not relent.

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Finally, after almost a year of asking, Bryson’s parents sat him down and talked with him about the level of commitment something like this would involve. They agreed that if they said Yes, Bryson would lead the project. Of course, they would assist where they could, but the project details fell solely on Bryson’s shoulders. He gladly accepted the responsibility.

People working together

Bob Hensley (left) of Coastline CC Destin holds a cup of rice as he participates in the huge June 12 meal-packing day at the convention center. “Each year just continuing to say Yes has been an opportunity for the Lord to work,” exclaimed Bryson's mother, Mhari Turner.

Bryson worked hard to raise money however he could. He tried lemonade stands, bake sales, and collecting loose change in bottles. He even collected recyclable material to redeem at a local recycling center for cash. “It was amazing how many people had recyclables in our neighborhood,” he stated. Bryson would walk around with a wagon and collect garbage bags. “At one point, our entire garage was a garbage heap,” he said, laughing. He spent literally hours separating the garbage and crushing can after can, but it paid off.

By 2019, Bryson surpassed his $5,000 goal by raising $6,500, which was enough to pack 22,000 meals. The work was so encouraging, he decided to do it again in 2020 when he raised enough money to pack over 44,000 meals. Coastline CC Destin alone raised over $12,000 in only two months for this event. The momentum had begun, and Bryson was ready to do more.

Saying Yes and No

“We had no idea saying Yes was going to turn into all of this,” Mhari stated. “Each year just continuing to say Yes has been an opportunity for the Lord to work.” The Turner family admits they are not anything special—just a military family with busy schedules like most families. Taking on this project has required them to say No to many things, however. But they testify that the Lord has proven Himself faithful to this family because of their willingness to serve in this unique way.

People sitting in park

During a late July, 2021, Mission of Hope trip to the Dominican Republic, Bryson shares the biblical account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with a group of Haitian refugees, which is translated by Tima into Creole. Because of recent violence and political upheaval, it wasn’t safe to travel to Haiti. The tiny village has no running water or electricity. The mission team built a latrine for the community.

But Set an Example …

“We see God’s faithfulness when we take a step and obey,” encouraged Pastor Jess McCurnin, lead pastor at Coastline CC Destin. “And when we take that step and obey, God shows up and does wonderful things.” Pastor Jess likened what the Lord was doing through Bryson to the story of the young shepherd boy David in the Old Testament who eventually became king of Isreal. “The Lord does want to use young men and women,” he continued, “and the Turners have been blessed to see God work through their son.”

The apostle Paul charged young Timothy with these words in 1 Timothy 4:12: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Bryson would be the first to admit he’s a regular young man like anyone else. Yet we can see how the Lord can use the humility, faith, and willingness of one young person to reach literally thousands of people around the world.

22,000 meals

Bryson stands near 22,000 packed meals for Haitian children in 2019—he raised $6,500 for the meals from lemonade stands, bake sales, collecting loose change in bottles, and recycling. This was the first meal packing done with the money he had raised alone. In 2020, he raised more than $12,000 to pack 44,000 meals at Coastline Destin’s facility.

The Biggest Event Yet

After the successful 2020 packing event, Bryson, along with Coastline CC Destin, put together the biggest packing event yet in 2021. Through a combination of coin collection bottles, speaking at churches, events at local elementary schools, local business donations, as well as individual private donors, the final tally came in at over $85,000 raised. This was enough to pack 250,000 meals to send to Haiti, enough to fill an entire shipping container.

Previous meal-packing events were held at Coastline Destin, but everyone knew they would need a larger venue to accommodate such a big logistical undertaking. So Mhari reached out to the Emerald Coast Convention center in Destin and secured a space for packing day.

“The food packing is actually really fun,” Pastor Jess shared. “It’s a joy to see and experience the body of Christ working together. There’s nothing like it, and it’s been a blessing for the church.” The atmosphere was electric as an entire community came together on a Saturday morning to complete such a large task.

People talking at table

In December 2020 in Haiti, Bryson (left) talks with Samuel Lucien, Mission of Hope’s Haitian national director. He was able to learn much about the importance of the nutrition program, selecting schools to partner with, and how the meals have changed lives.

God at the Center

Bryson admitted that at times it wasn’t easy to know how to respond to all the attention but concluded that it wasn’t too difficult for him to step out of the way. “It doesn’t matter if people know I started it—I know God is at the center of all of it.”

Bryson considers himself to be so fortunate to have a front-row seat to watching God work in amazing ways. He remembered many times when they felt the money wouldn’t be enough, or they wouldn’t have enough volunteers. But they always had exactly what they needed, exactly when they needed it. “I knew that if God had provided all the money for the meals, then He would also provide the people, even at the very last possible moment.”

Mhari related how being able to watch her son grow in the Lord, and especially in humility, has been very encouraging to her. “It’s so encouraging to see how he hasn’t asked for the spotlight.” She added, “It’s also amazing the lessons kids can teach us through being humble.” It was no surprise then that Bryson found himself working at a table packing hundreds of bags himself.

People posing for picture next to giant stack of boxes

In December 2020, Bryson stands with Mission of Hope’s Samuel Lucien, in the warehouse in Haiti where the boxes are stored until they are delivered.

The Best is Yet to Come

The Turners wanted to return to Haiti in late July of 2021 but because of the danger and political unrest traveled instead to the Dominican Republic. They are excited to see yet again how the Lord will use these meals to minister to hungry children. Bryson has no desire to stop at this point, and there are plans to coordinate with churches around the country for the next year. And just like when Jesus used the young boy’s lunch to feed the multitudes, God will continue to use Bryson Turner to feed the hungry in ways only He can.

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Phillip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” … One of [Jesus’] disciples, Andrew, … said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” … And Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. John 6:5, 8-9, 11

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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