Overseas trips prove life changing for father and sons

MILTON, ON—Of all the gifts a man could give his children, one of the most important to father-of-four Dean Martin, is a sense that the world is bigger than just ourselves.

"I've become increasingly aware," he says, "as I think many parents do, that my kids are so incredibly blessed. Our culture is often 'all about me,' and I wanted our kids to know not just how blessed they are but also what's going on in the world and how we can reach out."

For the Martins "looking outward" is a family value. Three of his grown children, Kristen, Jill and Josh, went on mission trips as teenagers. His wife Mary is involved with a local YFC Youth Unlimited drop-in centre.

But realizing his youngest son, Reese, hadn't benefited from similar opportunities Dean contacted Partners International and asked about opportunities to visit overseas projects.

The simple question led to two life-changing trips. Last year, Dean took his son Reese, then 17, to Haiti to visit an orphanage. He then took 21-year-old Josh on a father-son trip to India, to see how Partners was helping redeem, heal and rehabilitate girls who had been caught in the sex trade.

For the young men, the experience was life-changing.

"While we were in Haiti we took about 60 orphans out to lunch," Reese Martin says, "and the meal took a long time before it was served. I just remember the kids being so patient and grateful for what they were given and for the very little they had. Their happiness was contagious and taught me so much about being thankful and joyful no matter your circumstances."

Several continents away, his brother found himself similarly inspired and challenged.

"Being in Kolkata made me realize just how incredibly blessed we are as North Americans to have access to water, food, and fresh air," Josh Martin says. "The moment when a young woman with a baby no older than two months came by our window and was begging and pleading for anything we could give her is something that I will never forget.

"Every time I'm tempted to complain about not having a new electronic or the inconvenience of paying bills I now have a tangible memory I am able to recall that makes me think twice about my lack of thankfulness."

For Dean, the trips were not just about seeing the challenges people face in other parts of the world, but the life-changing difference that leaders are making in their own communities. "I remember seeing my son in Haiti sitting in a circle with five local pastors committing to raising the standard of living, in every way 'standard of living' can be defined… and thinking 'Thank you, Lord, that at this moment my children are around such significant people'."

The Martins are members of Southside Community Church, where Dean says they have been challenged to consider, "since God's Kingdom is not only future but is now, what would it look like for His Kingdom to show up in this situation?"

"When we ask what it would look like for God's Kingdom to show up in Haiti," he says, "it is in the form of a latrines, wells, a well-built safe and roomy orphanage run by folks who love the orphans. In Kolkata it looks like the Mahima Home where girls can heal their body, soul and spirit, after the ravages of the sex trade. And then they learn a trade and become fully healthy functioning parts of Indian society, en route to changing the nation."

Dean is chairman of Melmart Distributors Inc, a flooring company, which was started by his father when Dean was eight. His father passed suddenly when Dean was 18. The youngest of the family's six children, he says it became clear to him that God was calling him to take over the family's business. The company now has about 75 employees, and distributes flooring from Ontario to the Atlantic.

Like the company, passion for both overseas and Canadian ministry was passed down from father to son.

"I was raised with a global view of Christianity," Dean says. "I've tried to convey the same message to my family of employees at Melmart. That we have been incredibly blessed to be here in Canada, and that we as Canadians have a unique perspective on the world."

As a company, Melmart has been involved in supporting both local and Canadian charities, including Partners International, World Vision, The Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.

"God has been making me more and more aware that my ministry at Melmart is not just to grow and make money," says Dean. "It is to make a life for my employees, to help them to make a life for their families, and then to look beyond and see what we can do."

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