Two Lakeland men have been making countless trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to help some of the poorest people in the world.
Mike Williams and Shawn Maguire have been friends since 1980 when they were classmates at Evangel Christian School. They now share a common bond of doing missionary relief work.
Williams works full time for his ministry called “Cups of Cold Water” in the Dominican Republic. Maguire works for Lakeland Electric and spends his spare time traveling to Haiti with teams of volunteers for his ministry called 316BESALT. Maguire often takes teams of volunteers to the Dominican Republic to help Williams.
That was the case on a recent trip the two men made to the city of Sosula in the Dominican Republic. Maguire brought along a team of about a dozen volunteers.
Cups of Cold Water hands out food and clean water to people who live around the city’s dump. Many of the people are illegal immigrants from Haiti who can’t get regular jobs so they search through the garbage.
“Each and every day they come out here looking for something they can recycle. Something they can eat. Babies are born here. People die here,” said Williams.
“But while they are in the dump they find a box of food and there is a half-eaten hamburger in it. That’s their lunch,” said Maguire.
When the men and their volunteers hand out birthday cake one day they are swarmed by hungry people.
“The Haitians are all over us but we are 100 percent safe,” said Maguire. “They actually love us. Because they know we are there to love them.”
On their recent trip they also brought several hundred pairs of shoes to give away. The were collected with the help of the City of Lakeland.
They also helped to paint people’s homes.
Cups of Cold Water has several ministries to help keep young women from being pushed into a life of prostitution.
“Sometimes it’s the parents that send their oldest daughter into the streets to bring income back to the family," said Maguire.
Cups of Cold Water helps to teach the women sewing skills to earn money and there is a pregnancy center that provides clothes and diapers.
The love that the men and their volunteers receive makes their work rewarding.
“Once you go on a trip with me on one of the trips you’ll go back,” said Maguire.