Readers of my columns over the years are aware of the value I place on short-term mission trips, and how they can lead to a much better understanding of what is going on in the rest of the world, as well as how fortunate we are in the United States.

I helped organize and lead overseas trips for a number of years, and each time men and women returned with a different attitude. We always called it "reverse mission." You go on a trip expecting to give to the people you will meet, only to receive more from them than you ever imagined.

That was the case with Rob Bollinger when he made a trip to Ethiopia in 2002 as an ordained minister in the Nazarene Church. As the story is told, a little girl from a nearby village wandered into a morning church service Bollinger was attending. When he asked about her, he was told she and her siblings were orphaned, and that her parents fell victim to HIV/AIDS. This eventually led to the formation of Nehemiah's Restoration, and last Sunday there was a benefit event for the organization at Stonebrook Manor in Thornton, featuring comedian Brad Stine. The event was sold out, and I felt fortunate to be part of it.

Nehemiah's Restoration was incorporated in Colorado in 2007, and early this year the papers were filed to make it a 501c3 nonprofit corporation. Bollinger and other members of the board of directors have local ties, and have for a number of years. Bollinger was the executive pastor at the Westminster Church of the Nazarene (now The Crossing Church of the Nazarene). His son, Nick, also is on the board, as is Harold Velasquez, former interim worship pastor at the Nazarene church. Ryan Carlson and Chantell Hinkle round out the group that form the board.

Having been in both South Africa and Haiti, I can attest to the staggering numbers when it comes to the HIV/AIDS. So far, the virus has left more than 30 million dead and there are almost 17 million orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS. This has led Nehemiah's Restoration to its current project, which is AIDSOrphans712. It has identified approximately 1,200 AIDS orphans in Kisumu, Kenya, and is hoping to raise about $98,000 annually to maintain two regional operation centers and services. This would make it possible to provide food and nutritional services, extended family shelter and care giving, legal aid and protection services, health care referrals for gravely ill cases, psychosocial and spiritual support from volunteers, educational and vocational training, as well as teaching children about adulthood.

While the current project is in Africa, Nehemiah's Restoration has been actively involved in other parts of the world. In 2007, it provided financial support to numerous families in the fishing communities of New Orleans, two years after Hurricane Katrina. In 2009, it worked to help free young men and women from sex trading and prostitution in southeast Asia. In 2011, it helped provide leadership and reconstruction teams to help earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And the list goes on.

The purpose of Sunday's benefit was not just to provide us with an hour of comedy and great cheesecake. Stine was funny and is testimony to the fact you can have comedy without bad language. As he said, the purpose of a fundraiser is to raise money, and it was hoped the event would help raise some of the $152,000 needed for 2012. Of that amount, only 9 percent goes to expenses, and 15 percent goes to administration expenses.

Ultimately, Nehemiah's Restoration is looking for help in a number of areas. First, it asks for prayers as it carries on its work. It also needs folks who can write a big check and become a "partner" at various levels. It also needs people willing to donate on a monthly basis, and it needs to identify, engage and invest in a core of volunteers. And as I said at the beginning of this column, a trip to one of the countries to provide help will be a life-changing experience for you and those you come in contact with when you return.

If this is of interest to you, I suggest you visit NehemiahsRestoration.org. The organization also can be reached at 720-635-7659. The address, in case you want to send a check, is 2867 E. 115th Way, Denver, CO, 80233.

As Bollinger said Sunday in his introductory comments, "Unless they receive help, their fate will remain hopelessly unchanged and a new cycle of poverty will be forever unbroken."

E-mail George McHendry at Georgemchendry@aol.com.