History Of IDES
- Milton Bates, the founder of the IDES ministry, was my father. His story illustrates the fact that God uses ordinary people to accomplish His purposes.
My dad's father deserted his family when Daddy was only 4 years old. He grew up in poor conditions as his mother struggled to provide for him. A boy-scout leader in the Presbyterian church took an interest in my dad and nurtured his faith in God. So when Daddy was called into the Navy, he joined a Navigators study group. Through that Bible study he became convinced of his need to be immersed into Christ, and was baptized in the Pacific Ocean in 1945.
Daddy had gotten married just 2 weeks before going into the Navy. When he came home and told my mom of his decision she did not agree. They stayed in the Presbyterian Church and had their first 3 children there in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. About 10 years later, a job change brought them to southern Indiana. Some young couples in the East Columbus Christian Church befriended my parents and began to study the Scriptures with them. Through their friendship and weekly studies, my mom decided she also needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of her sins. That was when my family became a part of the Restoration Movement.
I was born the next year, so I always knew my mom and dad in the Christian Church. They continued to study and grow in their faith. We moved to Marion, Indiana, when I was 3, because my dad got work there as a pattern maker for the local General Motors plant. Within a few years my dad began serving as an elder in the Marion Church of Christ, where I grew up. He always had a soft heart and generous hand for helping the poor and needy. I saw him doing whatever he could to help others -- like giving groceries, fixing a furnace, buying bus tickets, or paying for car repairs. And he always did it in the name of Jesus, inviting the person to church or offering to study the Scriptures with them. He wanted them to know they were not alone - that God cared for them.
When I was in high school my dad was watching the evening news as a reporter brought attention to the country of Bangladesh (1972). This nation had already been devastated by civil war, and then was hit by both typhoon and tidal wave. The reporter pointed to an elderly gentleman lying in the street with nothing but a thin sheet to cover him, and asked, "Won't somebody help these people?" My dad began to cry and questioned, "Where is the Christian Church / Church of Christ? We have the Truth of the gospel, and claim to be the church of the New Testament pattern. Why aren't we there sharing the love of Jesus with these suffering people?" Even though Daddy felt compassion for the man on the TV screen, there was no way for him to reach around the world to meet his desperate need.
I believe the Holy Spirit put this burden in my dad's heart, and would not release him from it.
As Daddy prayed, he was convicted of the need to get something organized to unite the Restoration movement in meeting the physical needs of people who had experienced some type of disaster situation. One individual, or even one congregation, could not always make a significant contribution. But if we pooled our resources together, we should be able to offer a sizeable gift that would really make a difference and strengthen the witness of Christians trying to work in these depressed areas.
So Daddy got my mom to type letters for him. Our kitchen turned into an office, as my parents used their free time to send out more than 500 letters to Christian leaders of our brotherhood. Surely someone out there with some name recognition would be willing to head up this cause! Responses indicated that it was a good idea, but these men were understandably already busy with their own ministries. Nine men wrote back to say that if Daddy would take the lead, they would do what they could to help.
So at the 1973 NACC in Indianapolis, Indiana, these nine men met with my dad and agreed to serve as the first board of directors for the International Disaster Emergency Service. I sat in a comer of the room and listened to their discussion. I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was important to my dad, and I wanted to support him. Now, looking back, I am even more amazed at what God was doing.
Even though my parents felt inadequate to begin such a mission, they continued to pray and tried to be obedient. God led them step by step to get IDES started. He brought people alongside them with various areas of expertise to give help and encouragement. A Christian lawyer volunteered his services to get IDES legally incorporated as a non-profit organization. A Christian accountant was willing to do their bookkeeping. A missionary, a preacher, an elder, a Bible college professor, a pilot, a farmer -- all offered different perspectives of how the mission should function to meet needs most effectively.
My dad made calls around the world to let people know about IDES and to offer help when he would see disasters on the news. I can remember a few arguments when the phone bills arrived. My mom would say, "Milton, we can't afford this! We have five children to feed ourselves!" But my dad responded, "Janet, we can't afford not to do this. Someone has to stick with it and get the job done." He was persistent in following through with the commitment he had made to see that a ministry of this type was established. It was scary for them at times, but my parents were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get IDES up and running.
A year later (1974), the IDES board hired their first staff member. Dick Sprague traveled to represent IDES to the churches for nearly 28 years. My dad continued to work at GM and served as Chairman of the IDES board as a volunteer. Ten years later an IDES supporter purchased a building for them and the office was finally moved out of my mom's kitchen! Now the ministry has grown to support 9 full-time staff members and countless thousands have been helped due to the services they offer! The International Disaster Emergency Service has worked in more than 90 different countries, and continues to help in about 250 projects each year. People around the world are being offered help and hope in the name of Jesus.
My dad slipped quietly into heaven on August 17, 2007 just two months before his 90th birthday. He had suffered with Parkinson's disease for the last ten years of his life. The disease slowly paralyzed his body and deteriorated his mind. But he continued to ask about how things were going at IDES, and was surprised at the amount of help that flows through our office today. When I was sitting with him one day after the Tsunami hit, he began to cry as we watched the news together. He said, "I wish there was something I could do to help those people." I tried to reassure him. "Daddy, what you did while you were able IS helping those people. Because of your sacrifice and obedience to God's leading, Christians across the nation are able to join together in providing help and hope to people all over the world."
Wells are dug to give the missionary opportunity to teach about the Living Water. Food is given to open hearts to the Bread of Life. Lives are changed as blankets and medicines are given in the name of Jesus. Houses are built to provide shelter for families, and they experience the warmth of being part of the family of God. God's love is demonstrated not just with words, but with deeds and in truth.
Ephesians 3:20, 21 says, "Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May He be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen!"