Virgin Isles
Mission Founder Amazed By Growth
Retired doctor stepped down in February, but still active with missions. The following is an article from the Ocala Star Banner, written by Marian Rizzo as a tribute to the founder of Harvest International who recently stepped down from his post as president.
Dr. John Leininger, a retired Ocala optometrist, has had one foot in Haiti for 33 years. Leininger, the founder of Harvest International Inc., an Ocala-based mission, retired as president of the organization in February, while the mission celebrated its 20th anniversary. Even so, Leininger plans to travel to Haiti at least twice a year.
In a telephone interview from his cattle ranch in San Antonio, Leininger reflected on the images that keep drawing him back to Haiti since his first mission trip in 1974. "I remember very vividly a woman living in boxes," Leininger said. "It had a big impact on me. I just couldn't imagine that nobody was there taking care of her. It was near a busy street. Tons of people were driving by, and there she was."
John & Diane Leininger
More recently, Leininger encountered a 6-year-old girl who had backed into a cooking fire and had severe burns down her back to her knees.
"We got there 10 days after she was burned," Leininger said. "She had no health care at all, other than antibiotics. Not even a pain pill. We were able to get her to good health care. Now, we're trying to get her to the United States to get skin grafts."
Executive Director Danny Thomas described Leininger as "a tremendous blessing."
"I've learned many, many things from Dr. Leininger," Thomas said. "Our trips to Haiti have always been an adventure and an experience. We have walked through some deep waters together - literally.
"In 1991, he and I got caught in a coup in Haiti. The roads were all blocked. The only way we could get out was through the ocean. We had 17 or 18 Americans with us.
We commandeered three sailboats and took them from Haiti to Guantanamo, Cuba. We were refugees for awhile."
Most of the mission trips are not quite so dramatic, but more laborious. Mission teams usually build churches, schools and community centers. Medical teams trek into the woods carrying backpacks filled with medicine. And children are fed meals provided through interest from a $130,000 endowment fund that was established in Marion County.
Previously of Ocala, Leininger and his wife, Diane, also helped found the Women's Pregnancy Center. Leininger recently was named president emeritus of Harvest International. Now he marvels at how the mission has grown to include seven different countries and multiple mission teams.
"I guess my initial vision was that we would run a few teams to Haiti and do as much ministry as we could," Leininger said. "I didn't expect it to grow this fast and this big."
Leininger's latest venture, a "barefoot doctor program," trains Haitians to dispense vitamins, bandages and over-the-counter medicines to the poor. He also wants to find a way to get patients to health care facilities. There are not many in Haiti, he said.
And Leininger has another goal that is closer to home.
"I would love to see everyone in Marion County take a trip to Haiti or some Third World country - and not a hotel trip, but to go to some location and live in the homes that the people live in and see what their life is like. Obviously, Harvest International can always use funding and prayer. But, the No. 1 thing for anyone to do is to go and see for himself."
Our sincere gratitude to the Ocala Star Banner for allowing us to reprint this article.
Danny Thomas
Executive Director
Pam Barrett
Chief Financial Officer
Cassie Shipley
Child Sponsorship Coordinator
Ethel Johnson
One God, existing and manifesting Himself in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The verbal inspiration of the Word of God and its consequent absolute authority.
  The pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Son.
The virgin birth of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man.
The personality of the Holy Spirit, Who is the seal and witness of salvation, taking up residence within the believer.
The divine creation of man and the universe.
The fall of man, his moral depravity, and his need of regeneration.
The atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only ground for justifying sinners.
Justification by faith alone.
The eternal punishment of all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of the body, both of the just and the unjust.
That our Lord Jesus Christ will personally return and set up His kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth, wherein He will reign righteously.
Pam Barrett
John Cain
Fenn Folsom
Hope Gillman
Ron O'Steen
Tom Ranew
Stephen Self
Danny Thomas
Karen warren