There he stood, on Easter Sunday 1993, in front of a congregation of 700 in a village outside Heche, China.
He was flanked on the platform by three men, a church leader and two interpreters.
As Roy Cline prepared to deliver his sermon, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a woman sitting near what appeared to be a big black box. He described it as a refrigerator lying on its side.
Actually, she was pumping an organ, as fast as she could. All 4-foot-8 of her.
Then, just like it happened yesterday, Cline remembered what sound filled the tabernacle: The first few notes of “Up From The Grave He Arose.”
That day 24 years ago changed him. That day Cline realized that moving from Houston to Middletown and founding Caring Partners International, a medical ministry, was the right call.
“The minute I heard that song I about had a heart attack,” he said with a smile. “At that time I thought our medical team was there to give a blessing to those people. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I heard that song. That was when it really dawned on me the purpose of our ministry is for us to be blessed.”
More than 25 years after he founded CPI in a Middletown warehouse, he knows it’s time for another move.
Time to retire.
Later this month, Cline, 74, will step down as founder of CPI. He and his wife, Donna, are moving to Florida. He has a book to finish, a golf swing to improve, two difficult tasks.
Cline has read countless books on non-profit organizations and the theme is the same: To prosper there has to be leaders in the pipeline. The founder needs to understand it’s not about them, but the organization.
Rhonda Reed and her husband, Dr. Adam Reed, long associated with CPI, serve as executive director and president, respectively.
“The timing was about right,” Cline said of his pending retirement. “There is a tendency for the founders to believe that this is their organization as opposed to being a non-profit owned by everyone. I was beginning to feel that way and I believed it to be mine. That was not the right attitude to have. The ministry belongs to everyone.”
In 2015, CPI shipped $25 million of medical supplies and equipment to 27 countries and more than $500,000 of personal hygiene and home healthcare products to the tristate region through its local church distribution network.
Cline has led medical teams, in some countries several times, to China, India, Ukraine, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Cline estimates CPI has served 150,000 people through it medical ministry, and of those, 10 percent to 12 percent, or more than 15,000 have been introduced to the gospel.
“That’s a good number,” said Cline, a member of Towne Boulevard Church of God. “We can’t do it by ourselves. If we don’t have the partnerships, there is no reason for us to exist.”