A Bee-utiful Ministry
Joe Snavely was a bivocational Assemblies of God minister all of his life — working additional jobs to make ends meet as he pastored small AG congregations in Kansas and Missouri. And for about 35 of those years, Joe was a beekeeper. He would tend to his bees, sometimes giving honey away, other times selling it to support missions and missionary efforts. But whether Joe realized it or not at the time, he wasn’t just investing in missions, he was also preparing a path — especially for his son, Bruce.
Bruce would follow in his father’s footsteps as a minister with a heart for missions, but as Joe’s life started to draw to a close, he asked if Bruce would like to have his six remaining hives and equipment. Bruce, having grown up surrounded by bees and beekeeping, readily accepted the gift.
Being knowledgeable about beekeeping and being gifted his father’s equipment and remaining hives, Bruce began to increase the number of hives until he reached 20. “That’s not much, compared to other beekeepers,” he says, “but I bottle between 300 and 400 pounds of honey each year.”
His abilities in beekeeping led to Bruce being elected the president of the Beekeeping Association of the Ozarks in 2012, where he still remains now as a board member. In 2014, he was elected as the Missouri State Beekeeping Association’s Southwest Region area director, a position that he still holds.
But three years ago, beekeeping moved from a “passionate hobby” to a “life-changing missions ministry” for Bruce.
“I was asked to go to India by an AG minister, where I taught efficiencies in beekeeping to about 15 beekeepers there,” he says. “These village beekeepers don’t make much money, but now they can better sustain themselves.”
Not only did Bruce teach the villagers how to better tend their bees and increase production, he helped form a co-op that would buy their honey and then sell it in larger cities at a higher price. In 2015, the co-op assisted over 130 beekeepers, selling their honey in 30 retail outlets. The proceeds from the co-op then benefit an indigenous Indian church and a Christian school, both located in a slum.
“The co-op sold enough honey to add 10 additional students and one more teacher to the school,” Bruce says. “That means 10 more kids learning about Christ’s love, 10 more kids receiving an education, 10 more kids with a future.”
Then, early in October 2016, Bruce accompanied another missions team to Guatemala to teach beekeeping to workers and older teens at a Christian children’s home. Bruce, who’s been attending Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, for the past 12 years, says this trip was even more special as his son invited him . . . sort of.
“My son, Brandon [a former member of Central Assembly], is part of a new church plant in Colorado. When he found out the leaders at the children’s home were interested in learning about beekeeping, he ‘volunteered’ me,” Bruce laughs. “I was happy to do it.”
The children’s home is built on a small sustainable farm in Guatemala, where bees would help increase pollination among the crops and, ultimately, increase production, in addition to providing honey to sell.
For a week, Bruce taught the staff members at the home along with two older teens the skills involved in beekeeping. But more than that, he personally raised the funds to set up five beehives and provide the home with all the equipment it needed to start beekeeping. He also had the opportunity to preach at the church the children attend while he was there.
“The whole purpose of Guatemala trip was to teach a life skill,” Bruce says, “so that the kids, when they graduate from the home, will be skilled in beekeeping and be able to have a job and stay off the streets.” He believes that in a few years, the same kind of success the beekeepers in India have experienced will be replicated in Guatemala.
Although beekeeping is currently the overseas missions ministry for Bruce, he doesn't fall short in ministering at home. Eight years ago, he started up and still leads Central Assembly’s oil change ministry. Once a month, 25 to 30 single mothers and spouses of deployed military come to the church’s parking lot and have the oil in their cars changed for free. While there, they enjoy free snacks and beverages and their children are engaged with fun activities. Volunteers from the church, including Bruce’s wife, Becky, are also present, visiting and praying with those coming to the oil change outreach.
David Jayne, Central Assembly’s pastoral care and community outreach pastor, believes Bruce has a heart for making a difference in people’s lives.
“Bruce is so faithful to this ministry, the only time he’s not there is when we have to close for inclement weather,” Jayne says. “Several ladies have started attending Central because of their association with the oil change ministry.”Although Bruce may no longer pastor a church, that doesn’t mean he no longer ministers, whether it’s in a poverty-stricken community overseas or through touching the lives of those in need at home. And his motto for ministry? Simple: “I go where God opens a door.”