The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

HOPE Center founder authors book on adventures in ministry


May 16, 2017

Photo courtesy of Sharon Pryor ESTHER BENNETT holds a copy of her new book, which chronicles her many trips overseas to assist and encourage missionaries, the establishment of the HOPE Center, and more.

Esther Bennett and Sharon Pryor, founders of Sweet Home’s Hope Center, have taken dozens of trips to Asia, Africa, and Europe over the last four decades.

Bennett has been collecting the stories of their travels for years and recently compiled some in a self-published book, “Go Around the World and Tell My Children I Love Them.”

“I didn’t want preaching,” Bennett said.

That has its place, but this book is for people on the streets, about God working in practical ways, she added.

It’s also about the relationship God wants with his people, she said.

“He isn’t far off, He’s very close,” Bennett said. “He just wants to have a relationship so he can be part of our lives.”

As with human-to-human relationships, the relationship with God that Bennett talks about involves listening and responding, or more specifically obeying.

For Bennett, now 85, that meant leaving her 19-year teaching career to travel the world, reminding missionaries that God loved them.

She recounts the calling in her book and says she learned “it was a message that was desperately needed.”

She spoke with her principal and took a sabbatical from teaching physical education and art in Auburn, Wash., to go on that first trip to Japan and Korea in the early 1970s.

Bennett prayed for a partner in this ministry and in 1979, Sharon Pryor joined her on her second trip. Pryor, 67, has traveled with Bennett for 38 years and helped with the writing of the book.

Pryor was a high school-level music teacher, had experience traveling on international music teams and worked at a church in Seattle.

The pair has ministered to missionaries in Southeast Asia, Israel, New Zealand and Siberia.

Bennett said language was not a barrier because English is spoken all over the world. It was important to learn about the cultures of the places they visited, though, so they would not offend the people there, she added.

One of the countries that have stood out for her was Singapore, which is notable for its beauty, cleanliness and efficiency, Bennett said.

“Where we would have dandelions, they have orchids,” she said. “Everyone has orchids.”

Chewing gum was banned in the 1990s because of the mess it created and the cost to clean it up.

“It used to be that if you flew to Singapore, (the airline) guaranteed that within 15 minutes of landing, you’d be all done with everything at the airport and on your way to enjoy the trip,” Bennett said.

Also memorable for her is Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

“It is set back a century, poor, rugged, fascinating,” Bennett said.

At the time the women visited, there was no building higher than eight stories, Pryor said.

At 85, Bennett does not foresee as much more travel in her future.

“The book can travel,” Pryor said.

There are many stories that didn’t make their way into the 183-page book, the women said, so they are working on another one.

“I’m going to leave that one for Sharon to finish,” Bennett said.

The book also recounts the women’s 20 years, 1988-2008, in Sweet Home. They lived in a home Bennett’s father had built in the 1930s out of lumberyard scraps.

The book tells the story of how they founded the HOPE center and provided leadership and support when Crawfordsville Community Church was in peril of closing down.

As for what she wants people to get out of “Go Around the World and Tell My Children I Love Them,” Bennett says she’d like to encourage older people not to “hang it up.”

“You’re never too old,” Bennett said. “God’s always got something for you to do.”

She said it is good to always have a word of encouragement available.

“I want people to know the Lord,” Bennett said. “He’s fun when you get to know him.”

“Go Around the World and Tell My Children I Love Them,” is available for $11 at Foster Lake Mall and on


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