Community coming together to help young couple’s mission in Sudan

Published 11:45 am Thursday, April 30, 2015

It started with a mission trip to Sudan while in college.

And now, Billy Riddle is vowing to make a difference in the lives of the people of South Sudan, in Africa.

He’s taking his wife, Allie, along with him, and their new baby, Lewis.

He founded Hope Grows.

Friends and family are pitching in to help with the mission, and they need your help.

On Saturday, May 16, at Camp Manna (founded by Riddle’s family off Pine Ridge Road near Cooleemee), they are organizing the Hope Challenge. There will be a 5k race, a mile long obstacle course and a tug-of-war competition, along with a myriad of activites and food for children and adults.

Riddle had almost given up on helping the people of Sudan on his second trip, watching the people toil relentlessly on a church he was starting. Yet they remained in extreme poverty, oppressed by the government. Little boys were forced to be soldiers, little girls as sex slaves.

While questioning himself, he felt something on his arm. It was a toothless little girl, about 4. When he looked down and winked at her, she burst out in laughter, as did her nearby friends.

Even among all of the problems, this little girl and those around her were happy.

“I realized she doesn’t need or really want the things I came to offer. I have seen so many who have exponentially more than this little toothless girl ever will have, yet have never smiled so wholly as she when she simply held my hand. I stood there with nothing more to offer than that simple human touch.

“I had no miracle of life, no clean new well, no shiny new school, only my dirty hand,” he wrote in an article for Appalachian Magazine. “As we stood there holding hands, love overcame me. the true lovebetween us in that moment conquered our plight. Love is the ultimate value of life. And that is all she ever wanted.

“May God bless that little toothless girl who taught me the value of love. And may our dirty hands meet again one day where love is abundant,” he said.

With a story such as this, there is no wonder friends want to help. Allie Riddle is a nurse and plans to work in a hospital there, Billy plans to teach people how to best use the resources they have, training missionaries there in agriculture and community development.

The 5K is the first event on May 16, starting at 8 a.m. The tug-of-war and obstacle course starts at 9:30. There is a registration fee for each event, with all money going to Hope Grows.

There will be a free child’s obstacle course for those age 10 and under.

Throughout the day, there will be hamburgers and hotdogs, fries, onion rings and Cheerwine products for sale. The Brad Ratledge Band will provide music. T-shirts will be available.

Visit to register or learn more about the mission.

Teresa Bivins, one of the organizers of the event, is passionate about the cause, talking about how the people of Sudan cared for Billy when he contracted malaria.

“He wants to repay not only them, but the world, with the love that they taught him,” she said. “After returning to school he founded Hope Grows to promote holistic development and justice, and to effectively alleviate poverty around the world.”

Billy and Allie met while students at Appalachian. He was speaking about his trip to Sudan and she was touched. They married in 2012 and their first child was born Feb. 1. They hope to live in Wadupe, Sudan full time by next year.