World Vision: Stories of Faith in Action: Have Mulch, Will Spread; The Pied Piper of Hamburgers; Other Side of the Highway

Be the Church

 

Have Mulch, Will SpreadHave Mulch. Will Spread.

Want to see your community transformed by the love of God? Invest in their lives by putting in a little sweat equity. Grace Community, a Florida start-up church of 100+, has done just that and now they’re experiencing unexpected growth—with a renewed vision to practice a “pure and undefiled religion.”

It’s much easier to spread a little sunshine when there’s sun. Grace Community Church of Wesley Beach, Florida, prayed for it—and got it, despite the dire predictions of dark clouds, cold and rain for their Faith in Action (FIA) Make a Difference Day. As part of spreading God’s neatly provided sunshine, pastor Jeffrey Olson and his then 75-member church found something else they could spread on that day to make a difference in their community—mulch.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Grace Community was bowling over the local elementary school and the rest of the community with purposeful acts of kindness—showing that the church really could be super caring and involved. By willing to get “down and dirty” –spreading mulch over the school grounds, painting picnic tables for a foster home, assembling AIDS caregiver kits and cleaning up yards for seniors—Grace Community sent a clear message that God’s Word is much more than a metaphor for sowing, reaping, and tilling the hard ground of life. If we do it right, loving our neighbor goes hand-in-hand with rakes, hoes, shovels and lot of sweat.

Janet, a middle-aged woman, who by virtue of a disability, found herself “suddenly senior”—unable to perform regular upkeep on her house, was one community member who was grateful to see the Kingdom principal “Love is messy” applied. Though she had served people all her life, she herself had never been served. Yet through the overgrown weeds, strewn-about papers and general chaos in her home that comes about when you simply can’t move around, she found hope. There were people who cared.

Not surprisingly, when Grace Community was first selected to be an FIA Beta church the reaction of the leadership was, “Great, this fits with our vision of what a church should be, but how are we going to pay for it?”  Like every other FIA church, Grace Community soon learned there’s provision in the vision. In Grace’s case, that provision came mostly through the gift of one individual. Miraculously, two days before Make a Difference Day they received a financial gift from a person who lived several hundred miles away — and didn’t attend Grace Community.

“The Faith in Action campaign is aptly named because it takes faith that God will provide both the funds and projects to act!” says Olson. “And for us, well we were literally living out Ephesians 2:10: ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’  We had only one month to prepare those ‘good works’ but what we discovered was that during every step of the way, things were already lined up for us…and we saw through it all that it really was God’s project—all we had to do was respond.”

Today, Make a Difference day is morphing into Make a Difference Week, Make a Difference Month and the rest of their church life. As a result of the church unifying to show practical acts of compassion, seven new families have joined. Some were previously churched, the rest had never been to a church. “For us, FIA was not a one-time thing,” says Olson. “What this campaign really did for our church was give us focus for our existing vision: “Building a better community by God’s grace.”  And for our members it was a real inspiration for them to think about how they could continue a life of faith in action—how they should not wait for the church to arrange these types of projects, but how they could go out, like Jesus did, to “seek and save the lost.” – jenni keast

Pied Piper Hambrgers

The Piped Piper of Hamburgers

After a year of studying on how to be an externally focused congregation, Multnomah Presbyterian Church had developed the heart to help; they just needed a plan—and “a deadline”—to get it done. The Faith in Action Campaign gave them just that. Now they’ve discovered that while there may be power in one, there’s much more strength in numbers.

The place was eerily quiet. The balloon maker leaned against the wall, watching the 6-year-old child gingerly tap the overhead piñata while the officially designated “griller” stoked the charcoal, waiting for the green light to begin cooking the hamburger patties that were stacked up beside the barbeque.

An hour later they were still waiting…barely any of the dozens of expected residents of the inner-city housing development, most of whom were children, had shown up. Rev. Sylvia Dilworth, co-pastor of Multnomah Presbyterian Church in Portland Oregon, was worried—where were they?  Was their church-sponsored Harvest Party, given for the nearby housing project, about to become a good idea gone bust?

Undaunted by the noticeable lack of invitees, the griller began what all good grillers do—he grilled. Within moments, the irresistible smell of sizzling meat began wafting through the courtyard—like the lyrical sound of the flute from the proverbial Pied Piper, it did its magic. Almost on cue, children began appearing seemingly out of nowhere –with the parents soon following. Within minutes the place was filled with the sound of laughing children, parading around with ketchup-dripping burgers in one hand, and silly, oddly contorted animal balloons in the other. The party was on.

The Harvest Party, what Pastor Dilworth calls “a really neat experience” was only one of eight projects taken on by the 270- member congregation after their church had been selected for the FIA Alpha campaign. The materials were in rough form—barely ready for prime time. Dilworth’s main concern however, was not the lack of slickness in the stapling, but how their church would find, and then plan, outreach projects that could involve an entire congregation—from seniors to small frys, all in the space of four weeks!

“So I asked them, “How can we serve you?” And the manager [of the housing project] just looked at me—she was clearly floored by those words.”—Rev. Sylvia Dilworth.

Spiritually, Multnomah was ready for it. For a year the leadership of the church had been going through The Externally Focused Church, by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson, figuring out ways they could become more externally focused.  The problem was they couldn’t seem to break out of the intellectual, conceptualizing portion and enter the “”Just Do It” phase. That all changed in May of 2006 when Dilworth attended the World Vision Conference where she first heard about Faith In Action.  Instantly, the fire was lit.

If goals are visions with deadlines, FIA provided both. By the end of October of that year, after three weeks of sermons, study guides and small groups, Multnomah was on the map of the surrounding community. From providing a church service for lonely seniors, childcare and a Harvest Party for the nearby housing project, to cleaning up overgrown ivy in a local park, painting portables, and assembling 240 World Vision caregiver kits, Multnomah, which literally means ‘down river”, created a current of compassion whose flow was clearly unstoppable. Before long, Faith in Action Sunday was followed by Faith in Action Saturday—a day when Multnomah members really proved their mettle by giving up normal Saturday activities like soccer games, shopping and not a few rounds of golf to serve their community.

”As she counts her final days, months, or years, nothing is more important than having her faith uplifted… thank you for performing such a great church service for my mom—and all the others—in the Lord’s name.”—Winetta Soderlind, daughter of nursing home resident, Luetha Scheff.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took planning, prayer and provision. And it took allaying the fears of some of the old timers that their worship wouldn’t be trivialized by canceling a service. Those fears were soon put to rest. Worry was replaced by the joy of connecting with the community—and one another. For one member, it took the mustard-stained face of a disadvantaged 4-year-old peering into the member’s eyes as the child snuggled close to her on her lap; for another, it was the sparkle in an 87-year-old’s eyes—a longtime resident of a nursing home—as she heard, for the first time in years, her favorite hymn being sung, and the Word of God being preached. Too weak and feeble to go to church, church had finally come to her. What a concept…a church leaving their building to seek out people who they can serve…with God’s love.–Jenni Keast

>> Visit www.PutYourFaithinAction.org for more information or to order a leader’s kit … or call 800-991-6011.

Other Side of Highway

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About seekandfind

I'm a strategic storyteller/copywriter who is divinely wired to be idea-driven, strategic minded & cause motivated.

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