Archive for Mission Spotlight

Emporia FCC provides food to needy families

Karen Garnett and Susan Iwert, Office Secretary, in Emporia FCC's food pantry.

Karen Garnett and Susan Iwert, Office Secretary, in Emporia FCC’s food pantry.

The thriving food pantry at First Christian Church, Emporia, is meeting the various basic needs of families in its community. In 2015, the pantry helped over 320 families, consisting of 806 people, with 346 bags of food.

“Recognizing a person and addressing them by name makes all of us feel important, knowing that we are a worthwhile member of society,” said Susan Iwert, Church Secretary.  “It is important that food pantry personnel be compassionate with people and have the skills with which to meet a wide variety of clients who are seeking help.  Personnel must be prepared for anything and remember that each person has a story.”

The food pantry of the First Christian Church has been ministering to the Emporia community for over thirty years. 

Originally, the monthly congregational food collection was donated in its entirety to the local Salvation Army. Then due to the many individuals seeking help from the church, half the collected food was taken to the Salvation Army and half kept at the church for distribution. Eventually, the church decided to keep the church’s food collection at the church for distribution from its own food pantry.

For many years, the food pantry was housed on shelves in a basement closet and food was distributed by congregational members who signed up as volunteers.  Later, the pantry was moved to a galley area within the office suite and distribution was limited to two days per week. 

Over the past five years, the forms and the process have evolved and become streamlined. Distribution has evolved to a standard sack of food per family rather than allowing clients to select directly from the shelves. 

Items in each bag include fruit, peanut butter, tuna, vegetables, pork and beans, gelatin, soup, instant oatmeal, ramen noodles, a sleeve of soda crackers, macaroni and cheese, and a roll of toilet paper. FCC includes toilet paper because households receiving state aid are not allowed to purchase paper supplies with that aid. Other items available upon request include hand soap, body soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

 A half-page handout of the mission of the food pantry as well as church meeting times and the various ministries of FCC are included in each grocery bag. 

“With everyone’s help and working together for a common goal, we believe we are a positive influence for the Emporia community,” Iwert said.  “None of this could happen without the strong belief and support of the members, the board and the ministries of the church.”

Baxter Springs “Great Day of Service”

One Sunday a year, First Christian Church, Baxter Springs, meets early for communion, and then goes out into the community to serve people. Church happens that morning without a sermon or singing, just moving hands and feet.

“This ‘Great Day of Service’ stems from the idea that we want to be Jesus in our community,” Pastor Cody Graves said. “We want to be about what he was about.  This is not an evangelistic effort.”

Each group sent out is told to start each conversation with, “We’re from the First Christian Church and we wonder if there is anything we could help you with today?”

“We do this service project because we love people, not because we want our church to grow,” Graves said. “This aspect I believe was crucial in its success because it showed people we care about them as a person and not a number.”

That evening the entire community is invited to Sunday Service in the park.“This project shows our community that they are a priority,” Graves said. “It shows people that on a morning that Christians usually meet by themselves to talk about Christian things, we are out in our neighbor’s yards and homes, serving them.”

Warm Blankets, Warm Hearts

Mission Spotlight: Warm Blankets, Warm Harts

With temperatures dropping below freezing this week, many of us don’t have to worry about staying warm, but for the Wichita homeless community it can mean life and death.

Last December after seeing some of the homeless men and women in Wichita, 7-year-old Max Freeman of Faith Christian Church in Wichita, son of Tom and Angelique Freeman and grandson of June Freeman, had the idea to collect blankets for them.

“His mom came to my wife and told her that Max could hardly sleep at night because he saw men and women living on the street and knew they were cold while he was warm in his home,” Pastor Greg Hamlin said. “Angelique told us that he just kept it up and kept it up and would not leave it alone. Max would not be satisfied until he gave a blanket to those people.”

Max’s AWANA Sparks leader, Janelle Balzer helped organized a bake sale that raised $290 and championed Max’s cause to the congregation. Our own Week of Compassion sent an additional $200.

“She contacted the Lord’s Diner and coordinated a Sunday afternoon to hand out blankets to the homeless who gather for a warm meal there at 4:30,” Hamlin said, speaking of Balzer. “She shopped for the blankets to insure they were a certain type- warm-and a size that would fit into a backpack.”

With the help of 20 adult volunteers and 12 children, Max was able to hand-deliver 184 blankets to homeless men and women at the Lord’s Diner.

“We couldn’t believe it! Altogether, 184 blankets were gathered for the homeless in Wichita,” Hamlin said. “I told the congregation that someone – perhaps a cold homeless person downtown – was praying and God chose little Max to get His response to them. We also noticed that no one was turned away! We had exactly enough blankets for every person that day.”

The Lord’s Diner is currently serving an average of 2,500 meals nightly at two dining facilities (one in downtown Wichita, and one in south Wichita) and two food trucks (one in northwest Wichita, and one in southeast Wichita), to anyone who needs a nutritious meal. 60 percent of their clientele are families.

KAKE News was also on hand to talk to Max and Pastor Greg and aired the story in their newscast that night .  The story can be found at on KAKE’s web site.

 

Giving Hope to La Flor

As part of their mission, Woodridge Christian Church in Wichita has adopted the small village of La Flor, Nicaragua, through Just Hope, an organization based in Tulsa. Fourteen members will visit in February to help build a home, to learn more about the benefits of their previous projects, a microbank and bridge repairs, and to develop relationships with the people of the village.

Already the church has come together to help the people of La Flor in many different ways.

“We have sent them money for a bridge repair and $3,000 for a micro credit bank program that has been up and running for about eight months now,” Gleason said. “We are collecting medicine, school supplies and other items to take to the village in February.”

Members have also raised $4,500 to help a family get a new home.  Those traveling to La Flor will have the opportunity to work on the home and meet the family as well as spend time in their schools and meet the ladies who are benefiting from the micro credit banking program.

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history. It is designed not only to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty, but also in many cases to empower women and uplift entire communities by extension. In many communities, women lack the highly stable employment histories that traditional lenders tend to require.

“We also joined the local group, ‘Dress a Child,’ and have been sewing clothing for the kids of the village and will plan on taking about 75 new outfits with us in February,” Gleason said.

Other projects the church is involved with are:

  • Playing bingo with the Veterans at the VA Hospital
  • Ronald McDonald House charities
  • Regional camping program at Towakoni
  • Krusing for Kids Toys for Tots program
  • Kansas Food Bank

Follow the Carpenter Sunday

On months containing fifth Sundays, First Christian Church in Dighton forgoes the traditional worship service in an effort to give back to their community.  On these “Follow the Carpenter” Sundays they meet for a short casual worship service then head out in to the community for an afternoon of mission. 

Among the many projects already completed, the church has worked on windows, roofs, and porches for people in the community; yard work, painting fences and cleaning out garages; assembled appreciation bags for teachers, paraprofessionals, and school board members; and many more.

“There’s nothing better than feeling like we’re doing something, even if it is new and scary to try it out,” said Pastor Aerii Smith. “The energy and excitement that comes from each new project and each continued project lasts longer and longer each time we participate in these events. The longer we’re open to mission and service opportunities, the more creative the ideas.”

This is just one of the many mission projects the Dighton church participates in each year among those include:

  • Sit and Knit group who made over 30 prayer shawls and 100 scarves for the homeless, survivors of domestic violence, and foster kids in college.
  • Partnered with the United Methodist Church for Trunk-or-Treat ministering to over 150 kids and their families
  • Provides funds for local kids wanting swimming lessons
  • Provide food for deputies and detainees at local jail
  • Send college care boxes during finals
  • Collect school supplies each summer for the elementary and high schools.

Smith said plans are to continue building relationships in their community and provide support to those in need. “We are here to provide support for them in anyway the community needs us and to make the presence of the Holy Spirit known,” she said.