By Sharon Mager, For Embrace Baltimore
BALTIMORE, Md.—Hazelwood Church member Debbie Neidhardt was overwhelmed. In July, she lost her job. In August her husband had a stroke and was hospitalized. Early in October, Debbie received a call that her husband was finally coming home. He would be in a wheelchair and she needed to prepare the house. As a newly baptized believer, Neidhardt immediately began seeking God’s help.
Ed Reese, Hazelwood Church’s pastor, called Debbie to check on Bruce. Reese said he wanted to ask her about Faith In Action (FIA), a national program that that Hazelwood was participating in. Faith in Action’s goal is for churches to go out into the community to do missions and ministry instead of meeting at the church. Oct. 12 was the official Faith In Action day.
Debbie assumed Reese was calling to ask her if she was going to help. She already had over 20 peanut butter sandwiches ready to take to children at a local family resource center for the homeless. “I told him we’re going to be there.”
Reese surprised Debbie by saying he wasn’t asking her to help, but that he wanted to know if she would like to be included in the FIA projects and have a team come help prepare the house for Bruce’s homecoming.
“I just lost it,” Debbie said, getting teary eyed as she talked. She cried and shared with Reese that she had just asked God for help.
Sure enough, a team of church members came to the Neidhardt home and painted, fixed windows and basically did everything they could to help the family.
In addition to helping the Neidhardt family, Hazelwood members planted a memorial tree and did some landscaping at McCormick Elementary School and they provided lunch and crafts for children at a nearby family resource center.
Faith in Action is a national four-week campaign sponsored by Zondervan, Outreach and World Vision that encourages congregations to go outside of the church to serve. The campaign includes material for Sunday schools or small groups, daily devotionals and sermon outlines. Embrace Baltimore, a North American Mission Board initiative, provided training and support for Baltimore area churches. Darnell Ranson, Embrace’s director of community impact and Lily Blanco, community impact associate, coordinated this year’s FIA for Baltimore churches.
On the designated Sunday, church members either met for brief devotionals or closed the church building for the morning to go into their communities to show their neighbors that God and His church loves them. Many gathered afterwards for a celebration dinner.
Churches served their communities in various ways and not all observed the Oct. 12 date, but adapted the FIA activities to meet their schedules.
— Total Praise Fellowship Church members cleaned up trash, passed out flyers for a Halloween party and prayer walked on Saturday. On Sunday, they delivered sheet cakes to firehouses, police barracks and nursing homes. They also gave gift baskets to teachers, custodians, and the nursing and office staff at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School.
David Spurrier, pastor of Total Praise, was thrilled with the weekend “We’re doing it again in December,” Spurrier said.
— Riverside Church members participated by giving away dog treats in Riverside Park and chatting with the many dog owners who passed by.
“We have about 20,000 people living within two miles of the church and only 1,900 have school-aged children,” Ward Holland, pastor of Riverside, said. “But they do have dogs,” he said.
Riverside Church members also cleaned up around a local elementary school.
— Colonial Church members participated in many FIA projects including taking Bibles and care packages and singing at a local nursing home; teaching job skills to men and cleaning at an independent living facility; taking girls from a home for troubled girls to a movie and shopping for clothing; giving blankets to the homeless to name a few.
They also had an evangelistic team that was going door to door. Robert Anderson, senior pastor of Colonial Church, said altogether, 200 church members participated. They distributed 400 Bibles, saw two people make professions of faith and planted hundreds of spiritual seeds.
— Gallery Church members did their FIA projects on Saturday, Oct. 11. Members helped with a health fair, gave out hot dogs and drinks and hosted children’s games in the Lafayette/Jonestown area in Baltimore.
— The Church on Warren Avenue conducted their FIA day on Oct. 19. Church members had a potluck dinner after worship then a painting team walked to the Baltimore Recreation Center and painted the center’s kitchen. Pastor Lyn O’Berry said the church has an ongoing partnership with the center.
— Crossway International Community Church’s Pastor Robert McCoy said their church’s FIA events “went extremely well.” They worked at an assisted living home and packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
“It was truly a blessing to see our city and county churches put their faith in action in their communities,” Darnell Ranson said. “I am just overwhelmed to know that some of our pastors and their congregations saw the real value of sharing the love of Christ to those who live and work in their communities and ultimately removing the notion that the church only cares about itself. To God be the Glory!”
Embrace Baltimore is planning another FIA weekend in spring, 2009. For more information, contact Darnell Ranson or Lily Blanco at the Embrace Baltimore office, (410) 882-7888.