By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
SALISBURY, Md.—After taking their regular church offering, Brian Moss, the senior pastor at Oak Ridge Church in Salisbury, Md., invited members and guests to write on their “Keeping in Touch” cards if they had any financial needs.
In his sermon, “Praying Like Jesus,” Moss had just taught about the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6. In particular, that day he shared how Jesus taught the disciples to ask God for their “daily bread,” or in other words, to provide for their daily needs.
That August Sunday morning, he then invited others who felt that God was providing well for them to write their willingness to give toward unmet needs in the church and to place their gifts in the offering envelopes.
The money would be put into the church’s “Deacons Fund” and deacons would later match the needs with the financial gifts.
To their amazement, 304 people in the adult venue gave $9,100; another 180 people left requests, ranging from “I need prayer” to “I have a need,” on the altar, shared Tim Hastings, Oak Ridge’s executive pastor.
The church’s deacons then met and prayerfully considered how to meet the needs. About 20 to 25 of the requests were specific enough to assist right away, explained Hastings. This included one request for yard work and another for a new wheelchair ramp, both of which groups in the church were easily able to provide.
Answering another request, a single mother who was recently assaulted when intruders broke into her home was given a new security system along with new locks on her doors. A recently unemployed woman, about to lose her car to repossession, was given money for a car payment just as she was starting a new job. Another woman, whose husband was in an out-of-town hospital, had accrued hotel bills that she couldn’t pay. The church paid her hotel bills and also bought prescriptions for an elderly woman on a fixed income.
The deacons were aware of other needs from people who didn’t ask for assistance. One man had recently lost his job due to the recession. He was days away from his electricity being turned off. The church paid off his electricity balance and paid the next month’s bill.
“He wasn’t even asking,” Hastings explained.
People with larger needs were recommended to HALO (www.haloministry.org), a Christ-centered, a faith-based non-profit, begun by the church, that provides programs and services for the homeless, hungry and hurting people in the community.
“People weren’t looking for a hand-out,” Hastings added. “They were seeking a help up.”
The other 140 or so requests required more information to determine the level of needs. Deacons sent out letters asking for clarification. They then followed up with personal phone calls, many of which were very touching conversations, Hastings said.
One deacon, whose wife once had to quit her job due to issues with her pregnancy, remembered how the church helped him financially through a difficult time. Knowing how God had provided then, he sat on the phone and cried with those who expressed their difficult needs. He wished everyone could experience the blessing of ministering in such a way.
But what was even more amazing was the people who gave, Hastings said.
On one card, a person wrote, “I was touched and impacted by the Deacon’s Fund before, and now I want to be a blessing to others.”
Another envelope, containing a financial gift, really overwhelmed the church staff. They knew that the person was actually struggling financially. But instead of a request, there simply were the words, “I am blessed.”
But it was the story of a young single mom that ministered most to Hastings.
Last fall, overwhelmed by debt, she visited their church and soon was involved in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class held there. She got on a budget, established an emergency fund, paid down her debt, and eventually moved into her own place.
At that morning service, she happened to have nearly $40, which she had planned to use to buy her brother a birthday gift. But instead, she felt God tell her to give the money away.
“I’ve gotten out of debt, and I just knew my brother would understand,” she told Hastings.
Later that week, “God came through, and she got a huge tip in the same amount,” Hastings reported. “God loves blowing our minds like that!”
The waitress agreed. “I was able to give, whereas just a year ago, I was probably one of the people who needed to ask for help!”
Another young man, faced with diabetes, cancer and an accident that caused him to lose sight in one of his eyes, never asked for any money. Instead, he radiated the joy of the Lord through his consistent smile and contagious positive attitude.
The deacons learned he was behind on his mortgage, and they came alongside him and helped pay his bill. The man’s father, who had never been to the church before, learned what they had done and decided to visit the next Sunday. The father got saved and recently invited his neighbor to also attend the church.
Celebrating, Hastings said, “When you look at testimonies like that, that’s what drives us!”
But it didn’t end there.
Later, continuing the series on the Lord’s Prayer, Pastor Moss invited members and guests to write down the initials of people they needed to forgive on their “Keeping in Touch” cards. The young man wrote the initials of his mother, who had abandoned him 39 years before.
The pastor then instructed his listeners to draw a cross on top of the initials to represent their willingness to forgive their debtors (Matthew 6:12). The act inspired the man to contact his mother.
“This young man has just met his mom for the first time in 39 years!” Hastings reported. “Who knows if this would have happened if we hadn’t taken that first step?”