Outreach is seen as an opportunity to engage a particular community with resources beneficial to their physical, emotional, mental, financial and even spiritual needs. In August, I had the privilege of participating in such an experience called the Back-to-School Block Party hosted by Urban Outreach. It’s located in Southeast Washington D.C. and serves the most vulnerable and needy communities in our nation’s capital.
Our church has been a longtime supporter of Urban Outreach so representing Calvary Grace was a thrill at this back-to-school event.
The experience was especially meaningful because I was joined by my two kids, Sydney and Isaiah, both active in our church’s REVIVE Youth program. They observed firsthand how we are to serve others as the Bible encourages us to do.
This outreach also offered a unique bonus for our family: My kids encountered this experience in my community of origin.
You see, I grew up in the inner city of Washington D.C. Although I grew up in a different neighborhood, as a young girl I was vulnerable to all the traps and snares most inner-city residents are confronted with daily.
It’s been almost 15 years of Southern Maryland living that’s gotten me very used to nearby farms, watching the harvesting of agricultural crops and rarely hearing an emergency vehicle.
But when I arrived to this Urban Outreach event, it awakened some memories I’d long since forgotten. While setting up the activity stations that would be used throughout the day, my mind recounted all the times I walked these same neighborhoods with friends of years past. I recalled some of those kids I went to school with and could only wonder what ever became of their lives amidst all the violence and drugs that plagued our nation’s capital during the 1980s.
Seeing the faces of those we served, I wondered if I was looking, but not recognizing, an old friend – or perhaps his or her son or daughter. My body was present that sunny Saturday, but my mind flooded with memories that took me back to my teenage years.
To now see how much God has done with my life is humbling.
As we packed up to leave after a long day of stuffing backpacks for students, bagging groceries for the families, registering guests and donating clothing and shoes to the less fortunate while sensing a spirit of gratitude from the attendees, I realized this event was not only an opportunity for us to serve them.
It was also a moment to share with my kids God’s love and grace He freely gives each day despite our wavering faith and obedience while recognizing how much He has abundantly blessed our lives and that His mercy should never be taken for granted. I was also reminded that because of His love, grace, and mercy, we should always be on the lookout to meet the never-ceasing responsibility to serve others.
It’s easy to forget the days of struggle in our past because of the current comforts to which we’ve grown accustomed. But God commands us to:
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest — when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18, NKJV)
It simply requires an hour, an afternoon or, if you’re feeling generous, a full day to give ourselves away for the sake of others to demonstrate the command, “As I have loved you, so must you love one another.”
After all, just as Christ continually participates in outreach when He reaches out towards us during our physical, emotional, financial and spiritual droughts, we, too, may possess the very blessing that someone is in need of.
I am grateful to Calvary Grace for stretching beyond its walls to extend compassion and care for the needs of others. The benefit and blessings from the church’s financial sacrifice was evident that day. For a small congregation of believers, big are the hearts that give to the causes of Christ.
So if it’s been a while since your last visit to a shelter or hospital, or since you attended the needs of a loved one, I encourage you to keep your eyes, ears and heart open for the next divine appointment to serve.
It will bless you more than you can imagine or think!
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, in asmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)