Belinda is blessed and blesses
Belinda is a young mother who has been coming for Sunday School and worship with 3 of her 4 kids (all preschool and younger) for most of this year.
Belinda has been homeless, staying at the YWCA Family Center for homeless families for what seems to be an eternity to her. She has invited us into her life by giving us updates on the progress of moving from homelessness into a home of her own.
While it would be easy to grow discouraged, especially when there seemed to be delay after delay, each time Belinda shared a prayer request, it would be one of hope or celebration. She NEVER lost hope, never complained, never lost her beautiful smile. And, as Paul says, “hope does not disappoint…” because last Sunday, Belinda shared with us that she and her family had just moved into their new home on North 5th Street (not far from the church)!
Now THAT was something to celebrate! To see her joy, and to hear her thank God for God’s faithfulness, and the blessing of a home for her family filled my spirit — and I dare say, everyone in worship — with great joy, as well.
Belinda has an important role in our ministry as Sunday School teacher for children in preschool through first grade, and as the new staff person in our Nursery during worship. Belinda and the youngest children have fun worshipping and learning about Jesus in age-appropriate ways. We are so grateful that Belinda and her beautiful children have found their way to New Life; and give thanks to God for blessing them with a new life as they settle into their new home.
By Destiny Ashley, age 11
New Life UMC “Young Disciple”
Hello, readers, my name is Destiny Ashley and I go to New Life United Methodist Church. This is where I started learning about Street Speech [street newspaper]. I don’t live on the streets. But I do experience a lot and I do see a lot of homeless people everywhere especially in the city of Columbus. It is so crazy no matter if you’re in the Terris, Milo, or Short North – anywhere. It’s always around you.
I know you see the homeless people, the dirty streets they have to live on. It’s not fun. I wouldn’t want it and neither would you. Or do you hear the dogs barking, the gun shots, the police sirens they have to hear right up against their cars? Or not only are they homeless they have no food, nothing.
Yes they may have some little money to go to the Thrift Store after selling pop cans they get off the streets but that is it. So think the next time you go to make fun of how someone has to live or where they have to live, or even what they look like, or what they have to wear because you wouldn’t want anyone to crack on you if you were to be homeless.
A significant number of people in our volunteer pool comes as a result of referrals from the court system and from Job and Family Services, in the form of individuals who are doing community service. We see this as a very positive situation.
They provide us with many hard-working men and women who help us staff the store. These folks have become an integral part of our team. Many of them are taking a very personal interest in the store and its mission. They seem to truly be taking ownership of the Free Store’s efforts in our community.
Thus we are providing them with an opportunity to serve, give back positively, and feel good about what they are doing. They are welcomed with friendship and respect – as we come together on “common ground”.
A certain young man, who is logging community service hours, comes to the store whenever he can, during his breaks from college. In addition to his positive attitude and pleasant demeanor, he goes “above and beyond” any expectations we might have, often even arriving early to stock the store. An example of his interest in serving was shown as he accompanied Jen’s youth group on a Saturday trip to the Methodist Children’s Home for a work day there. We have forged a healthy relationship that has encouraged him to “blossom” and be “fruitful”.
A WORD FROM SHERRY:
"God-things" happen at Common Ground almost daily!!
On the very first day that we were open, we met a young woman whose baby was sleeping in a drawer, for lack of a crib. While she was still in the store, I received a phone call from a lady in town who wondered if we could use … A CRIB!
A woman I'll call Sherry was one of our very first customers. She called the store because her husband had recently committed suicide (while she and her 14-year old son were present) and she had subsequently lost everything she owned. She and her son had no home, no food, no clothing, and very little hope. We were able to provide them with clothing, household items, toiletries, and a small supply of food until she could link up with other agencies. Since our initial meeting with Sherry, she has worked with several local agencies, and she and her son have become regular customers at Common Ground. They come for clothing, shoes, hot soup, and sometimes just for a friendly face and conversation. Sherry recently had knee surgery, and we were able (with the help of some of our friends) to give her a gently-used TV and VCR for Christmas. While visiting Sherry in the hospital, she said, "That store is the best thing that ever happened to me."
Another woman, "Tina", came to the store needing clothing for her 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, who had recently been physically abused and was severely underweight. Tina had been called in the middle of the night to take temporary custody of the child. She had no clothing, shoes or toys for her. We were able to provide her with lots of warm clothes, a winter coat, shoes, new socks and underwear, and even some toys! In speaking with Tina, we learned that her granddaughter was very withdrawn. Just days before Christmas, Grandma Tina was desperately searching for a Baby Alive doll. A member of our team made it possible for us to provide Tina with a Baby Alive and accessories just in time for Christmas.
A BEAUTY FROM BETTY
When Betty started working for the Circle of Hope Jewelry Micro-enterprise business 3 years ago, she was living in a delapadated, one room boarding house, and had not worked for over 4 years. Since coming to Church for All People and the Circle of Hope, she has been able to move into decent affordable housing through the Lighthouse Project of Community Development for All People (www.4allpeople.org). She has recently found a full time job as an operator with a local answering service, thanks to the skills, capacity building and self-esteem she found through Circle of Hope. She stands by the motto of Church for All People, “God loves me just the way I am and God isn’t finished with me yet!”
A LARRY AND CAREY STORY
Larry and Corey, both fifteen, moved to a Buckeye Lake mobile home park after the deaths of their fathers, one to a heart attack, the other to cancer. This spring, our Water’s Edge teens invited them to “come to church” and shared that the storefront is where they spend time five or six days a week. While they couldn’t figure out why teens would want to spend that much time at church, the guys came, fit in well, and quickly became part of the group. The week before Christmas, Larry announced that he would be in Kentucky with his sister’s family during Christmas break and really wanted to be baptized IN BUCKEYE LAKE with Corey before leaving! Because our prayer is always “Come Holy Spirit” and not “Come Holy Spirit on dry, sunny days” we traveled in the drizzle to the little village beach with our teen leaders and the boys’ parents to baptize them. I will never forget the power of that holy moment in the December water as well as the one that followed. We returned to the storefront in time for Friday Praise, Prayer, and Pizza where the rest of the Water’s Edge community had gathered. “Will you please welcome the two newest members, Larry and Corey, into the baptized family of Christ?” The entire room cheered and applauded as they entered. In the instant I recalled that only months before we pushed to get drywall painted, carpeting installed, and inspections completed to make the building shell a home. Now it is alive with a growing faith community…. .Come Holy Spirit! May You continue to use Water’s Edge “to renew the earth” in unexpected ways in the years ahead.
Lizzy and Ryan and their cousins Cierra and Briten were loosely attached Water’s Edge kids for the past two years. When grandfather died, I was asked to do his celebration of life. It was no surprise that the family wanted to carry this much-loved trucker’s body to its final resting place on his rig accompanied by a convoy of interstate trucks. A compro-mise was reached for liability purposes that allowed the casket to be transported on the flatbed of a truck which was fully insured to cover carriage of people and not merely cargo. Also, to safeguard the asphalt of the Hebron streets, it was agreed that truckers would line State Route 40 in their own vehicles or truck cabs to bid a final farewell. As the large flatbed truck with “Ours Wrecking Service” painted on the side moved “Trucker Dummy” to the cemetery, his rig cab draped in yards of black fabric followed. This pastor traveled with the funeral director and a carload of flowers donated by Heath Kroger….he had died in the parking lot of the store. I smiled often as we proceeded through this day thanking God for yet another unusual Buckeye Lake area adventure for the Kingdom.
The story has no end…Today, Lizzy, Ryan, Cierra, and Briten and their families are more fully committed to the faith community at Water’s Edge. Their grieving mothers and grandmother are working through the loss by using their gifts to sew costumes for the Holy Week stories of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter that will be portrayed from our parking lot in April. We are here to help the next chapter of this story unfold for these new disciples. Thanks be to God!
WESTSIDE FREESTORE by: Nancy
Every day is a good day at Westside Free Store Ministries, but last Saturday was one of those good days that unexpectedly became a GREAT day, at least for me. WFSM serves scores of friends each day we are open. Over time we have developed meaningful relationships with one another, calling each other by name, and often sharing words. That’s the joy of this ministry. Folks come to share resources, to find the things they need. Some come for clothing and other merchandise. Others come to volunteer their time, needing to find a way to serve God by serving the needs of others. The end result of this “need seeking” is that people meet, share time together, and strangers become friends. This is a story about one of those friends.
Nancy (not her real name) has been coming to Westside Free Store Ministries for well over a year. She is an elderly woman, living alone in a small efficiency apartment not very far away. Nancy lives alone. She has no family and her meager Social Security check barely covers her needs each month. I know that Nancy is poor.
Last Saturday, Nancy greeted me with a hug, something she has been doing for a long time. But, this time, as she pulled away, she slid something into my hand. I looked to find a folded ten dollar bill in my palm. “Oh, thank you, but you are going to need this later on,” I said to my friend. Nancy looked me in the eye and said, “Preacher man, I might need that money later, but I don’t need it today. What I need today and tomorrow is for you people to be here. I need this place and the people in it and I want to help keep it here! Please let me help.”
I stood there looking at my friend and I was humbled by her words and her gift. Westside Free Store Ministries has become ve and caring, a place where people call her by name. It is a place where her loneliness is chased away, while here physical needs are being met. It is a life-giving a place where Nancy can feel safe, warm, and loved. And, like the widow’s gift, Nancy was moved by her love for the place to give what she has to support it, to feel even more a part of it, to give back to God in response to the gifts she has found in this place that God built.
Last Saturday I was blessed and humbled by what God is doing in all the people that are Westside Free Store Ministries.
OUR HEALTH MINISTRY - making a difference
Each Sunday as we offer basic health care and an invitation to talk and pray with a prayer minister, the health ministry team for the day is reminded just how important this ministry is.
Not too long ago, Luches, a man who has participated in our ministry for many years, and lives on SSI Disability, came to breakfast late, having just been released from a hospital, where he had been treated for congestive heart failure. In his hand he held 15 prescriptions written for him before being discharged. Fortunately, the doctor here that morning, Dr. Joe Pool had not left yet.
Chuck Belding, our Breakfast Ministry Coordinator, introduced the two of them, and Joe sorted through all of the prescriptions, identifying which were generic prescriptions, rewriting some to be generic, and prioritizing them for Luches. There were still two remaining prescriptions for which there were no generics, and were too expensive for Luches to purchase. Joe happened to have some samples for one of them in his car that day, which would help Luches for at least a while.
I don’t know what Luches would have done had New Life, and particularly one of our doctors, not been there for him. This is a striking, yet not unique story of how our health ministry is making a difference in the lives of the 250 individuals we have cared for in the past year.
And the volunteers — greeters, nurses, physical therapists, doctors, prayer ministers, and others — also express what a difference it has made in their lives to be part of this ministry. Putting their faith in action by using their skills and spiritual gifts draws them closer to God, and feeds their souls.
RAMPS FOR SAFETY
An Ashville family was referred to Circle of Caring (COC) by another community program. An adult daughter, who lives and works two counties away while also playing the role of caregiver-at-a-distance, was seeking assistance for her parents Joe and Jane. They want desperately to remain in their own home, but need modifications to accomplish this. The immediate need for more manageable steps to provide Joe easier, safer access to an existing ramp with his walker was accomplished by COC volunteers who constructed steps in a timely fashion, bringing relief and security to the family.
About a month ago, a lady called in to inquire about a ramp for a family member. She explained that her brother’s wife, a diabetic, had recently had a leg amputated and would need a ramp in order to return to her home in Circleville. We explained that if the family could provide the materials, primarily the lumber, we (COC) could provide the labor. At that point, family made contact with our local Community Action program, and they agreed to finance the project. With quick response time from eight COC volunteers, a ramp was completed with about two days work and enabled this 60 year-old lady, despite her physical condition, and now, wheel-chair bound, to have a sense of freedom and access to the outside world. Networking within the community, a need was met and everyone was eager to be a part of such a beneficial project. It gives further definition to putting our Faith into Action!
OUT OF OUR ABUNDANCE
Our story this month indicates the interrelatedness between Sarah’s Kitchen and The Westside Free Store Ministries (WFSM), and how both are vehicles to reach out to the life of each individual through ”sharing resources, building relationships and creating Christian community” and then in God’s time, lives are changed. It is also an excellent modern-day example of “heaven’s manna” and heaven’s manna availability, if we just “have eyes to see.”
On a Thursday, not too long ago, there was a young lady in our store, “Jeannie,” who had just moved from the “Y” into an apartment sponsored by the Volunteers of America. “Jeannie” had walked 6-8 blocks from the West High School area to our store, which isn’t too long a walk, unless you have two small children. She arrived with one child in a stroller and a second in a baby carrier which was placed on the awning of the stroller carrying the first child.
“Jeannie” told us that the child in the stroller was her “miracle child”—he had had seven surgeries and was paralyzed from the waist down—but he was alive. And she constantly celebrated that miracle of life.
She related that she had nothing for the house in the way of household items like dishes and bedding, etc. She had been given a food voucher. Well, it was one of our bountiful days at WFSM and we had some small appliances, bedding, dishes, etc., to give her. With every item added to her small shopping basket, came a new flood of tears. At one point, she said, “no one has ever been this kind to me in all of my life.”
Well, she had several items for her home—but she was walking, with two children in a stroller. To make a long story short—another Mother who was shopping that afternoon, apparently overheard us talking at some point. She asked “Jeannie” what size the eldest child wore – 2T was the answer. The Mom indicated that her boy had just grown out of 2T’s and she would give “Jeannie” his clothing. Then, that same Mom drove “Jeannie” and the children home, but did not have room in her small car for “Jeannie’s” household goods.
Two volunteers took all the additional items to “Jeannie’s” home after the store closed. In the apartment they found a battered suitcase and three small garbage bags of clothing. There was a sofa, a radio and a kitchen table and chairs in the downstairs rooms.
A Westside Free Store Ministries rule was broken (never give any guest money) because conversation with the volunteers revealed that Jeannie and the children had eaten only cookies and juice that was available at the store that day (Sarah’s Kitchen contribution) and it was 6:30 p.m. (Note, her food voucher was dated for the next day.) So, “Jeannie” was given money for a few groceries. Through a river of tears, “Jeannie” said, “I don’t know when I’ll have the money to repay this loan – (the volunteer conversation never suggested a “loan”) but, I’ll do it as soon as I can.”
The reply from the volunteers was simply this – when you get on your feet, and you find someone else in need, help them. God has allowed us to give to you and your family out of our bounty and others’ abundance. That is what God has asked us, who are Christ’s disciples, to do.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE MINISTRY
Last year one incarcerated man, a servant of the Living God, asked to be transferred to Oakwood Correctional Institution for the Criminally Insane. Carl has been a part of the Restorative Justice Ministry (RJM) at two institutions, Ross Correctional and London Correctional, for the past six years. Carl was very much aware that free world volunteers could not, at that time, serve within the walls of that place. He volunteered to take the RJM principals inside a place where we could go. Carl completed his 12 month assignment at Oakwood and is now back at London Correctional. The result of the work done by him is that RJM is now welcome to provide outside volunteers to that institution. A volunteer corps must now be established and trained.
The actions of Carl provided an example to other incarcerated community members. Three of our men from London; Bill, Zack. and Sam have taken Stephen Ministry training and are serving inside the Corrections Medical Center (CMC). One other man Adam from Ross Correctional is also serving in the same capacity, as God leads. They are ministering to chronically ill men and those men living out their last days. One of our men, Bill, has been incarcerated for more than 32 years. He spent nearly two years on death row before his sentence was determined inappropriate to his crime. His sentence was reduced to 25 years to a life of incarceration. Bill's statement was to the point; “If I could face death to execution every day for nearly two years I can certainly understand and give the comfort of Jesus to a guy that’s facing death to disease”. It’s the contention of RJM that the rehabilitation side of the ODRC is being lived out in the lives of men like Carl, Bill, Zack, Sam and Adam.