Approximately 700 people showed up and we met in the conference center where we were assigned to one of 13 outreach teams, each with a specific purpose. Some teams went to local schools to help clean up, others went and did service work for various organizations in our community. Our team was one of several assigned to do community outreach in the neighborhood by simply meeting people and offering to help them in any way that we could. We drove down the street and parked our cars and got out some tools, trash bags, and car washing supplies - we weren't sure what we would need. Then, we simply walked down the street and greeted people from house to house.
At least half the homes we visited had no one home, and several homes that we visited the people said they did not need any help. That's understandable. (I'm not sure how I would respond if a bunch of cheerful people showed up at my door, offering to help me with anything that I needed help with.) Some people said they needed no help but were delighted we stopped by anyway. Everyone was very kind. Some of the teams helped people with their yards and we washed a few cars. At the same time, we were able to reach out with words of encouragement. One man asked us to pray with him, which we did. It was a great day; we met new friends, and we served others.
After our work was done, we returned to church where a separate team had been working all day to prepare a barbecue for all of us (Baptists gotta have lots of food). We enjoyed a time of sharing, fellowship, and songs. Did I mention that the food was good, too?
Our pastor asked me to share about our team's experiences, and I briefly shared two stories. First, when we were at the front door of a house, having just pressed the doorbell, we were waiting for the occupant to come to the door. At the same time, someone drove down the street and hollered out his window, "Grace to you!" to which we instinctively shouted back, "Grace to you!" (This is a church greeting that has become a current tradition for our church.) Well, if there was an occupant inside of the house, I'm sure we frightened them good. No one ever came to the door. We departed quickly. The second story that I shared was a bit more interesting. One of the teams was helping a gentleman wash his car. Since they only had about 8 people working on the car, we decided to join them in helping. The man was delighted and I was able to speak with him and tell him where we were from and why we wanted to serve. When we were all done, he came up to me and said "I'd like to give a little something to your church," and held out a ten or twenty dollar bill - I'm not sure. I told him to keep it, that we weren't doing this for money; we were doing this to serve. He was speechless for a moment and then thanked us sincerely and said he just might come and visit our church and find out why we would serve like this. I hope he does.
We closed the evening in song and prayer. We came to serve, and we did. It's a nice change. We were blessed in the process.
Grace to you!