By Jonathan Herston
If we look in the New Testament, we see that when Jesus comes to town or when the church develops in an area things begin to change.
How can we as United Methodists be the hands and feet of Jesus in our local community? What are the areas of greatest need in our neighborhood? How can we address these needs most effectively? What can we do to make a difference and bring lasting change to people’s lives and the area in which we minister?
These questions initiated conversations between the Fairfax UMC and Hopewell UMC congregations (Southeast District) in November 2014. Led by pastors Rev. Ian Conerly of Fairfax UMC and Rev. Jonathan Herston of Hopewell UMC, each congregation was seeking a way to better serve as the hands and feet of God in our Valley community. We do a lot of good things where we give funds to different organizations in the area to help meet needs. However, often that is a band aid solution to emergency situations. While this is great and needed, it misses the opportunity to bring large scale systemic change.
These initial conversations resulted in the LED Conference
-- Listening, Effecting Change, Discipleship
in order to be a source of Christ’s light in the community. This was a four night town hall style meeting during which community leaders were invited to share their thoughts on what they viewed as the greatest needs in our Valley area. Representatives of education, community, government, and law enforcement shared with our joint congregations.
Prayerful listening and the stirring of the Holy Spirit LED
us to focus on the needs of the elderly in our community, especially hunger. We found that there are elderly homebound individuals in our community whose primary, and sometimes only source of food, is the Valley Senior Center who brings meals to them on weekdays. This means that many are going without anything to eat on the weekends and during holidays. We simply found this unacceptable.
Valley Senior Center Director Ron Fancher followed up in a second meeting with our churches. He was able to poll his homebound seniors to see who would be open to receiving additional meals from our churches. As we are now provided with the names and addresses of those who would most benefit from our help, we long to find ways to make sure this population has food on the weekends.
We are developing strategies to help achieve this goal. Our plan is to start small and work out the issues that arise before trying to get other churches involved. This is a way that we believe we could serve as a catalyst for change. We are imagining a day when we can say that thanks to these efforts there are no known hungry homebound elderly among us.
An initial meal event has been planned. This kick-off event “Do Good Friday” will be on Good Friday, April 3, 2015. On this day plans have been made to deliver approximately 120 sack meals to the elderly that are served by the homebound division of our local Senior Center. (Good Friday is one of the days the Senior Center is closed and meals are not delivered.) The meals will be packaged and delivered by members from both congregations. Included in the lunch will be nonperishable items that can be prepared by the recipient and a copy of the Upper Room Devotional magazine.
We are committed to following this initial venture with meals to the homebound on weekends, when the Senior Center is closed. We pray that we will be used by God to alleviate hunger in our Valley area. For we know that scripture tells us in Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry, and you fed me.”