For The City: Waco (an update from intern Caroline Thornton)

“Our group signed up through For The City: Waco to partner with Arrow. […] The beauty of this service opportunity for our group is that we do not have to organize every person’s schedule to line up for one big event, but instead, one of us or a few of us at a time can respond to Arrow and offer to take a meal, clean up a house, install a ceiling fan, or join a family at the park.”

An upcoming trot across a stage to receive a piece of paper will remind me that I have been in Waco for four years. I realize four years is just a small amount of time compared to others in the community, but it is no an insignificant amount of time as it corresponds to a noteworthy percentage of my overall lifespan. While I have physically been in Waco for the majority of the past four years I would say I only began living here two years ago. It wasn’t until two years ago that I began to see the opportunity we have in Waco to truly “live amongst the least of these.”[1]

Welcome_Sign_02-05-07_01I grew up in the suburbs of DFW, where our community needs and problems were so radically different than the needs and problems in Waco. No wonder it took me two years to even understand the opportunity I had by being in the 254: I could actually LIVE in this town; I could see the needs and problems, and I could offer all that I am to actually wiping away those needs while partnering with different churches, organizations, and the government. Perhaps even more important, as I became more deeply rooted in my place of residence, my own needs and weaknesses would also become more apparent; in my own way, I am one of the “least of these” that needs grace and reconciliation, which is what Christ came to give and what I am to continue sharing with others.

At Harris Creek, we say often we are “seeking the welfare of the city.” Many times and most times we do this—pursuing peace in the physical, spiritual, and emotional gaps of the community—each in our own way through our own spheres of influence on a regular basis, but I admit, there do come seasons where it is difficult to know where to turn next with action steps for the mission on my heart. In order to help church members bridge the gap between the soul of conviction and the participation in God’s mission, our Life Groups were challenged this spring semester with utilizing a newly launched online platform called For the City: Waco.

The beauty of this network is that it mediates a conversation between the needs of the city, the dreams of non-profits, and the resources of people—a conversation that previously has been sadly avoided, passively entertained, or inefficiently moderated. Local non-profits can sign up through the network’s website to list on-going service needs and opportunities. Local citizens can browse and search for opportunities that match interests, availabilities, and preferred frequencies. Submissions are shared with an administrative team in Austin, TX where this concept was first implemented, but then they step back to let the conversation pick up directly between the eager volunteers and the resourced non-profits.

When the website was unveiled at the Life Group workshop in January, Life Group leaders were asked to sign up that evening for an initial opportunity of interest, with special attention given to local adoption and foster care agencies since spiritual adoption was going to be a theme for Lent.

We crashed the server.

Eventually more than fourteen groups and countless separate individuals signed on with Arrow Child and Family Ministries unnamedto serve in a variety of capacities related to foster families. We probably had 100 bags of donated items prepared to give to new foster families with a storage room still stocked with items ready to be distributed when a need arises. We hosted a local simulcast conference for a foster agency. We have installed ceiling fans, we have been trained to serve as babysitters or respite care providers, and we have offered our personal skills and businesses as tangible helps. We have been inspired. Our strength has been renewed as we live as one of the “least of these.” Here are a few sound bites that participants have offered:

unnamed-1Amber Lodovic said, “My Life Group and I partnered with a foster family to provide support through Arrow. We have met with them several times this semester. We have enjoyed getting to know the family and the three girls (a seven-year-old who was recently adopted, a six-year-old, and a baby who just turned one). We have helped the older girls with homework, played and read with them, and helped them with chores.”

Molly Armstrong and her Life Group shared: “[We] provided dinner for one of the weekly parent meetings held at Talitha Koum. We enjoyed being able to help them out with that and we were educated a little bit more about their services, ministry, and needs. We are even looking into serving there in other capacities.”

After the Davidson/Glover Life Group served a foster family through the gift of a family photography session, the foster family commented, “We can’t thank you enough for the kindness and generosity you have shown our family and I’m sure so many other Arrow families! Our pictures are incredible and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for these sweet moments we have in pictures now. Our sweet baby girl is so much a part of our family, and we just want to say thank you again for beautifully capturing us all together! I also wanted to say how amazed I am at the part your Life Group is playing in orphan care ministry. You are such a wonderful example of how everyone can play a part in caring for these precious kids and supporting the families who have welcomed them into their homes. You are using your talents so generously and strategically to love others and bring glory to God!”

 

Many folks from Harris Creek have taken initiative to become involved with mobilizing their resources to live on mission alongside local non-profits. This is the kind of tangible results that are desired from the Our Turn campaign. Will you join us and bear witness to God’s everlasting peace? 

 

[1] The song “Follow You” is based on Matthew 25:31-46.

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