Spirit of Service
Walls are a vital component of any building. Walls keep structures upright, create new spaces and offer protection from boythe elements. At the same time, walls can be isolating. My home office is nestled in the middle of our house, which means there are no windows. It is absolutely perfect when I need to study, write or work on a special project as it provides a quiet, comfortable space for me to concentrate. But, at the same time, I have no idea what is happening outside of my office. My two-year-old daughter could be finger painting all over the house and I wouldn't know!
Unfortunately, this could be said about our churches as well. I'm not referring to physical walls, but spiritual ones. Could we be so focused on ourselves that we are blind to the needs of our community around us? Have we been so dedicated to inviting the community to come to us that we have missed a tremendous opportunity to serve outside of our four walls?
In her book The Ministry of Healing, Ellen G. White reminds us that “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”
Oklahoma Conference churches have numerous outreach ministries making a real difference in our local communities across the state. Adventist Fellowship (AF) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of those churches.
Early in its church history, AF partnered with a non-profit organization called the Day Center for the Homeless, located in the heart of downtown Tulsa. The Day Center was created to meet the needs of the homeless population by providing a place for them to get out of the elements, take a hot shower, wash their clothes and receive a hot meal in the evening. Adventist Fellowship became one of the many groups to prepare and serve 125 hot meals every other month to the clients of the Center.
Co Edwards, the volunteer coordinator of the Day Center shared, “If we don't have this community support, we end up doing what everyone else does: we order pizza, and that pizza runs about $400. So they are not just giving of their hearts, they are giving financially as well.” Referring to Adventist Fellowship, she adds "We are extremely grateful for your continued faithfulness and that you are reaching out a little bit more and doing other things for our clients as well.”
“Every year, the women’s ministries department of Adventist Fellowship selects an outreach project,” says Joyce Carlile, women's ministries leader at AF. “We found out that the Day Center helps their clients transition into apartments, and of course, they need household goods." So the ladies of AF began collecting bedding, towels, dishes, cleaning supplies, pots and pans.
I was fortunate enough to follow along as a few women filled up two vehicles full of household goods to make their first delivery. “The gratitude that was expressed made it all worth it,” explained Terry Gobbo, one of the contributors. "I had no idea this need existed before we started this project.”
The reality is, there are many needs in our communities all around us, but if we remain within our four walls, we will never see them. I believe if it wasn't for the ongoing outreach of Adventist Fellowship, serving meals for over 15 years, the church may have never discovered a new opportunity to serve. Every church needs to take the time to ask God what it is He is calling them to do to love others. It's time to step out of our four walls and make a difference for the least of these.
By Stephen Carlile. Carlile is the evangelism marketing, Bible Study Connect and assistant communication director of the Oklahoma Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He lives with his wife, Michelle, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They have two children, Greyson and Katie Rae.