I don’t know about you folks, but some of the best outreach opportunities come when i least expect them. Most of them come from me just speaking less and listening more. One example was our outreach to Fairborn elementary School in Ohio.
We had begun the long process of adopting Fairborn Elementary School. This past year has been a proving ground for us.
Rick Rusaw once answered when asked, How are you making such an impact within the school system you are in?
“We raked a lot of leaves.”
It is such a simple approach. Schools have thousands of felt needs. all you have to do is look around for one you know you can meet. then you do it. You gain favor with an organization when you serve them, no strings attached. While you are doing that, spend time with the people you are serving and try something different: Let your actions spread the gospel rather than your mouth. While you are being silent and working, listen to the people you are serving and you will find out how you can best serve them.
It is a simple kingdom principal: begin with what you have from where you are.
We already knew Fairborn Elementary was one of the lowest income schools in our area. The principals are a good kind of crazy, and really attempt to maintain an upbeat, creative fun environment for the 1700 kids and the teachers. They have a clothing shop at the school for the kids. When they see kids walking around in flip-flops, or with no coat they know the kid probably needs a pair of shoes and some warm clothing. Discreetly, they take the kids to the shop and they are able to pick out the the clothing and their own pair of shoes. We knew we could help them with this.
We began to reach to the school by partnering with the Hope Foundation, a not for profit mobile food pantry. Each first Saturday of the month we deliver food to the school for the low income parents and kids. The principals spread the word and the people show up. They like what we do.
This spring we received a gift of $400 for shoes for the school and another couple added $300 to the gift. This enabled us to purchase 70 pairs of various sized shoes for the kids. My friend Cindy went on a shopping spree. She had a blast purchasing the shoes she thought her kids would like. When I brought the shoes to the school the principals helped me bring the shoes in from my car.
I chatted with them as we walked and they began to share their thoughts and needs.
We decided to ask what were the greatest needs of the school. We found out the custodians were over worked and needed help. We offered to do a Big Spring Clean. Leading up to the date they gathered a punch list. Mainly landscaping, signs and painting. On the day, we pulled weeds, painted, put up new signs and cleaned. The place looked great.
While we were doing this for the staff and kids, we discovered another huge need. They have some serious problems with traffic flow as they handle 1,700 kids arriving each morning either by bus or car. We looked over at the parking lot and found that we could fix this very easily–well with a little sweat equity and planning. Having had similar woes as our church grew exponentially over the last few years, we had a pretty good handle on dealing with parking and traffic woes. Pretty soon our best people were put on the case. It took quite a few man hours, but before long we had painted traffic lanes and bus slots on the parking lot and presented
Now we are heading into a new school year. We will be continuing to care for the kids and the teachers by purchasing backpacks. Our people will take the packs home and fill with needed supplies. Our goal is to continue to serve our way into the heart of the school. Good deeds create good will that opens hearts to the good news.
I went to the school to take pictures for the Big Spring Clean! I was snapping pictures in the playground during the recess period, a kid runs up to me and asks, “Hey mister, will you tie my shoes?” I replied, “Sure.” As I bent down to tie the smiling kids shoes I noticed, new shoes, no socks.(was wearing flip-flops now had shoes) I asked, “Hey did you get your new shoes from the school?” Grinning from ear to ear, he replied excitedly, “yep!” I finished tying is shoes, He said, “Thanks mister!,” and ran off to play. In that moment I felt the Son shine in my heart.
You know, small touches aren’t often long term need meeting events, but for that kid, and for that family it was a small thing, done with great love.
Who knows it may have even changed his world.
Steve Bowen is the Evangelism Pastor for The Dayton Vineyard:
Which is located in Beavercreek, Ohio. This column is an excerpt of Steve’s blog:
Ever attempted to run and play in flip-flops?