Janet and I have attended our church for more than 20 years and one of the things that we have always liked about it is the fact that we are constantly challenged to be more engaged Christians. Of course, we attend a Bible centered church, with seminary trained pastors, have developed many friendships throughout the years and have been enriched through our attendance and membership at Grace.
A number of years ago, leadership of the church challenged us to replicate our main campus model and start an expansion of Grace in several neighboring areas. Today with are a church of three campuses in the metro Indy area. We also planted a church in Bloomington, Indiana and partnered with a church in Nairobi to start church plants in London, England and Sydney, Australia.
While all this is very exciting, Janet and I have had a particular interest in the Care Center that was started a number of years ago as well. This outreach had to do with feeding families that couldn’t afford groceries through what is referred to as a choice food pantry. We also have a vehicle ministry and have given away a number of cars and vans to help those folks in our community who need reliable transportation for work, medical trips, etc. Additionally, we offer financial counseling to help families get back on their feet and for those who may be interested in entrepreneurship, we offer a micro loan program to help get them started.
For years, Janet and I have been a part of the “green bag” program – buying additional groceries each week to help stock the shelves of our food pantry. Of course, this is all in addition to the regular mission and outreach programs that our church supports around the world.
Never would Janet and I have ever anticipated the need that exists here in one of the most affluent communities in the country. Yet, our Care Center has served as many folks as we could handle and that resulted in more than 300 families per week coming to us for assistance! And the need wasn’t satisfied! So… the church recently undertook a project to double the size of the program. We converted the church gymnasium to a larger Care Center, added a thrift store to provide low priced goods to the community and still offer financial counseling and all the other things that we have become known for.
The grand opening of the New Grace Care Center was this past Friday evening. Janet and I couldn’t believe that more than 1000 people attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the recently completed facility. It was beyond incredible. Since the initial food pantry was started, we have provided more than $7 million dollars worth of products to our friends who have had need. And while we serve the community, those folks who volunteer to help pick groceries, provide counseling or work in the companion ministries are probably more blessed than the friends of the community we assist.
Only God knows what fruit will grow as a result of the effort that thousands of people have devoted to the Care Center. We already know that people who have been helped in the past are now volunteers serving others as they used to be served themselves. Somehow, I don’t think the 600 families we now serve per week will be enough; and I fully expect we will eventually grow again.
While Grace now has kingdom impact throughout several cities across the world, Janet and I have always felt a strong urge to provide locally for those in need. So the Care Center is particularly important to us.
Our verse for tonight is from the book of Matthew. Jesus is quite clear that one of our mission fields is to help people in need. Matthew tells us, in Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
My encouragement tonight is that God expects, in His kingdom, that we are to share and help those who need assistance. That is so contrary to the ways of the world and how people think about those less fortunate. My prayer is that this year, we can all identify a need in our communities where we can be a part of the solution. Because as much as we may plan for success, God’s expectations and miracles can help us accomplish much more than we ever though possible. Just take a look at the Grace Care Center! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…