By Julie Schmid, member at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church
I have been privileged to be a church member of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church for the past twelve years and have seen this congregation reach out to the community in a number of ways. Our most successful and on-going outreach ministry to the greater community around us is definitely our Early Childhood and Elementary (K-8) School programs. In fact, that is what initially caught my family’s attention. My two children have gone through the school system, starting in pre-kindergarten, and have grown into intelligent, independent young adults who love their Lord. I credit the church and church leadership for most of that, though, and their strong missional influence and partnership with the school families.
One such influence happened about 6 years ago, when Abiding Savior began a one day mission event called “Send Me” as a purposeful way to reach out to those around us. Send Me is a family friendly event and open to families serving together on teams with individuals as young as age 3 and up to age 80. Prior to the birth of this event, our youth had been participating in a week long mission to the inner city of Chicago called UKANDU. It was a young man named, Alex, who asked the question of Pastor David on the return trip, “Why don’t we do something like this in St. Louis?” The Holy Spirit was able to move the hearts of many to take this question and turn it into our “Send Me” since 2009. Send Me has certainly grown over the years. Our first event had about 90 participants. Since that time, we have had as many as 300 serve in one year, which has included partnerships with 5 other congregations from IL, WI, Iowa, and southern MO. A congregation in Washington State even contacted us to model a similar event in their church based on our Send Me event!
This one day event allows volunteers to serve in so many ways. Little ones can help their parents fill care packages for the military, for college students, or baskets for the Basket of Hope Ministry. Families have taken Christian Friends of New Americans to apple and pumpkin orchards. Youth and adults have partnered with Otis Woodard and his Peace Park Ministry and ran sports camps or mini versions of a Vacation Bible School program, while offering a free lunch to those in the area – a great number of them being homeless. Right in our own backyard, we have sent teams to Schnuck’s, our next door neighbor, and offered free coffee/hot chocolate while helping people carry groceries. We have sent teams to nearby fire houses and police stations and brought them lunch in order to thank them for their service. We’ve had teams canvas the neighborhood offering help to whatever is going on, whether it be lawn maintenance, or moving into a new house, or simply praying. All these opportunities have afforded our participants the chance to serve our Lord, grow in their faith, and strengthen relationships within the church body, as well as build relationships with those in the community.
This event has personally been a blessing to my family. First, it’s simple and only requires a one day commitment. My teenage children continue to ask yearly if we’ve signed up and have developed a heart for serving. In fact, they have gone on to serve in a week-long mission trip. Outside of my own family, however, I have seen many moved by the Spirit to step out in courage and serve boldly in other areas as a result of having first served at Send Me. This year, for example, we are planning to host our first ever block party & food truck event on May 2, 2015. These servants really have a desire to further those connections with our immediate neighborhoods. Only God knows where He will lead us next… We just have to step out of our normal, comfortable lives, and SERVE BOLDLY.