What happens when a church founded in 1853 has a fresh realization that God has placed them in their community to build relationships and serve those in need? Grace Day happens at Zion Lutheran Church in Hillsboro, MO. Zion, a church with a long history in the Hillsboro community, caught the vision last year to provide tangible expressions of God’s grace by providing free clothing, dental care, auto repair, haircuts, and family portraits for families experiencing material poverty.
On Saturday, August 6, 2016, Zion held their second annual Grace Day, serving over 800 people. Many came from Hillsboro and nearby communities, but some came from as far as 50 miles away. While the lives of those served were impacted, the experience also had a tremendous impact on the 175 volunteers from four churches and a variety of other organizations including Lutheran Hour Ministries and Thrivent Financial. Volunteers spent time a week before Grace Day gathering to prepare and reflect on why they were helping in this way and how God might use the experience to transform them more into the image of Christ. A common theme during training was the reminder that all people are created in the image of God, both the material poor and non-poor, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Having visited Grace Day and seen the experience, it is evident that Zion has taken these ideas and beliefs to heart, creating an experience for their patrons that honors them for who they are in God’s sight. A “personal shopper” was there every step of the way for each family, making sure the experience was welcoming, dignified, supportive, and empowering.
Zion and the surrounding churches hope an event like this is just the starting point for relationships. The sincere hope is that authentic relationships develop and grow, perhaps even towards new people becoming part of a local church. But the goal of the day wasn’t to get new members, it was to respond to Christ’s call to care for those in need.