Every Block Has a ‘Betty’

This Spring, I have the privilege of being part of a team of people working to coordinate a multi-church day of serving called ForColumbia, scheduled this year for April 22-23. Our team has been talking to a lot of churches and meeting people at non-profit organizations all over the city, gathering information and strategizing for how to best get hundreds of people serving on a single day.

#ForColumbia2016

Yesterday, though, this effort became a lot more personal for me.

A group of volunteers from five different churches met at Calvary Baptist and went door-to-door offering practical help and prayer to anyone who wanted it. Our goal was to identify outdoor needs in the area that volunteers could meet in April. My role was largely administrative, equipping those who were out there walking the area.

As teams of canvassers returned to our home base in the parking lot of Calvary, what struck me were the smiles lighting the faces of the volunteers who walked up and down streets offering help and prayer. Perhaps not surprisingly, they sometimes had doors shut in their faces. But what seemed much more common was a welcome reception and gratitude that someone was willing to pray for them. We met people with chronic illness, sick children and crippling disabilities, all within several blocks and a few hours.

#ForColumbia2016And then I got to meet “Betty.”

Betty is wheelchair-bound. Living in the house where she grew up, Betty has been disabled for many years. She gets out on her own using city transportation to do her own grocery shopping, her laundry and volunteer every week at the Veterans Administration. While I was amazed at all the things she accomplished, despite her mobility issues, there are many things she simply cannot do for herself anymore. When asked how we could help her, she said the thing she missed the most was working in her flower garden and having a pretty backyard to look out at.

We were deeply humbled by her simple request. There were many other things we could have volunteered to do for her and, if we get enough volunteers to sign up to serve in April, we might be able to do some of them. But this older woman’s request is simply that someone might take the time to clear out her raised bed and put flowers in her yard where she can see them.

#ForColumbia2016Betty was one of many people who expressed deep gratitude that someone might spend some of their free time for her benefit. We met an elderly gentleman who owns his home and insisted he could probably pay for the materials to have us repair his run-down garage door, if we could just provide the labor. “I just can’t do it myself anymore.”

Sure, we ran into people who rebuffed any offer of help, especially once they heard ForColumbia represented dozens of local churches. But they were definitely outnumbered by those who welcomed us into their neighborhood.

So, yes…ForColumbia is an event. It’s an opportunity. It’s a community-wide show of unity among believers in Christ.

But it’s also very personal, if only we’ll allow it to touch us. The organizations we’ll serve meet the needs of numerous “Bettys” all year long. And this year, because of the hard work of these canvassers and other diligent volunteers, many more of us will also get the opportunity to meet a “Betty” and give her a little of our time. What better way to be “salt and light” in our community?

Mark 10:42-45 (ESV)
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Galatians 6:2
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

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