Do you ever feel like God is relentless in His pursuit of you, opening your eyes day by day to something new, and making you realize how much more growing there is to be done in your life?
That's how I'm feeling lately. And it's a good thing.
This morning my hubby and I, and other members of our small group from church, participated in a local community outreach program called CORE - Community Outreach Resource Exchange. It is a furniture bank where folks come to get items they desperately need. CORE calls these people "neighbors".
The neighbors make an appointment and come with a voucher listing furniture items they need. These have been pre-determined through a home visit by another social agency. Everything is 100% free to these neighbors, and all items have been freely donated.
Our small group (there are 12 of us) has committed to volunteering at CORE on the 4th Saturday of each month. One of the couples in our group is extremely involved in the leadership at CORE and so that is how we became aware of it.
Basically it is a warehouse with several loading docks. Inside is a waiting room with chairs for the neighbors to sit until their names are called. Then volunteers escort the neighbors through the warehouse, looking for the things on their lists. Mattresses, bed frames, and dressers are the most desperately needed items. Some neighbors are even in danger of losing their children to foster care if they don't have these basic pieces of furniture. So what looks like a warehouse full of old and used furniture to volunteer workers like me can be a building full of hope to a neighbor in need.
My job today was really simple. I got up this morning and made several pots of coffee and put them into carafes. On our way to the warehouse, we stopped at two different donut places so I could use two coupons and purchased a couple dozen donuts. We brought styrofoam cups and napkins, cream and sugar. Another lady in our group made muffins and coffee. Together we simply greeted the neighbors as they arrived and offered them our refreshments while they were waiting. This was something new and it seemed to be a big hit. When it seemed appropriate, we made small talk with them in the waiting room to help put them more at ease.
My hubby was one of the escorts and also did his share of helping to carry furniture items out to the dock. There was a huge effort to make this all as high touch as possible, and trying to make the neighbors feel loved. In fact, before any neighbors arrived, all the volunteers held hands in a circle as a seasoned worker said one of the most heart-felt prayers I've ever heard. Then we were reminded that it might look like we are in the furniture business, but we are really in the God business.
For each of the neighbors there were two escorts. The last thing the escorts do, and the most important we were told, is pray with the neighbors before they leave with their furniture. They pray for the neighbors' continued provision, for wisdom and direction for them as they are rebuilding their lives for whatever reason.
When my older son was little one time he wanted to get in bed with us. We didn't want to start a habit of this, so we gently explained that he didn't need to be afraid in his own room, and that God was always right there with him. We've never forgotten his reply: "Yeah but I want someone with skin on!"
And that is what CORE is all about. All the volunteers being God with skin on. Not just the ones the neighbors saw today, but all those that went ahead of us...the donors of the furniture, the drivers who picked the items up, those who carried the stuff in and out of the warehouse, those who do all the paperwork.
I'm sure there is so much more that God wants to open my eyes and my heart to. I'm excited.
"...love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27