Many of the most quoted New Testament stories involve the message that faith manifests itself not only in our personal one-on-one relationship with God, but when we look outside ourselves during fellowship and service. In his miracles and ministry, Christ teaches us that faith is not only represented in our quiet times of prayer and reflection, but in our moments of deep fellowship with others and heartfelt service to help those in great need.
In 2013, members of Covenant Moravian Church in York, Pa., decided to uphold Christ’s example of fellowship and service through new and expanded outreach programs that seek to help children and those living in poverty. In his preaching, Christ used both groups as living metaphors for true faith and inheritance of the Kingdom of God.
These programs were a result of a brainstorming session during the missions training/seminar presented to Covenant Moravian through the A.I.D (Assessment, Inquiry, and Development) process organized by the Eastern District.
A Bible study for juniors
The first outreach program is a junior Bible study held in the home of Covenant Moravian Church member, Jessica Shiflet. Where did this idea come from?
“Although our church does not have an abundance of children and youth attending the traditional Sunday School program, “ explains Jessica, “I began to wonder if I could lead a group in our home, and if so, would children other than my daughter participate?”
The answer was affirmative; on average, seven to nine children, grades kindergarden through fifth grade, participate every other Friday evening.
Covenant’s junior Bible study serves as a time of fellowship for children to learn Bible stories, sing songs, pray, and share joys and concerns. The Bible study also serves as a platform to encourage the children to participate in charity programs.
When asked about his experience at Bible study, Henry Busse confidently replied he likes helping others by donating items for “Operation Christmas Child.” The donated items are put in shoe boxes and delivered by the organization Samaritan’s Purse to children in over 130 countries around the world. It’s amazing to see how the junior Bible study has turned a time of fellowship into their own vehicle for service.
Feeding the Hungry
The second outreach program is the “Feed the Hungry” project in inner city York. More than 20 Covenant Moravian members participate in this program twice a year by delivering more than 600 meals in partnership with the nonprofit ministry organization “York’s Helping Hands.”
One of the first members to volunteer was Carol Campbell, who explains her motivation for serving: “Growing up in a small town in York County, I learned at an early age, from family and friends, the meaning of sharing your food and personal time to help someone. When I see on TV the country and towns destroyed by storms or earthquakes, I wish I could go and help in some way.”
The first time our Covenant Members went downtown to help in 2013 was during the hot summer. “I remember hearing cries from little children waiting in line, ‘I want water, I need water,’” said Carol. “I also noticed how some parents and children drank the water before they ate.”
When church members returned downtown on November 16th, the weather was at the opposite end of the spectrum—it was freezing cold. “Even though I was cold, I had a wonderful feeling inside when we were finished, knowing I was able to give someone food that they would not have had,” says Carol. “I said a silent ‘God Bless You’ as I handed each one a container. To see the look on their faces is priceless.”
Another Covenant volunteer, Ed Baker describes the scene: “Everyone in line asked for two or three containers of our hot ham and green beans and lunch bags for the next day.”
It was Covenant’s goal to help children and the poor; the hard truth is that often those two groups overlap. Ed shared that out of all those receiving meals, one cannot but feel the most for the children. It’s no secret that fellowship and service gives those involved a new perspective. In Ed’s experience: “This is a most worthwhile project. It humbles you.”
Jesus is Emmanuel—“God with us.” Christ among us. Who is “us?” Jesus spent His time with children and the poor, as well as those that His society had forgotten. He did this for a reason—to teach his disciples, present and future, how to place themselves in the world. Just as Christ is with us always in fellowship, we should fellowship with and serve those whom he called neighbor. Covenant Moravian members have enjoyed participating in these two outreach programs and look forward to upcoming opportunities for fellowship and service.
Lauren Bupp is a member of Covenant Moravian Church in York, Pennsylvania. Photos: Students in the Junior Bible Study group at Covenant Moravian display their activities; Covenant members prepare and serve meals for York, Pa.’s homeless and poor last summer. They repeated their effort in November.