BY DAVID HOLSTON |
Note: David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry, a ministry partner of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM).
As fall approaches each year I am reminded of a family in Sparta, NC. I worked on their clapboard house in the summer of 2003, during the first week of the first ever Mission Camp at Laurel Ridge. I helped that week by running errands to and from Blevins Building Supply in Sparta, where we purchased materials and supplies. I would visit two to three times a day to get a two-by-four or a sheet of plywood or some screws.
It didn’t take long for the staff to recognize me, and with each one of them I had a discussion about what we were doing and why we were there doing it. They had seen or heard of other groups doing things like this in Alleghany County, NC. But we were different–with Laurel Ridge just a few minutes from the heart of Sparta, we were neighbors. But for most of them we were also strangers. Over that week we developed a relationship, different from customer/vendor. We were becoming friends.
During a visit, one of the employees, after hearing the story, said “that sounds like the type of church we need here, I don’t ever see churches doing anything like that.” I never made the connection until several years later when a friend told me that what I was describing was evangelism. And he was right, and it wasn’t scary, uncomfortable, or even difficult.
We Moravians talk about having mountain top experiences at Laurel Ridge, and I have felt renewed and revitalized on many occasions during camps and retreats there. But when I left our mountain and went into the world of Alleghany and Ashe Counties to do work in Christ name, it was transformational.
A few months later, I had a minister (not Moravian, and no one I suspect any of our readers may know) bring a meal to the homeless shelter where I was the overnight volunteer. As his youth served the homeless men and women, he stood in the back and watched. He asked me “why do you do this?” I was dumbstruck, not by the question, but by who was asking it. I looked at him and responded: “I believe it is what Christ wants me to do.” I had to ask him, but his response was that “they needed a bus driver.” I never saw him again, but I and the youth from that church continued to work together for several years at that shelter. Volunteering for nearly 15 years in a homeless shelter was also transformational.
I share these two experiences because those show our diverse church experiences. We are either a church that leaves the comfort of our sanctuaries to serve Christ. Or we sit inside our walls. Remember in James 2:17, “so faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Some of the healthiest churches in our community are engaged outside of their sanctuary. They serve and support so many of the causes in our community, and there is an energy in them. I think about the energy that there must have been in Herrnhut in the 1720’s as the Church sent out missionaries all over the world. We are a church that still sends out missionaries and has this energy. I believe as we build our relationship with Christ, we must take that faith out into the world. It is how we demonstrate the love of Christ to others. I think it is contagious and is a way to grow Christians.
At the beginning I wrote about a family I think of often. I don’t know what has happened to them, they were older adults 14 years ago, the daughter and son-in-law in their mid-70’s, and the parents were in their mid-90’s. We finished in the walls of a bedroom in that clapboard house. Although the rest of the house still afforded glimpses of the outdoors, in the winter I imagine this must be a very cold place. The last day I saw them this house was warm and full of the energy left behind by a group of fearless youth and their adult leaders. We showed a town what Christians can and should do. We showed them a church that at least one person said he would like to see exist near him. If we could show more people that church, think how we might grow the Moravian Church.
Questions? Comments? Contact David Holston at [email protected] or call (336) 724-7558 ext. 103
David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry. Sunnyside Ministry is a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance to families in crisis. All funding for our assistance programs comes from donations and grants. In 2014, Sunnyside Ministry provided $1,883,040 worth of services to families in crisis situations. Grocery orders were provided to 17,634 people and clothing to 15,483 individuals. To learn more about Sunnyside Ministry, subscribe to their email newsletter here.