Connecting with Those in Need
working in social services: the gang kids, the addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill – all sorts of labels, but much more importantly, all sorts of people – each of them a child of God.
When Pastor McLane asked that I consider leading the Community Outreach Committee, I didn’t hesitate, as I really wanted to use my experience working in the nonprofit world to help raise awareness in our church about the different issues that our community members face. I truly believe that if you get to know the person and can move past the label, you can reach out to them in love – Love First.
Out of this calling, our committee created “Coffeehouse Conversations.” A gathering that helps to facilitate the whole getting-to-know-a-person-as-a-person thing. Designed to shine a light on those (perhaps less fortunate), this series of events will give people a chance to tell their stories, educate our congregation about issues in our town, and allow for conversations to be held. Our first Conversation was held on May 1st. It featured a presentation on mental health, followed by a panel of locals, each with “skin in the game.” It was a great success!
Our next event will be May 23rd, when our gym will turn into a poverty simulation. The following is from Bev Moss, who went through this experience last year: “I thought I understood the challenges of the ALICE population here in Coeur d’Alene. I thought I understood that people live paycheck to paycheck and any unexpected expense is a challenge. I thought I had developed empathy for this population. But all that went out the window when I tried to live a week in someone else’s shoes and experience the frustration, angst, and desperation when I couldn’t make things work, no matter how hard I tried!!
I lived a week in the life of a single person with no dependents who had been laid off from a hospitality job, was going to NIC to get some new skills, and was receiving unemployment compensation. I had a hard time cashing my unemployment check (who knew a bank wouldn’t cash your check unless you open a checking account?). I could only pay part of my rent. I found out I hadn’t registered correctly at NIC and, when I finally did, the class I wanted was full. I pawned my computer for a meager amount to help pay the rent and then couldn’t afford to get it back. I forgot to pay my electrical bill, and my lights were shut off. At the end of the 5-day simulation, I was practically in tears, and this was not even my own life!”
We still need participants for our Poverty Simulation – so please sign up if you have not already. There will be sheets available after services on Sunday. This is a national program being hosted by one of our Mission Partners, Community Action Partnership.
Other Coffeehouse Conversation activities will include: a July event which will feature disability awareness, where you will have the opportunity to navigate through a portable obstacle course in a wheelchair to see what it’s like for those without a choice; an August presentation on homelessness; and a series of suicide awareness activities, including having the very first “First Pres Team” to do the Suicide Awareness walk in September.
I really believe that if those who feel stigmatized in our community are given the chance to feel God’s love from our congregation, it will be transformative for all involved. I am thankful every day for our church and the wonderful, accepting people I have met here. I have yet to meet anyone in our church who feels differently. I am honored to be an Elder, and I am driven to use my passion and life experiences to reach those in need.
Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
In His Name, Donna
5/16/2023 04:15:10 pm
Thank you so much, Donna, for the experience, knowledge and leadership you are sharing with us through Community Outreach. You are sharing with us the many ways we can continue to "Love 1st"!
5/18/2023 07:26:22 pm
Please sign me up for the poverty simulation. Earle Ruddach
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Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.