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
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.