By Pastor Scott W. Rosekrans
The congregation of the little church I pastor has really embraced what I call “mini-missions.” While we still actively support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), we now go out of our way to look for how we can meet the little, day-to-day needs of those who invisibly live amongst us as well.
It all got started a little over a year ago when the Administrative Council voted to designate three local non-profits as charities we should support with a rotating donation of $100.00 a month which could be supplemented by the members. As the excitement and interest grew in meeting the needs of our surrounding community we began looking for more immediate projects that could make an impact, even if it was only one person at a time.
Recently, a couple of our “missionaries” visited two of our more rural food banks; we have four food banks within a 25-mile radius of our church. They asked what, besides money, they could use that our congregation could provide. The response? Egg cartons, clothes dryer lint, empty pill bottles and small eight-ounce water bottles.
This creative food bank caters to many homeless clients who are living in cars and tents. They take the cardboard egg cartons and put the dryer lint in them and then cover the lint with paraffin which make a great fire starter! They take the small (empty) water bottles and fill them with soaps like hand soap, dish soap, and laundry soap that they buy in bulk. They take the empty pill bottles and fill them with off-the-shelf aspirin, pain relievers, vitamins and supplements. If your congregation is anything like mine, finding pill bottles is not a problem.
We are creative to say the least. Last year we did UMCOR hygiene kits to send to Texas for Hurricane Harvey. From that, our United Methodist Women decided to make up similar kits that we can distribute to the food banks and shelters. Our kits include, but are not limited to, a hand towel and wash cloth, a bar of soap in a soap container or plastic bag, tooth brush and paste, hand sanitizer, comb, nail clippers, hot hands, six band aids, and those little hotel toiletries we all take from our hotel stays. One of my missionaries asked her dentist if he had any spare tooth brushes he could donate. We ended up with a gross (144) of tooth brushes, tubes of tooth paste and dental floss. And I know you’re curious. The hygiene kits have gotten so popular that I had a man who is living in his camper come by the church last week looking for one. I keep a few in my office for just such an occasion.
I really enjoy Sunday morning for several reasons, but what really tickles me is what I might find on my pulpit before church starts. I’ve received hotel toiletries, tooth brushes and paste, egg cartons, dryer lint, plastic bags of loose change, tarps, and flash lights just to name a few. Not exactly burnt offerings, but offerings nonetheless. We recently put out a call for feminine hygiene products (not something you always think about when buying food for the food bank) as we were told this was one of the items most requested by the homeless women and, according to an article in the New York Times, the most commonly shoplifted product from grocery stores and pharmacies. This Sunday should be interesting.
I guess, the point of all this, is to say that we really do need to get out in the community and ask what is in need. Some of these items you would never have thought of in your most imaginative of moments. These mini-missions are experiences that everyone in your congregation can participate in, even if it is to just clean out their lint trap and bring it to the pastor on Sunday morning.
Scott Rosekrans serves as pastor to the people of Community United Methodist Church in Port Hadlock, Washington.