Col. 1:9-10: For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
As a community service organization, “we serve designated neighborhoods by mobilizing, organizing or facilitating programs that meet particular needs related to the issues of the area. This is how G.O.D. Int'l got its start, and it's something we continue to do today, both 'here' and 'abroad.'”
One of the areas we serve is our own neighborhood of Hopewell. Our organization moved into Hopewell seven years ago and, from that time to now, we have offered programs for children, young adults, parents, and the elderly. We have seen changes to this neighborhood and its residents. No longer thought of as just the organization that moved into the abandoned, formerly segregated elementary school situated in the middle of the neighborhood, we are the neighbors who work out of the "old elementary school," live within the neighborhood, and take care of one another.
As with most community service organizations, we have statistical data that we can use to show the effectiveness of our programs. We can tell you the number of children served through our summer camp and after-school programs (150 per year), the number of volunteer hours donated toward our Widow and Elderly Care Program (nearly 2,000 hours per year), the number of adult neighbors attending evening classes (a dozen at this time--but the program is just beginning), and the subsequent sharp decline of reported criminal incidents from 2008 until the present (nearly 60%). As important as these numbers are in assessing our effectiveness and progress, they cannot tell the stories behind the statistics of those we serve. And it is the stories, of real people with real needs, which motivate us to good works. So let me share...
Two students at our Institute volunteer to care for a widowed neighbor, Mrs. Elizabeth, who is bed-ridden. For the past several years, Mrs. Elizabeth’s sole caregivers were her two daughters. But as her physical condition worsened, her daughters also suffered serious health problems making it difficult for them perform some of the more physically demanding tasks of caregiving. Trained to work with the elderly and infirmed, Anna and Kara volunteer their time to assist in the care of their neighbor. Statistics can’t show how the widow, her family, and the young caregivers have been affected by this practical demonstration of “loving your neighbor.” One of the daughters told us that her mother, who often sleeps the majority of the day, is alert and animated when “the girls come.”
“You don’t know how gentle they are with our mother,” another daughter remarked through her tears. “I don’t know how we got along without them.”
There are also stories about the children in the neighborhood who are being given healthy ways to spend their time, specifically when school is out. During the summer, we run a daily summer camp. An afternoon tutoring program is conducted throughout the school year. This summer’s campers included children being raised by a single grandmother who works to keep food on the table, to children from a family whose parents are going through a contentious divorce, to children who recently immigrated to this country, to children who spend the majority of their daytime hours inside watching TV or playing video games because both parents need to work.
“I haven’t played outside this long in 7 years!” said one 7-year old camper.
“It was the best day he had in a long time—it was good to see him happy again,” said the relative of a camper whose mother is in a drug rehabilitation center.
“My two kids couldn’t be happier, me and my wife couldn’t be happier. You guys are really making a positive impact on my kids’ adaptation process to a new country, new city, new language, and new people. It’s really appreciated,” said a father who recently moved his family to this country.
Even after the summer program ended, the neighborhood children kept coming around. We discovered that the kids in Hopewell don’t view what we do as ‘programs’ with a beginning and end date, but as neighbors acting like neighbors with our doors wide open and welcome mats laid out.
If we were to list some of the home maintenance services we have done in our neighborhood they would include landscaping, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, painting, appliance repair, roofing, upholstery, and floor installation. We have invested hundreds of hours in service to our neighbors in need. My focus, though, is to share the stories behind the service projects.
All Mrs. Dee could do is look around the house she grew up in and see how bad everything had gotten. In her mid-80’s, confined to a wheelchair, and living on a fixed income, she could no longer maintain her house or find anyone who would do the work at an affordable price. At first, she was reluctant to ask for help, but as we continued to visit and to offer our services, she began to list what needed to be done. “Look at how much my electric bill is?” she said as she pointed to an amount that was at least double what she should have been charged. “Can you check my furnace down in the basement to see what’s wrong?” “My dryer isn’t working anymore.” “The ceiling in the dining room is beginning to fall down.” “The cold water stopped coming out of the kitchen faucet.” “My screen door is broken.” “My bathroom needs cleaning.” “I used to be able to get outside and take care of all these bushes, but now I can’t do anything but look at how overgrown my yard has become.”
Each week, several people from our organization go to Mrs. Dee’s house to clean, do a project, fix a meal, take her for an outing, and pray with her. Initially a guarded and hesitant recipient, Mrs. Dee looks forward to each and every visit and rarely neglects to say “I love you,” as we prepare to say good-bye.
Our neighbors know us as people who cook meals for the sick, clean and repair the homes of the elderly, provide wholesome activities for neighborhood kids, and teach enrichment classes for adults. They trust us and are reciprocating the ‘’love of neighbor’ they are receiving.
We believe that this is true spiritual wisdom that Paul talks about in Colossians--to live lives worthy of the Lord, pleasing him, by involving ourselves in every good work. The knowledge of God we receive through a study of his Word makes us responsible neighbors to those in our direct vicinity. When we first arrived, all of these needs weren’t known. We could tell the neighborhood was run down and neglected, but we didn’t know the individuals behind the closed doors. Putting out our welcome mat, by making ourselves available to neighbors, has resulted in them putting out their mats as well. Things are changing in Hopewell.