November 10, 2013

appalachian outreach.

This past weekend I found God working in my heart in more ways than I could ever imagine.  I have had the pleasure of attending First Baptist Church of Cary regularly since July and was looking for a way to meet people and get more involved with the church members. A couple of weeks ago, my Sunday School leaders kept mentioning that the Appalachian mission group was needing a couple of female chaperones that could drive 15 passenger vans.  After hearing this for several weeks...I finally felt that the Lord was trying to provide me with a sign, so I signed up and volunteered to chaperone about 65 youth.

On Friday morning, we packed up 4 vans, 2 trailers, and a church bus and headed to Jefferson City, Tennessee to minister to the people living in the surrounding area. Not knowing many people on the trip, the ride was slightly awkward for the first hour or so...but, considering we had a little over 6 hours to travel with 11 girls in my van, there was plenty to talk about.  
When we arrived to Jefferson City, we prepared for the next day by singing some songs, listening to a short devotion, and signing up for our projects.  We had several places to choose from, but in my heart, I felt that volunteering at the "Coats for the Cold" event would best fit my interest.  Several other youth and adults volunteered here, but we also had youth building wheelchair ramps, working at the Samaritan's House, and splitting wood. Each one of these activities was important and needed in the surrounding community.

Appalachian Outreach began as a home repair ministry for poverty stricken people, but since then, has expanded their ministries to include the "Samaritan's House", food distribution, used clothing and furniture, Hispanic outreach, and recycling...all while sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  This is what was so beautiful about Appalachian Outreach...Jesus Christ is rooted at the heart of it all, bringing people to the love of Christ through simple acts of kindness.
I had the opportunity to work at the "Coats for the Cold" event where families were able to pick out coats for their family members, obtain a small space heater, and even pick out some blankets.  Before people were able to receive these items, two of our church members spent about 15 minutes speaking to the groups about Jesus Christ.  Some of the students even ministered to the children by giving out bracelets.  It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever been part of. 

I spent most of my time handing out heaters to families and while I was doing that, I met three people that really made me think about God's purpose for this event.
The first lady that I met was a little bit older and was wearing a purple jacket.  I told her it was a beautiful color on her and was one of my favorite colors.  She thanked me and mentioned that she wears it in remembrance of her granddaughter.  Her granddaughter passed away a couple of years ago and it too was her favorite color.  I happened to be wearing purple that day and promised the sweet lady that I would think of her and pray for her every time I found myself wearing it.  People are touched by compliments.

The second person I met was a little girl.  As the families would come by to receive a heater, I would give the little kids a high five and ask them to hold onto it very tightly while they carried it for their parents.  Before giving this little girl a heater, she ran up to me and put her arms around me.  She told me that she doesn't give high fives...only hugs.  Talk about your heart melting with the arms of a little child around you.  

The third little girl I met came up to me excited about a book she had received by some of our youth.  The book was about Jesus dying on the cross and this little girl could not have been more excited to have it in her life.  She told me that she was going to keep and cherish it forever.  After talking about one of my books this past week, I hope she does and remembers the love of Christ that was shared to her that day.
After worshiping with a local church, sharing my testimony with the congregation, and spending time ministering to those in the community of Jefferson City, I realized that it is really the littlest things in life that really do mean the most.

A simple compliment, a used coat, or a hug are some of the little things that mean most to those who are hungry for the love of Christ.  Most of the people I witnessed to were struggling in life and needed to know that someone simply cared for them. At the end of the day, we helped over 543 people prepare for the winter, built a wheelchair ramp for a beautiful couple, landscaped the Samaritan house, and chopped wood to help people through the winter. The Lord prepares those He wants to serve and will always provide a way.

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah 6:8