In Action Around Town
By Leslie Padgett
A few months ago, the body of Coast Hills went on a mission to love its neighbors. Not limited to those who lived geographically nearby, the definition of a “neighbor” became better understood as simply anyone in need. Individuals and D-Groups mobilized in ways even they did not expect, prompted by the Holy Spirit to literally spread the love. Here are a just a few glimpses at how God’s family stepped up to surround those in need around town.
Mary Ann Azzolina was checking out at the grocery store when she noticed a frail, elderly woman in front of her. Not thwarted by the woman’s initial refusal of her help, Mary Ann offered her assistance again in the parking lot when the woman had trouble finding her keys. Grateful for the help, the woman allowed Mary Ann to follow her home to help bring in the groceries. Here, Mary Ann learned that the woman was caring for her husband who suffered from Alzheimer’s. After helping with the groceries, she told them both that Jesus loved them and invited them to church, leaving her phone number and an open offer for assistance. Mary Ann left inspired and excited to see who Jesus would ask her to serve next.
Persistence was key to one D-Group’s efforts to serve as well. Greg and Pauli Holmes tried to coordinate a time to serve a small church several times before schedules finally meshed. After meeting at a high school for many years, a local body of believers had recently acquired its own building. The property was in a state of disrepair and needed lots of hands to clean it up for the church’s upcoming Open House to introduce the members to the new building. On a Saturday, friends and families from the Holmes’ D-Group showed up with work gloves, cleaning supplies, donuts, and coffee to assist their brothers and sisters in Christ. As many kids as adults were on hand to help wipe counters, mop floors, and clear weeds and trash from the parking lot. With as much division as there is today in the body of Christ, the whole group experienced a beautiful afternoon of unity and building one another up, one paper towel at a time.
The Joly family, while brainstorming ways they could really impact the world for the Lord, realized that they had never even met most of their literal neighbors in the 8 years they’d lived in their neighborhood. They decided to start on their own street, and committed to set aside time to introduce themselves and start up simple conversations with those around them. They felt it was clear confirmation from the Lord when, just after making this commitment, they read a devotional message entitled, “Start Where You Are” citing Acts 1:8 which says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Ryan Joly relates, “Some people want to go to other countries and be missionaries for Christ. And that is good. But how about starting with crossing the street and talking to your neighbor?”
Missy Goode’s D-Group members armed themselves to love their neighbors in a very practical way. They assembled “Jesus Bags” to hand out to the homeless or people they encounter on the street asking for money. The bags contain small, non-perishables such as energy bars, nuts, and chips, as well as soap, wash cloths, toothbrushes, and handmade signs (by the kids in the group) that say “Jesus loves you.” The group had an amazing night assembling the bags, and spent time praying over the recipients. They plan to keep the bags in their cars; now when they see someone in need, they have a tangible way to offer help, which may open the door to conversation as well.
The D-Group to which Tim and Lisa Leets belong had been praying for an opportunity in particular to help a single mother. They soon discovered that a single woman in their neighborhood was in urgent need of some repairs so that she could sell her home. She had two sons, was recently divorced, recovering from a surgery, and had a father battling cancer. The opportunity to help this family fit the description of what they’d been praying for so well they knew it was straight from the Lord. On a Saturday, the D-Group members showed up to clean and do “fix-it” jobs around her house. Though the woman herself was out of town, her sons were there and worked alongside the men. When Lisa passed on photos of the day, the mom was shocked to see “strangers” giving up their Saturday to help her. She also shared that she was so touched she cried several times after witnessing her boys working alongside the men in the group. Lisa noted how bonded the members of her D-Group were that day and what an awesome experience it is to be in one.