On Saturday, April 12th, 2014, we sent nearly 1,700 volunteers across Columbus to help serve our city. In fact, we call this event, Serve Columbus.
“One of the things we try to do at Vineyard Columbus, is to be the best friend the city ever had,” says Kwesi Kambon, pastor of Men’s Ministry and Community Engagement.
“The Vineyard took on seven different neighborhoods and worked on what we call, a major corridor clean up,” according to Sherri Palmer of Keep Columbus Beautiful. “Coming out and cleaning up on streets that are major avenues into these neighborhoods was a big effort.” Robert Seed, also of Keep Columbus Beautiful is quick to add, “I know the people in those neighborhoods appreciate it. They saw your witness. We value a clean neighborhood and I know they do too.”
Another big component of Serve Columbus is coordinating with other organizations in our neighborhoods. “We had a community health fair at Columbus Collegiate Academy and at Rock of Faith Baptist Church, we established the very first community garden,” says Norman Brown of J. Jireh Ministries.
More importantly however than how many volunteers we had or how many gallons of paint we used, is the impact on our community. “What happened that day is that they made our campus beautiful, which said, ‘Welcome children. We want you here at Alpine, we think a lot of you here at Alpine,’” effuses Deborah Copeland of Alpine Elementary School.
When the cleanup is finished, the trash is collected, and the painting is completed, it’s important to remember what this event is about. Norman Brown sums it up perfectly, “It was an awesome experience to see black and white, young and old, come together as the body of Christ and we were able to work together in the unity of faith to show God’s glory to our community.”
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Scripture provides a generous display of God’s heart for the orphan, along with His invitation for each of us to participate: Come. Defend. Give. Help. Look After. Rescue. Share. Sustain. Testify.
Thanks to Vineyard Columbus and the all-volunteer More4Orphans ministry, there is a time and a place to let these words take shape in our lives – changing each of us, and the landscape of our world’s orphan crisis, forever.
More4Orphans Summit 2014 gathered people from at least 10 states and more than 50 churches to do more for the 400,000 American children who live in foster care and the approximately 153 million children worldwide who are orphans.
I heard incredibly moving testimonies. “Live, little girl, live…” These words from Stephanie Fast, survivor of abandonment and abuse, believer in the awesome sovereignty of God, still ring in my ears. “How do you join God in what He is doing? You love someone,” said Alen Auguste, who grew up in the foster care system and now serves Vineyard Columbus as a youth pastor. “All along, this story and this journey has not been about [our church], but rather about what God can do through us when we function as the body of Christ,” offered Darlene Rudrick as she and Gwen Higaki shared the story of how their churches combined offerings to build children’s homes in Cambodia. “Where we put a period, God puts a comma. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. You can’t tell God what to do,” preached author and pastor Bishop W. C. Martin. His story is one of the premier foster adoption stories in America.
I had a hard time choosing from 50 breakout sessions, with topics like “Orphan Care and the Church,” “Why Should I Foster, Why Should I Care?” and “The Reluctant Dads Panel.” I witnessed so many sweet connections at the exhibitor tables representing local, national and international organizations including Christian Alliance for Orphans, Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Ohio and Both Hands. I prayed and worshipped and appreciated the art that was auctioned to benefit adoption and outreach.
I was stretched, broken, encouraged and empowered and I was in good company. The responses from attendees are as divine and diverse as our Father’s call. Families are planning mission trips together; college students are signing up for internships to provide educational opportunities in children’s homes around the world; individuals are reaching out to foster children through mentoring; some are filling out adoption paperwork; groups of friends are raising money by helping widows, running in races and selling baked goods; others are starting orphan care ministries in their churches; and more.
I have heard the words, “What a wonderful opportunity! I love that the focus is on God calling us and not over-emphasizing one group.” One attendee wrote to me, “This conference helped to reaffirm what God has already been stirring in my heart – to care for the orphan through fostering. Thank you for providing a space to process, network, pray, dream and invest.” A dad confessed, “Cost has been why I’ve dragged my feet on adoption. This weekend reminded me it’s God’s money, not mine. And, he’s directing me to use it on adoption. My fiscal frame of reference was wrong.” And my new friend Kristina beamed, “Awesome, incredible, motivating, life-changing event. I traveled from Cincinnati and took off work for this event – best investment of my time.”
Musical guest Audio Adrenaline took the stage on Friday night. Through their Hands & Feet Project, they serve orphans in Jacmel, Haiti. During their opening song, images of joyful, purple-drenched children splashed the main screens, the building shook in reply to 100-decibels of heart-pounding worship and our walls absorbed the words, “Boys become kings, girls will be queens, wrapped in Your majesty”. This place became Holy ground as His invitation was accepted, not if, but “when we love the least of these.” Lord, let it be so. And more, Lord.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about foster care, adoption or orphan care, attend an upcoming More4Orphans meeting at Vineyard Community Center or connect online at Facebook.
Christy Gammon is a member of Vineyard Columbus and volunteer with More4Orphans.
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For nearly nine months, our 5th Avenue Food Pantry operated in a temporary location, while a major renovation was underway. This past November, the building was reopened to serve our community.
I spent some time with Urban Ministries Pastor, Dan Franz, to learn how the renovated food pantry is doing and what the renovation has meant for those whom we serve. Dan was quick to point out that during the renovations, our prayer ministry and witness of the volunteers, never lagged in spite of difficulties or delays.
When the opening was nearly delayed, everyone working on the project pulled together. “We opened on Saturday, November 16 with a temporary permit as we got a few things finished up. Everyone working on this didn’t want to let the community down. We simply had to be open when promised we would.”
A big part of the renovation was to add new services to the 5th Avenue location. “We've got a barbershop now. Hair cuts cost money that some people just don’t have. Free hair cuts save people money and helps make them more presentable, especially when finding work," adds Dan. “The location also provides access to the Ohio Benefit Bank led by James McQueary. This helps connect people to free tax services in addition to state and federal aid. It's like social work in a box!”
As wonderful as the updates are at the 5th Avenue Pantry, it really is about Christ’s compassion for the poor that motivates everyone who serves at the pantry. “We’ve got wonderful people who love Jesus and want to serve Him. Buddy Edwards and his team working in the Homeless Ministry, really persevered through some trials before the renovation. Kelly Ewing and Ed Saraniero are doing a great job leading our Monday night church service at the pantry. Chris Blosser and his team also serve every week,” says Dan. “It’s like a small group.”
Lastly, I ask Dan what kind of comments has he heard about the renovated pantry. “People now come in and do a double take. They feel so valued and respected. They say things like, ‘The church did this for us? This is beautiful!’” Dan then adds, “This renovated pantry speaks a love language and it’s a love language of respect.”
If you have an interest in serving at the newly-renovated 5th Avenue Food Pantry, especially if you live in the Clintonville or Grandview Heights area, please email or call Rhodie Shreve at (614)259-5441.
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