I recently heard a story about the importance of having a strong core. The speaker shared how he had a strong dislike for going to the gym. And while he was paying his trainer to get him healthy and fit, he hated the workouts he was forced to do. One workout in particular required him to lift weights while sitting on a ball. He had to “hold onto weight in an unstable environment.” He was strengthening his core. He found that the more he trained in the unstable environment, the stronger his core became.
Pastor Insoo Kim recently talked about watershed moments. He shared that a watershed moment is a pivotal time, marking a historical change in course. The COVID-19 pandemic created such a moment – an unstable environment. And while many organizations were unable to quickly pivot, Vineyard Community Center took the crisis as an opportunity to further fulfill its mission to meet felt needs in our community.
Launched in 2006, the Vineyard Community Center offers unified and integrated services and programs, in partnership with Vineyard Columbus and other community organizations, to be a friend to everyone in our city. A part of the Missions Ministries of Vineyard Columbus, the Center values mercy and justice by providing holistic programming, integrating best practices in services and ministry, meeting people where they are and loving them enough to not leave them there, and mobilizing people to find their purpose and calling through service to others. Our programs and services include: Career Coaching, Community Resource Coordinating Services, ESL Classes, Immigration Counseling Services, Vineyard Early Childhood Center, Vineyard Free Health Clinics, VCC K-12 Afterschool and Summer Programs, VCC Classes and Sports Leagues, and more.
In 2018, Vineyard Community Center created Community Resource Coordination (CRC) services. The purpose of the department is to develop and facilitate ways to respond quickly to an individual or family crisis who reaches out for help. Our value of providing holistic support and wrap-around services to those we serve was realized even more so during this critical time. Gratefully, our core values, our core strengths were already in place. The pandemic gave us an opportunity to exercise them in an unstable, unpredictable environment.
When the pandemic began, we issued a call to action for our church. Members responded and donated to the church so that we could increase our efforts to serve the city – to show up for those in desperate need due to the closures and other changes related to COVID-19. Because of those donations, we were able to:
· Provide more than 1000 hours of case management services dedicated to support those in need
· Distribute more than $118,000 of financial assistance to qualifying households
Through CRC, we received a request from an active attender of our ESL classes. This individual had recently entered the United States from Jordan as a permanent resident and she was the only member of her family who was able to enter the U.S. at the time. Transitioning to the US during a global pandemic made it extremely difficult to find stable employment. We were able to connect this community member with immigration resources and employment services, while covering 1 month of rental assistance to provide financial relief as she transitions and adjusts to her new home.
The Lord provided us with another opportunity to serve a single mom in our church community who reached out for assistance and support. Over the past few months, her hours gradually reduced at her job for the City of Columbus due to the pandemic and she was struggling to keep her lights and utilities on for her and her son. She was talking to her son about how stressed she was and did not know how she was going to keep her lights on, but then received a call that same day from the COVID Response Team that we were going to support her with the $500 utility bill! She was so relieved and thankful for her VC family.
Last month we received a call from 2 leaders in our La Vina community. They met a young lady (we’ll call her K) who had just moved to the US from Argentina and began attending their small group. She was 7 months pregnant and was experiencing domestic violence in her current living situation. After a major incident occurred, K called these leaders and asked for help. They picked her up, provided temporary shelter for K and walked alongside her in the weeks to come. In partnership with these small group leaders, Vineyard Columbus was able to support K in securing her own apartment, connecting her with immigration services, childcare benefits and services, and giving her confidence and hope of the goodness of God in her story.
In our Afterschool program, we have a young student we'll call Devon. Devon came to us as a Kindergarten student who did not trust adults, who had been through some traumatic life changes, and because he had not yet been to school (his school is virtual), he wasn't well experienced in group settings. We had a lot of challenges in the beginning - a few months later, Devon is settling into good rhythms, is learning to trust adults, and has really made tremendous progress. His parents and teachers have also commented on his growth. Praise be to God - perseverance, patience and prayer has helped us to go a long way together!
One of only a handful of afterschool programs operating during the pandemic in the greater Columbus area, VCC K-12 programs pivoted from the traditional after-school model to offer in-person, all day support to kids and families during the pandemic. In a time where many kids will not pass their current grade, more than 90% of students who regularly attended our VCC Afterschool Program will matriculate to their next grade or graduate.
We have several more stories of the transformational work God has done and is doing through the Center. In this watershed moment, we are grateful that we could continue leading and serving our neighbors, being a true friend in our City. While we can’t share all of those important stories here, please consider watching a video about what God has done over the last year. You can access it here www.vimeo.com/552019633 .
And while a significant part of what we do through the various teams in Vineyard Community Center is led by our staff, we have several opportunities available for you to serve and help us rebuild.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Julia Pickerill reminded us “A church is not a place where you show up and watch.” She shared that it is critical for all of us to show up as we rebuild. She went on to say that all you need is a “willing heart.” She said, “A willing heart matters more than a professional skill set. A willing heart means you serve when uncomfortable” – maybe even during an uncertain time and in an unstable environment.
Won’t you join us as we rebuild through service? Its time to exercise your core and contribute to the kingdom work happening through Vineyard Columbus and Vineyard Community Center. Don’t discount yourself or what you can give in this season – no amount of time, no amount of resources, no type of talent or skill is too small. All you need is a willing heart!