Friday, February 26, 2010

Overcoming obstacles to help the poor

Michael Pimpo began a ministry in Far North Chicagoland to help people overcome poverty by providing for immediate physical needs, training and education to develop better habits, and Biblical counsel to address the spiritual issues that lead many to poverty. Michael had to overcome some obstacles of his own.

First there is always the struggle to find food, clothes, furniture, appliances and school supplies to distribute to his clients. Then there is the need to raise funds to pay rent and utilities. Generous donations from both Christian and non-Christian sources have kept the ministry flowing.

Most disheartening has been the opposition from some who profess Christ on Sunday but work against the Kingdom of God during the business week. Some have tried to shut the ministry down because it is perceived to be bad for nearby businesses. The power of the Holy Spirit has been greater than the power of gossip and backroom maneuvers.

PLAN, as the ministry is called is open for a few hours every day and serves nearly 3000 people a month. Michael works at PLAN every day, packing boxes of food, handing out clothes and praying with clients. When PLAN is closed he is out picking up food, raising money and recruiting volunteers. Sundays he preaches at the church he pastors, Life of Faith Christian Church.

Here is a recent Lake County Journal article about Mike and the PLAN ministry.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Thriftshop at Baptist Temple

Baptist Temple opened a thrift shop this week during our 40 days of Extreme Love. Traffic was slow the first day (due to inclement weather) but picked up the second day. The thrift shop is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 1 and provides quality used clothes for a nominal donation. Money raised will recycled back into the community through a various proposed ministries including a food pantry.

There are several good reasons for an urban church to operate a thrift shop:
   o It recycles items that are useable but might otherwise be thrown into a landfill.
   o Reusing items is not only good for the environment but also good financial stewardship.
   o It provides under-resourced people access to needed items at a significantly reduced cost.
   o “I needed clothes and you clothed me.” Matthew 25:36 (NIV)
   o While providing a needed service, it also raises funds that can be used in other benevolence ministries. Thrift shops that are open 5 days a week, average $50,000 in annual income.
    o It is good stewardship of utilized space.
   o It allows us to engage the community in supporting families and individuals by providing access to quality used clothes and other items in a convenient, dignified manner. Potential customers include the poor, the frugal, people who live on a limited or fixed income, the environmentally conscious and people who want to support the cause. All are welcome, there are no qualifications.

I remember an episode of the TV show “Christy” where Christy, a missionary school teacher in Appalachia, received a shipment of used clothes to distribute among the poor. She sent the children home one with clothes and shoes only to be dismayed the next day when they were returned. The parents were offended by this act which they viewed as an implication that they were in need of pity. A more experienced missionary taught Christy that selling the items at a modest price would get the items distributed while preserving the dignity of the people.

Asking a modest price for these items has several benefits:
   o It preserves the dignity of the poor and allows them to participate in the economy.
   o It minimizes competition with existing, for-profit, thrift shops that are beneficial to the local economy.
   o The funds can be channeled into other ministries for the poor.
   o Because people are paying for whatever they take we don’t need to feel “taken advantage of” if they resell it. We still made a profit and the economy benefits twice.
   o In hardship cases where someone has been burned out of their home or people who are otherwise homeless, we can issue vouchers for free clothes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kindness evangelism

We are celebrating 40 days of Xtreme Love at Baptist Temple. We started on Feb 14 with a sermon series focused on Mark 12:30-31 and a lunch served by our youth that also served as a fund raiser for youth summer ministries. Later that week we collected and sorted clothing for our thrift shop.

On the second Sunday we provided cards with love assignments to do an act of kindness for a church member (including homebound), relative, friend or neighbor. Most were free but some could cost up to $10. The cards were color-coded according to cost. Tasks ranged from a phone call to taking someone out to lunch. The goal is to accomplish your task during the Lenten season.

That evening we had training on Kindness Evangelism. This involves showing God’s love in a practical way through some small act of kindness or service. These include giving out bottled water, flowers on mother’s day or free gift wrapping at the mall during the Christmas shopping season with NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

A small act accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart. It breaks down barriers because it offers grace without pressure. Remember, NO STRINGS ATTACHED!

“…Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

More on Kindness Evangelism

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sharing space with other churches

A Dallas church did not let their declining numbers stop them from having a major missional impact. Like many urban churches in transitional communities, Gaston Oaks Baptist Church’s congregation was aging, shrinking and did not reflect the demographics of their neighbors. Their answer was to share their facility with three congregations (Burmese, African, and Hispanic) comprised of people groups from their community. The result has been a revitalized ministry and a full sanctuary (when all four churches worship together).

Urban church buildings are treasures provided by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Christians in the past. Those who have been entrusted with these facilities honor past sacrifices by finding creative ways to continue to shine the light of the gospel that transcends language and culture.

Here is the article: Church finds renewal in opening doors to ethnic congregations