"In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
The Church and Jesus are shining brightly around the DMV! On Thanksgiving, we gave thanks for the grace of God’s provision and extended blessings to our neighbors. As Christmas approaches, we remain thankful and celebrate the richest of all blessings – our Lord and Savior Himself.
From the Church’s immeasurable thanks flowed the lavish sharing of Jesus’ love, both in word and deed. Churches across the DMV served or provided food for over 100,000 meals to neighbors most in need. As they experienced and heard the Gospel, people became more aware of the significant value of the Church and of the One we follow.
Ministry Highlight: Reston Bible Church First Fruits Ministry
Pastor Bob Shull wanted the Reston Bible Church (RBC) youth he pastored to serve and connect with real needs in the community. He envisioned a ministry experience where students could see the ‘fruits’ of their labors for the Lord. Thus the name First Fruits, an all-day immersion which Bob describes “as close as one gets to mission work overseas.”
The students serve around the community (typically raking leaves and misc. chores), receive donations for their work, buy food and distribute to families in need!
They have an opportunity to serve physical needs and share their faith, but also to see spiritual fruit when God draws people to Himself.
For many, the First Fruits experience is their first exposure to people whose lives are marked by poverty and crises. During the deliveries of food, students get to meet the families and pray with them. One student rejoiced, “The day was great, but the delivery (of the food) was awesome.”
From meager beginnings 25 years ago, First Fruits now mobilizes the entire church in service and evangelism on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year, over 800 volunteers gathered and organized into 35 teams who completed 150 jobs. Over $41,000 was donated!
These funds were used immediately to purchase about a month’s supply of groceries for each family in need. Remaining funds were banked for use throughout the year as follows:
- The RBC Food Pantry serves about 120 families weekly, many of whom are immigrants, unemployed and struggling to get by. The people served are introduced through RBC’s work in schools and ESL classes offered in the community. A pastor presents a message and servants pray with attendees.
- RBC partners with Guilford Elementary School, Sterling, VA and hosts a Thanksgiving dinner every year for the families of students attending the school.
Pastor Bob shared that First Fruits had to learn lessons along the way. In early years, they provided blankets or food baskets to the homeless and realized others had already filled those needs. Coordinating with shelters and police helped, but he found it most effective to have neighbors and school officials vet needs and pass these on for follow-up.
First Fruits partners with Park View High School in Sterling, VA on the outreach. RBC youth and adults work side-by-side with at least 200 of these students, many of whom are unchurched. The long day provides great opportunities for all to talk about life and faith as they work and have a little fun. Pastor Bob recalled a student who was drawn to the friendliness of RBC’s people. She asked him, “tell me about your church.” Later she said, “I used to pray, but stopped since God wasn’t answering my prayers.” This opened the door to a deep discussion about how and when God answers.
DMV Churches served creatively and collaboratively
Mobilization of God’s people is a beautiful thing, but collaboration is icing on the cake! Here are a few examples from Thanksgiving 2016:
- Vienna Presbyterian Church (VA) provided meals for victims of torture and abuse, teaming with a local nonprofit, Northern Virginia Family Services.
- Christ of Shepherd Church (DC) convened three churches to assemble and deliver baskets of food to neighbors and helped them make connections with partnering outreach ministries.
- Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church (DC) operating through their Crowder Owens Food Bank served meals to a significant population of seniors who are struggling to thrive.
- Our Saviors Way Lutheran, St. David's Episcopal, St. James Episcopal, St. Andrew Presbyterian and Waterford Church partnered with Loudoun Hunger Relief to assemble and deliver meal bags throughout Loudoun County, VA.
- National Community Church (DC, VA) hosted a formal sit-down dinner for members of the homeless community.
- McLean Bible Church (VA, MD) continued a twenty year tradition of packing boxes of food with the makings of a complete meal for a family of 8-10 and then distributing these to partnering churches, ministries and schools on the frontlines of need throughout the DMV.
- Christian Fellowship Church (VA) collected over a ton of food and distributed it to 8 public schools, partnered with a synagogue and mosque to feed families in need and partnered with the boy scouts to process another couple of tons of food..
- National Presbyterian Church (DC) during their Thanksgiving services collected and delivered food donations for use at Martha's Table, a local nonprofit providing emergency food and building futures for children and families through education.
These churches and many others served and loved their neighbors well in the name of Jesus!
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.