One of the practices I have most admired in the Methodist church is community outreach and service—being doers not simply hearers of the word. Hungry, unhoused people need Christ’s word but they also need to be fed and housed. Of course, most of us living in The Villages might not expect to be on the receiving end of someone else’s service; however, some of us may have experienced downturns in our lives. I know I have, and I can tell you that the experience was extremely humbling and life altering.
Christmas is a crummy time for an employer to furlough employees despite reassurances that those furloughed would not lose their jobs but would be recalled. My family and I had just moved to a new community and had waited a few months before deciding that the job and project would be stable enough to warrant purchasing a home. We had made one house payment before 10,000 employees were sent home with the understanding that after the holidays construction of the nuclear plant would resume. We enjoyed a few weeks free from work over the holidays and expected life to resume as normal only to have all construction halted permanently January 3rd. Two weeks later my husband had a heart attack.
The small, rural Methodist church was a change for us, but we had established membership and joined a Bible study class. I mentioned the circumstances we were experiencing and members of the class prayed for us. The next Sunday the pastor announced that there was a needy family who could use help. I wrote a check for $5, all I felt we could afford, and put it in the plate. Much to my surprise the offering was for our family. What a humbling experience and one which put into perspective what helping others looks like. The outpouring of love—from money, to sacks of groceries, to a job offer for me, and even to a very generous gift of money from a previous church family—started my family on a path of lifelong service to others. Our path forward was unclear but we fully understood that God wanted us to experience firsthand what being vulnerable looks like so that we would never forget to reach out to others. And we have never forgotten God’s mercy as expressed through so many.