By Shelly Mayer
ForColumbia 2019 Coordinator

ForColumbia 2019 is now nearly three weeks in the rearview mirror and, as we wrap up all of the post-event activities, I can’t help but return to this year’s recap video over and over. Being “the hands and feet of Jesus” is a phrase that threatens to sound over-used, churchy or (worse) self-congratulatory. But for me, actually seeing thousands of people give part of their weekend to literally “go and do” is such a beautiful representation of what Christ did for us.

Jesus, God-made-flesh, could have, from His throne in heaven, solved our sin problem. He didn’t.

He showed up. He lived among us. He suffered the brokenness of this world right alongside us. He held out His hand and engaged with us physically. He developed relationships, He used His time and His skills for the good of others – both temporally and eternally. He “put his back into it” and gave us His best. And for those of us who believe, He lived, died and rose again for our sake, and we know that His sacrifice has made all the difference in our lives.

For those who served on Saturday, April 27th, most of what you accomplished was temporal. The painted walls will eventually get scuffed and need a new coat. The new porches and wheelchair ramps will one day rot and need to be replaced. And all those flowers! They will provide color and beauty for a season, but they will die.

But who knows what connections were made among people who would never have otherwise met…and who knows what God will be pleased to do with those relationships, who He might call to Himself through those connections? That’s the eternal impact I feel certain your work is having in our city. We can’t document that in a video. But we can leave that in God’s hands, knowing He truly does far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Wondering what did get accomplished in our city a few weeks ago? Each year we look for opportunities to serve our city in three distinct categories:

  • We serve individuals – referred by partnering organizations and churches – who have practical needs they can’t otherwise meet on their own.
  • We serve common areas within our city that will benefit our community in general.
  • We serve non-profit organizations who are actively working in the lives of Columbians every day of the year.

This update is one of three where I will break down what we accomplished in each of these three categories. Today I want to tell you what we did as we loved and served our neighbors.

This year’s ForColumbia effort tripled our presence at individual homes. For context, last year we served at seven residences. This year, 240 volunteers were sent to 18 homes.

Some teams as small as 7-10 volunteers spent their day cleaning and organizing homes for elderly, chronically-ill and/or disabled individuals overwhelmed by the accumulated needs of their homes. Volunteers did laundry all day, hung pictures on the wall, scrubbed toilets, painted, installed book shelves and ceiling fans, dusted and cleaned and organized, leaving a cleaner home and, in each instance, leaving a huge impression on the individuals they served.

At other homes, as many as 50 different people gathered to pull down rotting sheds and cart the debris to the curb to be removed from the property; paint multiple rooms in the homes; and cut and remove huge amounts of brush, replacing dead yard debris with rose bushes and flowering annuals. Three bathrooms were gutted and replaced. Some carpeting was ripped up and new laid down. Two kitchens received a lot of love with repaired and repainted cabinetry.

Working side by side, we tore down and rebuilt a back deck. Elsewhere, we installed a wheelchair ramp. At other homes we repainted or stained porches and ramps. We repaired a kitchen floor. We had dead trees cut down and hauled off the old wood to city mulch sites. We moved one elderly woman to a single-level home – those sweet volunteers arrived with a bouquet of flowers for this senior resident. At another home we helped “take back” an elderly woman’s flower bed. In multiple locations, we built raised-bed gardens and provided tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers to get home gardens started on the right foot.

Most of the work done at homes was all accomplished in our single day of serving. However, at three different locations we had some incredibly servant-hearted leaders who began working earlier in March…and some of whom are continuing through May to finish the incredible work they are doing.

One of my greatest joys is getting to hear the impact of our efforts in the lives of individuals. One individual wrote:

“It was so overwhelming and emotional for our family, to see so many people come out and lend a hand to make a difference in a stranger’s life. The house just looks so different, inside and out.”

Another person shared, on behalf of an elderly woman we served:

“She was SO thrilled by the group that helped her (through) ForColumbia. She feels her apartment is so much more welcoming and pleasant. She feels so much more at home there and so much more at peace. She can find things more easily, and is thrilled to have some things hung on the walls.”

It would be easy to see this list and to think we’ve really done something special…which is why it’s so important to remember that being the hands and feet of Jesus means that it’s the mind and heart of Jesus that moves and directs us. This is HIS work ultimately. Not ours. We shouldn’t want “credit” for the work that was accomplished. Instead, let us spend time reviewing this and rejoice that we are able to participate in what God is doing in our city.

All glory to God. Amen.