Now in its fifth year, ForColumbia is an annual effort by dozens of Christian churches in our city to share God’s love by serving our community, side by side.
Sometimes “loving our community well” means serving one of the many non-profits in Boone County that work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of those in need of help. Sometimes it means caring for our community by volunteering in common areas, such as our city’s park system. Sometimes it means showing up at a private home and quite literally loving our neighbors.
Steve and Betty Staat were referred to ForColumbia about a year ago by Services for Independent Living; both of the Staats struggle with health and mobility issues and, as a result, find it difficult to maintain their home. Their immediate need was for a useable wheelchair ramp: “I was always so worried about how I would get out of the house if there was a fire,” Betty, who is wheelchair-bound, confessed. Their existing ramp was too steep for Betty to maneuver without falling forward out of her chair so, last April, ForColumbia assigned a team of volunteers from Alive in Christ Lutheran Church to replace the existing wheelchair ramp as well as take care of some other minor maintenance issues around the Staat home.
Alive in Christ was one of 55 churches partnering in 2018 to love and serve our city and their volunteers, led by Jake Dablemont, set about caring for the Staats: “Immediately, almost everyone on our team had a connection with Steve and Betty,” said Jake. He met Steve and Betty in the days leading up to the April 28 day of service to make plans for the project. Additionally, when the work ended up taking more than one day, Jake and his team returned several times to complete the work.
One of the more intangible gifts of the annual ForColumbia effort is seeing the impact people can have on others simply by showing up and spending time with them.
The Staats were so welcoming to all of the ForColumbia volunteers who visited their home through this process, and not just because they were receiving help around their house. Betty shared with event organizers that she and Steve find it difficult to get out very often, and it delighted them to welcome people in for a visit. Volunteer Jeff Wilson said, “It was really cool to see how appreciative they were of us, before we ever did a thing, before we even unloaded the truck.”
When Christians choose to give their time to others, it will of course be helpful, a huge gift to those who are unable to do various forms of work for themselves. But perhaps a far more profound impact takes place when we make the commitment to show up. Giving our time and attention to our neighbors is one way that Christians can reflect the love of God to those around us. Time is our most precious commodity, and when we spend it on others, rather than ourselves, we’re doing something radically counter-cultural.
We all have the same amount of time; as believers, we differentiate ourselves from the world in how we choose to spend that precious commodity. When we choose to spend our time helping complete strangers, it sends a powerful message: “You matter. I care about you.” As a believer in Christ, the love you share reflects Christ’s love for you. That selfless commitment of time certainly had a powerful impact on Betty: “The faith that he (Jake) had and the Christian love he had for other people was just overwhelming. It made me feel like, whatever he had, I wanted some of that.”
Jake and the rest of this ForColumbia team certainly provided some practical help through ForColumbia in 2018. Betty can stop worrying about how she will get out of her home in the event of a fire.
Beyond that, something far more powerful happened: a connection was made. Jake has stayed in touch with the Staats since last year, touching base occasionally to make sure they are doing well and asking if Steve needs help with something around their home. Betty said it best when she said that ForColumbia is more than a one-day event. For her, it’s given the Staats an “everlasting friendship” and it gave the entire ForColumbia team a glimpse of what God’s community of people has awaiting us.
As Jeff Wilson said so well, “It’s a great picture of what heaven’s going to be like, with us worshipping side by side.”
We hope you’ll consider partnering with other believers this April 27 to love and serve our city. Who knows what impact you may have simply by offering to spend your time in a counter-cultural way. More than one participant in ForColumbia has said that he or she received far more back than they were giving, that the spiritual and relational blessings far outweighed the hours they gave up on a Saturday.
Revelation 5:9 (NIV): And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”