Season of Service: Why I Serve
During Lent we are focusing on A Season of Service. Each week on the blog several Church Street members will share why they serve in a particular area of ministry and how you can get involved. Today's post comes from Pat Bellingrath.
I volunteer regularly in the Sharing Shop that was started here about a year and a half ago by United Methodist Women. The shop began with the idea to share things such as picture frames and flower vases that could be given as Christmas presents. We quickly discovered that our customers didn't want picture frames and flower vases-they needed shampoo and laundry detergent, toilet paper and dry socks and warm coats. Our initial attempt at mission has become so much more as now we share basic items but also God's love and hope I have written about the Sharing Shop several times in The Messenger, in The Mountain, and in UMW newsletters, and I have often said that this place here at Church Street means "the world" to the people who come through its doors. I love working in the store, and it came to me several months ago that the Sharing Shop actually means the world to me, too.
I have been blessed in so many ways from my time spent here. The relationships I have formed with our customers are special to me, and serving in the shop has been a wonderful opportunity in which to share God's love and grace. For me, this is service at its best-sure, it is easy to share basic needs such as toilet paper and toothpaste- and, yes, these are important. But how lucky I am to be able to reach out and let our brothers and sisters know that they matter, that God loves them. I believe that God is using me to help transform the lives of those who enter the SS. Our customers tell me regularly that they look forward to the Mondays the shop is open and to visiting with one another. As they wait their turn to enter the shop, they sit together in the hallway and really seem to enjoy their time with each other. I see them sitting there, sharing stories and news, and I think this is what matters-being a community of God's people who care for one another. At this time, we have served approximately 1,000 customers.
Amy Knapp shared something with me she witnessed a few months ago.
She watched a SS customer place a voucher in the offering plate. Vouchers substitute for money in the store and this gentleman shared something of value with the church. With the church that reached out to him. For me, that simply but profoundly says that what we are doing has meaning for others. I am excited to be a part of a ministry where our sharing is love in action and where we say "come in, you are welcome here, and we are so happy to see you."
I also want to take this opportunity to thank you, the congregation, for your donations to the shop. I have been amazed and inspired by your generosity and I want you to know that we could not be in mission without your contributions. Your donations matter and have made a difference for many.
Volunteering in the Sharing Shop has been transformational for me, and it is my hope, that during this season of Lent, each of you will find your special place of service. We can always use your help in the Sharing Shop. As we expand and open our second location as part of the Beacon of Hope ministry, we will need many volunteers. I am grateful to be part of our church where service is one of the things we do best. To paraphrase the words of St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel always and use words only when necessary."