They came bearing gifts of school supplies, soccer balls and flip flops.
In recent months, the congregation of Meadow Creek Church in Andover have embraced the challenge of helping children living in difficult circumstances.
On one Sunday, April 30 and a few following days, the Meadow Creek congregation brought in over 900 pairs of flip flops. One person who received monetary donations bought out local stores’ flip flop supplies. Most of these shoes will go to the Congo and Uganda in Africa. Some shoes may go to India.
Not long before this, the church members dropped off about 100 pounds of school supplies and 12 soccer balls for children in the Dominican Republic.
Rev. Tim Anderson, Meadow Creek Church pastor, said the Bible talks about the importance of Christians helping others. Anderson said the reality is that most churches are usually not 100 percent mobilized to be out doing charitable work. He said a church is usually doing well if it can mobilize 30 to 40 percent of its congregation to volunteer on a regular basis.
“The thought has been in my mind of what does a fully mobilized church look like,” Anderson said. “As impossible as it may seem, that’s what we’re looking for.”
In January, Meadow Creek Church launched a new outreach ministry named MercyWorks. Almost 60 church members have been the core volunteers for a dozen different causes that help their peers in the church, the metro area and the greater world. The basic principal Anderson emphasizes is no church is an island. The members bring forth requests for assistance when they hear about them.
A few licensed nurses that attend the church volunteer to check on people in the church who are having health problems. Eight people recently completed chaplain training. Over 20 guys have helped people move.
Meadow Creek developed a partnership with another church in South Minneapolis and may be sending a team to help with home construction projects in that area. Another team helps with home repair projects.
Meadow Creek is planning to start a food shelf and is launching life skills training classes to mentor people in difficult situations. The church also hosts career classes for anyone in the community that needs tips on resume writing and interview skills.
“We’re only limited by our imagination and resources,” Anderson said.
Pam Henry is the north metro area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child and she worships at Meadow Creek Church. Henry brought the most recent international donations ideas to the church. Operation Christmas Child is a non-profit organization that is part of a bigger non-profit called Samaritan’s Purse, according to Operation Christmas Child Director Nicole Sheldon. They bring shoe boxes filled with gifts and books about Jesus to children in countries around the world.
Operation Christmas Child frequently hears about needs from pastors who serve the areas they assist. Sheldon said this could include toys, hygiene products and school supplies, for example.
School supplies were needed for children in the Dominican Republic, one local pastor told them. Children without supplies end up on the streets, Henry said.
They brought the soccer balls so there could be organized school teams. One Meadow Creek member donated air pumps so their spirits would not be deflated as the soccer balls ran out of air.
Henry went on the mission trip to the Dominican Republic with Operation Christmas Child and recollected how excited the pastors were when seeing the soccer balls.
“It was like Christmas for them,” she said.
Sheldon heard about the need for flip flops in Africa where the children and adults are susceptible to foot infections and worms because they are walking around barefoot on hot, rocky sand that has random shards of glass from broken bottles.
Sheldon did not expect over 900 pair of flip flops to be delivered to Operation Christmas Child. She had bought one extra suitcase for $70 that could hold about 100. “It was awesome,” she said.
Many more of the flip flops will be going to Congo in Africa and Henry suspects some will go to India.
The international missions trips are far from over. A team from Meadow Creek and a church in Madison, Wis., will finish a half completed third floor of a school in the Dominican Republic so the 400 kids are not crammed into the two lower floors of the school. Meadow Creek also plans to donate shovels and hoses to poor landowners in western Mexico who have enough land for a garden, but not enough money to afford the tools to feed their families. A church in Tennessee will be sending members to Mexico with the supplies.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org