On Christmas Eve 2016, a family was awakened by the excessive creaking and groaning of their house in Fraser, Mich. Within hours, they were struggling to open their doors. A giant sinkhole—100’ x 250’, with a depth of around 45’—developed under the home. By that evening, the entire street was evacuated. Three homes would be declared uninhabitable, and weeks passed before the remaining families were allowed to return home.
The people of St. John, Fraser quickly stepped up to help. Two members realized the extent of the problem and soon were busy coming up with ideas on how to help. Some were quickly discarded. Two, however, took hold. First was to create gift baskets, and second was to plan a spaghetti dinner to raise funds. The gift baskets were assembled and distributed in mid-January. In mid-Februrary the spaghetti dinner took place, and each displaced family received $3,200.
God provided other great benefits—ones for which we were not looking.
Young and old worked hand in hand
Members who had only recently joined the church were quick to join in the work, forming bonds with others that may not have been created in other ways. One long-time member said with awe, “These young people are amazing! This is like the old days to see everyone working together!”
The gift baskets were filled with nonperishable food items, ready to make into quick meals. Special baskets were made for those who were permanently displaced. One basket contained special items for the children who were part of the preschool family. Some baskets were picked up by the families at the church office, and others were delivered to the doors of the families affected. When one woman received her basket, she had tears in her eyes and said, “My own church did nothing. Thank you for your kindness.”
We have much to offer!
Another side benefit popped up. The original plan was to wait and see clearly the needs of the families. However, God has a sense of humor. The mayor of Fraser announced that we were holding the spaghetti dinner and gave a date! Talk about a crazy scramble! St. John members pulled it off. The local businesses provided much of the food, paper goods, and loaned some of the catering utensils necessary for the dinner.
More of the community realized that St. John is here and has much to offer. We had the opportunity to meet our neighbors, become known to businesses, and meet the leaders of our community. They learned of the mission and ministry that the Lord was doing through St. John.
A more personal benefit
Still another benefit arose, this one more personal. A pastor often wonders at the effects of preaching. In this instance, I saw the fruit of preaching—not just my preaching, but the preaching of many faithful pastors.
In a time of need, people’s lives who had been shaped and formed by the Gospel of Jesus responded like Jesus. There were 125 participants at the spaghetti dinner; the number of members involved was much higher if we include all those who contributed to the gift baskets. They helped people they didn’t know well—if at all. This should never surprise us. The Word of God does not return void.
Will St. John gain new members from this time? Only God knows the answer. The concern of the congregation was simple: help those in need, be God’s hands when others are troubled, and be light in dark times. That is more than enough for this pastor.