I want to believe that there is a something rooted deep within our being that can drive upward and outward the passions and actions to willingly help those around us. For some of us, it comes seemingly easy, and for others, it takes a personal experience to loosen those chains holding us back. This stirring began about a year ago as a series of events were already taking place.
First, our high school youth group was in the midst of a study of the book of Acts, with a focus on how the first church responded to each other and those around them. Two different sections of verses from the book of Acts were of real importance: Acts 2:45 “…they (the believers) gave to anyone as he had need”, and Acts 4:32-34, “All the believers were one in heart and mind… They shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them.” This challenged our youth group to begin to think of ways to help assist those around us.
Second, we were preparing for our 2014 summer mission trips with Youth Unlimited and we were challenged to look at Isaiah 58 on “True Fasting” and read a book entitled Fast Living by Dr. Scott C. Todd. The chapter from Scripture and this book would be of great assistance to preparing us for our Serve mission trip to Washington DC in July, and for how we can view and assist those around us with real needs.
Third, due to some extenuating circumstances, our middle school youth group needed to change locations for their local summer service weekend. Connections were discussed about how Bravo CRC, located just south of Fennville, MI would be willing to host the group so that we could assist the Sonshine Thrift Store and Food Pantry. The group went out and spent a weekend in June helping out around the thrift store, the church and in other small ways to impact those located in the Bravo community. These events all came together to pave the way for developing the Can In Hand Ministry.
After spending last summer and fall getting to know some of the members of Bravo CRC and individuals in the Bravo Community, it became very apparent that clothes, household items, and food were all needed and could be of greater assistance. So what could the youth groups, my church and I do to assist with this need?
While this question and others were being discussed, two things were also happening. First, following our summer Serve trip with Youth Unlimited, we were challenged to start something 45-90 days later that could help serve others around us. Second, my church was kicking of a 9 month series around the book The Story (published by Zondervan) and is a look at “the Bible as one continuing story of God and His people.” Throughout God’s story, he is continually showing his love and grace for his people by providing for their needs – from their daily needs to their spiritual needs – and is challenging the people to do the same for others.
One such story (from Genesis 41) was how Joseph took the vision from God to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams to store up food during the seven good years of harvest to provide for the people of his nation and other nations during the seven lean years. This story of Joseph was part of the process to reveal to us a way to both love God and love others and Can In Hand Ministry then developed out of this revelation.
Leading up to this new ministry, our church, like many others, would do a few food drives throughout the year to help support our local food distribution agencies as well as ministries that served those with needs. We realized that Graafschap was a church with a congregation that could be described as living in the “seven good years” and our food drives were serving those living in the “seven lean years”.
The challenge was then created to try to build up a storehouse of food, so that when local food distribution agencies could benefit from food assistance, we could just open the doors. How exactly do we get to the point of building up the storehouses? Can in Hand became this answer and is a challenge for our congregation to come to church with your Bible in one hand (Love God) and a can of food in the other (Love Others).
Our goal was set high but our expectations were set low. If, as a goal, 300 people from our church – young and old alike – would each bring a can a week, this could total up to 1200 cans a month! Just think of the people that could be impacted! With this goal being set, our expectation was for 20-30% of the congregation to participate, because we realized that we are challenging the way for our congregation to think differently about giving/generosity and how they prepare for Sunday mornings.
Since the kick-off of this ministry last October, we have met our expectations and have averaged 80-100 non-perishable food items. Still, we realize it is still early in the ministry life of Can in Hand and, that being said, the majority of the food is being sent down to the Sonshine Thrift Store Food Pantry because of our direct connections from last summer. Some would call this a success (which I do, because even 40 cans of food is still better than zero cans of food), but I believe that God is still challenging us to do more for him and for those around us.
While we have ebbed and flowed with the giving and participation from week to week, our congregation is hopefully grasping the concept that Loving God and Loving Others is about abiding in Christ and inviting others to join us too. Sometimes this starts by changing the way it means to live generously, which could include ”feeding the need with a can in hand”.
Click here if you would like to start a Can in Hand ministry at your church/organization to download an editable information sheet for your congregation.