Our first day there our team was tasked with organizing the local crisis thrift store. This is a great ministry that works together with the crisis food bank in Elizabethtown. Not only do they provide affordable clothing and household items and jobs in their store but the money made is used to purchase food for the food bank - pretty cool. The need is so great that both ministries are looking for greater space and is in search and in prayer over a larger facility that could house both ministries. Please be in prayer for them.
Just a few of us from Salem in the Servant Evangelism Team.
We also set out on a prayer walk across the town our first day.
In case you don't know, there is a pretty big wildfire burning in Bladen County. It takes a lot of firefighters to keep it under control - many of which are from different states. The firefighters are there, away from their homes and families serving this community diligently, working to keep it safe. We had the chance to visit the disaster relief center and to serve these firefighters. One of the ministries they have set up there is a clothes washing station. These guys are working very long days and nights and don't have the time to go to a laundry mat to get clean clothes. Also, the hotels charge upwards of $50 a load, which is not doable for most. Many of them will wear their clothes twice and then inside out twice just to get through. We were able to spend the day washing their clothes, folding them and packing them up for pick up at this site. We also helped clean and prep their dining area - which is manned by one awesome lady who provides a clean place for them to come and eat a hot meal every day. She works 7 days a week there - and does it with joy. It was a humbling day and we loved every minute of it. Back at the church where we were staying, all of the students helped to decorate the bags the clean clothes were going into - a little ministry in itself.
We also had teams that were serving children while providing a vbs at different apartment centers across the town. It was cool to see more and more children join each day.
Some our students were in sports ministry groups during the week. The first few days were tough as it was blazing hot, reaching 100 degrees and more but as the week went on and the weather cooled down these groups grew and grew. We enjoyed hearing their stories of sharing Jesus with the people they met and praying over them.
As I mentioned previously, it was hot and these students were troopers- building wheelchair ramps for those in need. I know these students and adults worked hard and were so full of joy when they were able to watch their homeowners use their new ramps and see the happiness over their faces.
We also had a group who visited different nursing homes and assisted living facilities each day. They spent hours playing Bingo, listening, talking and sharing the love of Jesus with these precious people. We had the chance of visiting one of the nursing homes on the last day in which we met one of the sweetest couples ever. As I came to the front after visiting with a resident I see my husband, Justin sitting next to a man talking and crying. If you know Justin, you know this is pretty unusual for him (the crying part). When I walked up, I too started crying before I even knew what was going on and Justin introduced me through his tears. The couple was the Royals. They had a beautiful story of love and how God had brought them together, blessed them with a beautiful family and devotion to one another. Mr. Royal's wife had suffered a stroke a few years back and was pretty much a shell of what she once was. Every day Mr. Royal arrives at the nursing home early in the morning and sits with his wife all day long, until she drifts off to sleep. He talks with her, although she doesn't talk back. Kisses her, rubs her back, takes care of her. He told us he won't leave until she is asleep because he would never want her to see him turn his back to her. Such a precious, precious couple. Mr. Royal was so appreciative of the few moments we spent talking and visiting with him. We prayed with them and left in tears - being forever changed.
It's amazing how you can see God working when you are looking. We go away for a week with one thought in mind - God. And, we experience Him. We get caught up in everyday life - have more on our minds, think about other things, worry and fret. We aren't looking. What could God do in our own little communities if we woke up each day in anticipation for what God was going to do - to meet Him where He was. I believe our lives would be different - and that is what I will be praying for. We learned so much, grew so much and will always cherish these people and this town in our hearts. God is working in Bladen County and He is working all around us, wherever we are, every day.