We want so give a huge THANK YOU to all who donated of their time and resources to make the Guilford Elementary School’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner a huge success. Our congregation donated over 90 pies and 1000 servings of stuffing. We also had 12 volunteers who helped serve the families by pouring drinks and carrying trays for moms with lots of small children. This was the largest Thanksgiving Dinner that Guilford has hosted to date, with over 900 people enjoying traditional North American Thanksgiving foods, many for the first time. Parents who often don’t have the resources to feed their families an abundant meal like this were truly grateful. We are thankful for you, our generous congregation and our faithful God who allows us to serve these families and staff at Guilford Elementary.
There were over 100 people lined up and waiting in the rain when we opened the doors last Saturday morning, and within the first hour we had given away more than 300 bags of clothing. (The photo above is after we opened the doors – the photo below is literally one hour later.)
We saw specific needs met over and over. Thanks to the generosity of our people, along with serving our body, and the local community, we were able to send clothing to missionaries in Japan and Ethiopia, and to a Christian rehab center here in Virginia. There were about 30 bags of clothing left at the end of the event, which went to SACS, the thrift store we partner with.
When children come into foster care, they are often removed from their homes in an emotional and chaotic scene.
Their biological families pack their belongings in whatever bags they may have handy, including garbage bags. Sometimes, families don’t have any large bags to give children to carry their things, as many of these children come from low income families. Many times children come into foster care with nothing that first night. To have a bag of their own, filled with items that are just for them as they enter a world that is not their own, can offer a small but powerful comfort.
This was the challenge that we presented to our body back in January. Let us be the hands and feet of Christ by providing shiny new duffel bags filled with the necessities that a child whose world has just been turned upside down would need, plus some extra goodies so they would feel valued and loved. We can’t measure the effect that holding a teddy bear that will be theirs to keep would have on a child that first night away from the only home they have every known.
We are grateful to God that our people are a generous people and embraced this opportunity to love a child they will probably never meet. We had over 200 bags donated, which filled two 15-passenger vans. The bags will be distributed to several local foster care agencies and will meet a tremendous need.
Two years ago, it snowed for Trunk-or-Treat, forcing our event indoors. Last year, Hurricane Sandy (also known as “Frankenstorm”) shut us down completely. This year, we trusted the weather would cooperate. While it was challenging to set up with the crazy wind, we tied, taped and bungeed everything down and were ready to go by 6:00pm last Thursday evening. Finally the winds blissfully died down… only for it to begin to rain.
Many thanks to all who didn’t let being slightly damp put a damper on the evening. We had 32 spots filled with decorations, games, and wonderful people in costumes giving out candy to the hundreds of children who came out to trick-or-treat with us. I have to admit, I had my doubts about how many people would venture out on a windy and rainy night with their kids in costumes – but as usual, the Lord showed me what a waste of time worrying is. Lots and lots of kids and parents dressed in costumes and ready to spend a safe, fun-filled evening with their family arrived in spite of the off-and-on rain. After playing games and trick-or-treating, the children were treated to hay rides, candied apples and popcorn, and fun Halloween crafts. Several hundred of our surrounding neighbors and friends from Guilford came out for the fun.
Our parking “spots” were amazingly creative with Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter, Captain America and the Avengers, Batman, aliens, the Pumpkinmobile, a photo booth, and Duck Dynasty – just to name a few.
A HUGE THANKS to everyone that helped – set up, clean up, food, crafts, hayrides and of course the parking spots. It takes a lot of help to put on an event like this, and we couldn’t do it without our wonderful volunteers. I think it’s safe to say that everyone went home “Happy, happy, happy!”
Thank you to all who donated items, picked up furniture, sorted and priced, and worked the day of our recent Community Yard Sale. We raised over $6500 to put into our Community Ministries – but even more importantly, we saw God meet specific needs in the body.
In spite of the rain, we had a great turnout and people were blessed to be able to purchase clothing and household items for their families at very affordable prices. I was able to help one woman choose Christmas presents for her extended family – things that were beautiful and special but that she would not have been able to afford to buy from stores. We watched as a young family purchased furniture that they desperately needed, plus a few toys for their young children. One woman bought armfuls of clothing to send back to her homeland, where even after she pays the shipping costs the clothes were still less expensive than if her family members bought them in their country.
It was a lot of work, but the Lord used it for His glory and to further His kingdom. Thank you to all who played a part in making this event happen.
The mission of our partnership with Guilford Elementary School in Sterling, VA is to help meet the physical, relational and spiritual needs of the disadvantaged through service and generosity, and to encourage the staff who work with these families.
In this short video, David Stewart, principal of Guilford Elementary, shares about the impact of this partnership from his perspective.
For more information on our partnership and how to get involved, please visit www.restonbible.org/guilford.
I want to share some astonishing numbers with you. And I want to share what the Lord has done in one year of our Community Outreach ministry. Through the sacrificial giving of time, talents and finances of the body here at RBC, amazing things have been accomplished by the grace of our Lord. This is mostly facts and numbers, and doesn’t adequately represent the many lives that have been changed through this ministry – one of which is my own. However, I hope that it will at least show some of the many areas that we have been able to make a difference for our neighbors.
From September 2011 – July 2012, RBC has received over $135,000 in donations towards Community Outreach. Of that approximately $61,000 was designated for the food pantry, and $18,000 was designated for Guilford Elementary, the rest was undesignated. We have spent approx. $90,000 of what has come in. That means a couple of things – we have funds as we move forward, and it means that the giving for this ministry has sustained. RBC has shown we want to reach the community for Jesus Christ.
So, let me share some of what the Lord has accomplished through you this year and share a little about our upcoming plans.
What do you get when you take 80 bakers, 50 coffee servers, 25 ushers, countless food preparers, children’s ministry volunteers, prayer warriors, 2 backstage crew, 38 actors, 7 band members, sound, lights and media volunteers, a director and 3 people willing to be transparent and share about the struggles in their lives and the victory they have found in trusting Christ with their circumstances? Conversations, that’s what you get! Conversations is an annual production including music, drama, humor and real life stories that takes place each evening the week before Easter. It is week where our church comes together to share with our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors the hope that we have in Jesus. This is real hope – hope not based on circumstances or happily-ever-afters, but on the truth of the word of God and His son, Jesus Christ.
Working behind the scenes, we have the privilege of seeing God at work during the entire process of putting Conversations together. The ministry that takes place among the cast and crew is amazing. People of all ages come together to do ministry, connections are made, prayers are answered, and we are each changed through our experience.
Hundreds of hours go into putting on a production like this – writing, rehearsing, building sets, designing graphics and coordinating all the many, many details. But even the most impressive production is worthless if the congregation doesn’t get behind it and do the most important part – invite and bring their unchurched friends and family. We named this event Conversations for two reasons. The music and scenes are based on conversations that go on around us all the time, and our hope is that you would continue to have conversations with the people you brought to see it.
If you have had a memorable conversation with one of your guests since bringing them to Conversations, we would love to praise with you and pray for you. To share a conversation or story that happened as a result of Conversations, please email us at email@example.com.
Thanks to RBCer Mike Kelly for the great photos. You can see his Conversations 2012 photo gallery here.
Also, since so many of you asked so nicely, below is The Elevator Scene:
We are excited to share an update on the Food Pantry ministry. After barely four months of operation, we have grown to serving over 250 families a week. These are families from within our body, from Guilford Elementary, from our surrounding community and beyond. We have approximately 30 volunteers faithfully serving our neighbors each week. Because of your continued generosity, we have been able to work out some purchasing agreements with a few local stores that help us to have enough of the items that are heavily requested available to those who need them.
It can be so easy to read about the Food Pantry or hear an occasional update but forget that this is a ministry to actual people. This story was recently shared by one of our Food Pantry volunteers:
It was toward the end of the Food Pantry time, and just one table of waiting people was left. An older lady, with torn and worn-out clothes, matted hair and no teeth, was having trouble filling out her form, so I sat down to help her to get through it. She began trying to tell me something and grabbed my arm while repeating the same indiscernible sentence. Since she had no teeth, I couldn’t even tell if she was speaking in English or Spanish. Perhaps seeing my confusion, she began to use gestures with the words to get her point across. She was pointing up at first and saying “God” and then touched her eye and then her mouth to indicate smiling. As I repeated the words she was trying to say, we got through the sentence, “God is watching us all at the Food Pantry and is smiling down from Heaven at what He sees as we feed the hungry.” Tears filled my eyes as I realized what she was saying, and the lady and I hugged as tears streamed down my face.
In the midst of all the confusion and busyness of serving over 130 families that day in the Pantry, this poor old lady’s words were a real high point and it seemed that the Lord was confirming his pleasure with this ministry.
Let me take this opportunity to once again thank you all for your faithful giving. If you would like to give monetarily to support the Food Pantry, you can do so online (click here to access online giving. When you get to screen where you enter an amount, be sure to select “Food Pantry” from the “to” drop-down menu.) You can also leave a check in an offering box (located in the lobby or at the rear of the sanctuary) with “Food Pantry” in the memo line.
If you would like to donate items to the Food Pantry, drop-off baskets are located in the foyer at the front entrance of RBC. Here is a “most wanted” list of items we need for the Food Pantry (click here to download).
If you would like to serve during the Food Pantry (open Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings), please email me. We have an ongoing need particularly for volunteers with Spanish language skills.
Please continue to pray for us as we show the love of Christ through this ministry.
Thanks to all who participated in the Guilford Elementary’s 3rd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Monday, November. Whether you came and served, donated pies, or cooked turkeys, all of your efforts resulted in a fun family gathering as the Guilford families enjoyed a good ol’ American Thanksgiving dinner.
This was a real community gathering, with several organizations helping out. Teachers from the school, RBCers, and Little League volunteers all worked side by side to bless these families. For many of the families, this was their first taste of stuffing, which we learned has no Spanish word equivalent since it is not a food they eat in their countries. Maybe it’s a universal thing, but it appears that most kids don’t like stuffing. Also universal is the look of dislike and the shake of the head “no” – but all were polite and said “no thank you” if they didn’t care for any (although their faces were priceless!)
Hundreds of people came out for the dinner. The rain and long walk from where they parked on the ball field didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Even though the line of people waiting for their turn for food wrapped around the building hallways, everyone was patient and excited for the feast to come. It reminded me of what the disciples must have felt like with the loaves and the fishes, for as many people as kept coming, there seemed to be more food as the evening progressed. And after all had been fed, the volunteers, at last, took a few minutes to sit down, rest and have some dinner as well.
Due to the abundance, the residents at the Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter in Reston also enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast.
Many thanks for all who helped to bless our neighbors.
– – –
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
– Matthew 35:34-40
When I came to work on Monday, in my mailbox I found a stack of thank-you notes from the children at Guilford. These notes were in response from our recent book drive, which provided over 2000 books to these kids, most of whom had no books of their own before the drive. When you give from your abundance, it is so humbling to be thanked. Some of the kids wrote that they wished they could come to our church (I wish that too!). One even wrote that we must have a good God and a great faith. This came from a first-grader, just because we gave him a couple of books.
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
When you come to services this weekend, we will have on display some of the thank-you notes that we have received from the students of Guilford. It seems appropriate on Thanksgiving weekend to share these sentiments with the congregation. Thank you for enriching these children’s lives by putting books in their hands. In the words of one student “Thank you. Really, I’m not kidding.”
If you weren’t able to bring in your books this fall, we will be having another book drive in the Spring. Hold on to those books, and keep your eye out for an announcement in March 2012.
In the two months since we re-opened the food pantry, we have jumped up to serving more than 130 families a week. Almost 100% of our food pantry guests are Hispanic – and that has given us some challenges to overcome. While we have adapted what we are stocking on the shelves to better meet their needs, we are still learning. In my ignorance I did not realize how different corn meal is from corn flour – and corn flour is the number-one item in demand and that we cannot keep up with the demand! I am regularly wiping out the shelves in our local grocery stores as I buy every package of corn flour they have. Oil to cook the tortillas being made from the corn flour is also in high demand.
One of the culturally different things that we have had to adjust to is the need for larger sized diapers. The tendency in these cultures appears to be to potty-train their children much later than we do. Again, in my ignorance, I thought that if you are struggling financially that you would potty train your children as early as possible to cut down on the expense of diapers. But that is not the case, and we are now stocking larger diapers to meet the need.
My prayer as we move forward is that we would have more volunteers, and in particular more Spanish speakers to interact with our guests – not just getting their food for them, but sitting with them and getting to know them. The Lord has begun a good work, and now is the time to take it to the next level – sharing our hope with these people who need hope.
This past week we had a new challenge, one that I had not anticipated. Many of our first-time visitors to the food pantry were illiterate. We have been diligent to have our signs and forms be in both English and Spanish – but that is not very helpful to someone who cannot read either language. How does that person cope with the challenges of living in Northern Virginia if they can’t read? The Lord provided some very kind folks who helped them fill out the sign in sheet and their food order form, and all was well for the moment. But it broke my heart just a little more.
Please pray for our outreach to a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, cultures and challenges. Pray for the Lord to raise up more volunteers, and in particular to raise up someone who’s heart is to reach these people. We really need someone who has the time and heart to take this ministry to the next level. And as you visit with family and friends this Thanksgiving, and eat too much and laugh a lot, and enjoy all that the Lord has blessed you with – be thankful.
If you are willing to donate to the food pantry, consider going to a local Dollar Store, and purchasing several bottles of oil, packages of sugar, canisters of coffee, shampoos, deodorants. For the same amount of money you could bless multiple families in need. We have recurring needs for staple items like corn flour (not corn meal), white flour, oil, sugar, cereal, oatmeal, dried beans, rice, canned soup, canned chicken, tuna, ham and chili. Smaller size containers of items such as flour and sugar are helpful, so we can assist more people. The hygiene items most needed are: laundry detergent, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, sanitary pads, baby wipes, and formula (preferably Similac). Due to a generous donation from the Huggies “A Diaper for Every Bottom” campaign we will not need diapers for some time. You can also donate financially to this ministry by putting “food pantry” in the memo line of your check and dropping it in an offering box during weekend services.
Thank you for your ongoing generosity. Please contact me if you would like more information on getting involved with the RBC Food Pantry.
Snow. On October 29th. During our Trunk-or-Treat Halloween outreach event. Is that even possible? Well, it’s not only possible – it happened! Many thanks to all who with very little notice jumped in and transformed their creative car trunk decorating ideas into inside, car-less decorating ideas.
We had 46 spots filled with decorations, games, and wonderful people in costumes giving out candy to the hundreds and hundreds of children who came out to trick or treat with us. I have to admit, I had my doubts about how many people would venture out on a cold and slushy night with their kids in costumes – but as usual, the Lord showed me what a waste of time worrying is. With a warm and bright place to trick or treat we had an overwhelming turn out, with kids and parents dress in costumes and ready to spend a safe, fun filled evening with their family. After playing games and trick or treating, the children were treated to a puppet show and snacks, or could stop by and do a Halloween craft. For me the best part was there wasn’t a single crying child getting scared of what might pop out in the dark. Many of our neighbors and friends from Guilford came to see what we are about.
Our “parking spots” were amazingly creative with the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea Party, pirates, campers, and Christmas, just to name a few. Our grand prize winner for creativity was our new Pastor of Young Adults, Wayne Johnson and his Shepherd Group who did the movie UP, complete with the house, balloons, Carl (now we know what Wayne will look like when he’s 80!), Russell, and the rare bird, Kevin.
A huge thanks to everyone that helped – set-up, clean-up, snacks, crafts, and of course the “parking spots”. It takes a lot of help to put on an event like this, and we couldn’t do it without our wonderful volunteers.
In the end – despite the snow and last-minute adjustments due to less-than-ideal weather – we were able to serve RBC families and bless many neighbors from our surrounding community (several of whom showed up for worship services the next morning!) We continue to pray for hearts to open to the Gospel as we show the love of Christ in fun and practical ways through events such as this.
Have you ever videotaped your children when they first see what is under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning? That was what the children’s faces looked like last Tuesday at Guilford Elementary School. We surprised the students when they came in for “Picture Day” with 2,000 books piled on tables. The students were told that they could choose 3 books each to have for their very own. For many of these kids, these will be the first books that they have owned. They went back to their classrooms hugging their books and excited to be allowed to write their names inside – proof that they could keep them “forever and for always”. Many thanks to all who donated books to our first Book Drive for Guilford Elementary School, and a huge thank you to the volunteers who helped set up, assist the children, and clean up after the event.
– – –
‘Twas the night before Book Day
When in the Guilford gymnasium
Tables were set up
for the big surprise yet to come.
The boxes were unloaded by volunteers with care
In hopes that kids’ smiles soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
With no idea of the special day that was ahead.
For our people are caring, and they give when we ask
So we stacked up those books – a formidable task!
We sorted those novels, the fiction and non
Picture books, tall tales and stories from beyond,
Goosebumps and Pokemon and Jillian Jigs
Sports books, and math books and tales about pigs.
The teachers were skeptical
as they waited their turn.
Would there be enough books
so their students could learn?
When what to their wondering eyes should appear
Books and more books, (there was no reason to fear!)
There were more than enough for each child to have three.
The hard part, of course – Which three would it be?
More rapid than eagles,
The children they came
And they whistled and shouted
And called books by name.
“Star Wars, and Hardy Boys,
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Junie B. Jones, and a book about squids!”
“Do you have Curious George?
Oh we just love them all –
Choose a book, choose a book,
It’s like a book mall!”
We had to explain to each little peep
That these books were for them
To take home and to keep.
Forever their own to love and to read,
Our people were so generous to help fill this need.
Each child stopped to thank us with words, waves and hugs.
Each child made an impact – my heartstrings felt tugs.
So I thank each of you for your giving and love.
Such a great witness of our Father above.
That’s right: I said “Don’t volunteer at Guilford.” At least, don’t volunteer if you just want to do a little something nice for the underprivileged or if you are checking off the “help the community” box on your weekly to-do list.
You see, should you volunteer at Guilford, something will happen to you when you meet these kids. No longer will you be able to keep your heart’s door closed to the reality of the poor. Everything that you have carefully compartmentalized into statistics and bar charts and percentages of those-who-qualify-for-free-lunches suddenly become …people. Beautiful, unique, gifted individuals who face challenges that most of us cannot fully grasp – challenges that are out of their control.
I spent the afternoon at Guilford Elementary last Friday. I was the special guest of one of the third grade classes, and now I know what it feels like to be a rock star or Santa Claus. I was treated like royalty, given lots of hugs, and kids fought for the privilege of sitting next to me in the classroom (a first for me!)
The children had written thank-you letters for the things that RBC is doing for them. Many of the kids stood up and read me their letters, and some read to me from their writing journals. I was touched to the point of tears. One boy told me that he has wanted to go to a museum his WHOLE LIFE, and this year he will be able to go on the field trip because of the people from our church who paid for it for him. He also told me now he can think better in school because he’s not thinking about his tummy being hungry. One child said I was “such a nice teacher.” When I asked why he thought I was a teacher, he said it was because teachers are the ones who love you and take care of you, so I must be a teacher since I was getting people to give the children snacks. Kind of makes you think.
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t perfect little Stepford children with large puppy dog eyes. These are real kids. Charming, silly, serious, thoughtful, impish, studious, sometimes disobedient, always enthusiastic and energetic, children. What overwhelmed me was that all of them were respectful and grateful. Both the haves and the have-nots were appreciative of all that RBC has done for their school. There was no sense of entitlement. Just thankfulness. It was humbling to realize how infrequently I am just thankful for what I have been given.
So there you have it. Don’t volunteer at Guilford, because once you meet the kids, suddenly it becomes about people, not programs. It becomes about justice and mercy and grace and love and sharing it with what Jesus called the “least of these”. So don’t do it, because try as hard as you can, I don’t think you can close your heart door to the “least of these” once the Lord has opened it.
(Click on the images to the right to read a few of the letters from Guilford students.)