Katie Gates shares how an experience in the Amazon opened her heart to sin and the fullness of the Gospel of Christ and how that is leading her to minister to the poor and oppressed.
This year’s First Fruits took place on Saturday, November 20. First Fruits is a service project that has rallied the RBC church body for over 20 years. It is a unique serving opportunity for families, shepherd groups, and individuals to come together and make a difference in the lives and families of others in our area who are in need of help and encouragement.
You may have heard the numbers in church. By God’s grace we had over 400 volunteers spread over 27 teams, doing more than 120 jobs (including some random acts of kindness), that raised $31,500 for families having a tough time financially in our area – 59 families in particular were blessed this past weekend. The numbers are truly amazing. But, First Fruits is about so much more than the numbers.
The body of Christ was in motion like I haven’t seen before at RBC — working together, getting out of the salt shaker, and encouraging families in our area. I love how each year First Fruits brings together people that start out as strangers or acquaintances early in the morning and end as friends in the evening. This year was a particular blessing because Pastor Salvador Medina and 10 members of his congregation (from the Spanish Church that also worships at RBC) joined in and helped out during the day. They also played a key role with team visits to 3 of the Spanish-speaking only families in the evening. There is one body, but many parts (1 Cor 12:12-28) and it was neat to see this in action on Saturday — how, by working together, we were able to do more than any part could have done separately, even overcoming language and culture barriers and planting seeds that we hope and pray will yet bear fruit. It will be exciting to see how the Lord will use the relationships started at First Fruits both within the body and within the community to advance His Kingdom. The Medinas have already invited several of the families to come to church.
I also loved seeing our teens getting out of the salt shaker. This happened throughout the day, and there are many stories. One captured it well for me. In particular, one Sr. High teen shared how she and some friends went to the neighbor’s house of the job they were working on to help the woman take care of her yard. They discovered that her husband had died 2 years ago and and she was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after. They were able to minister and pray with her in ways they could not have imagined when they started the day.
First Fruits also burst the bubble that insulates us from the world right around us. One teen shared how their team visited a family of 4 living in a motel because they did not have a home. The size of their room for living, eating, sleeping, she relayed, was no bigger than her bedroom at home. She had no idea that people lived like this in Northern Virginia. “This has changed me,” she said,”I see how spoiled I have been, and I know how much I have to be thankful for.”
All of us were touched by the individual stories of the 59 families served through First Fruits. Here are a few snapshots:
- A family of 12 living in a 3-bedroom trailer with another family. Two RBC regular attenders are a big brother and a big sister to 2 of the children in the family.
- Nineteen families attend local Sterling public schools that serve some of the most economically disadvantaged in the area. All the children in these families are on the free lunch program. The father/husband of one of these families died 2 weeks ago leaving his wife and 5 children behind. The Women’s Ministry is already continuing with one of the schools a partnership started through First Fruits and we hope to continue to partner with some of the others through Backpack Buddies and tutoring.
- At least 6 families have been, are, or may soon be homeless.
- One family just moved into their own apartment after being in a shelter for the past year.
- At least 8 families (includes RBC attenders) are struggling with unemployment and being underemployed.
- Twenty or more are single parents
- Four are widows
- Many do not yet know the Lord.
The First Fruit gifts brought tears, smiles, hope, and prayers of thanksgiving. Please join us in praying for these families and thanking the Lord for the amazing team captains and co-captains that led the army of 400 workers who blessed so many. May God alone receive all the glory.
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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. ~Proverbs 22:9
The Food Pantry workers were overwhelmed by the generosity of the members of our church who brought in groceries on October 3rd. There were so many large bags of food that it took three people four trips each to bring all of it back to the pantry. These trips included the use of carts and baskets on wheels.
God’s love and abundance really showed up through the giving of His people to those of us who are in need. So far there are 20 to 30 families who directly benefit by this food pantry every week. By offering them food, we have an opportunity to share the Gospel and the love of God with these people. Lives are being changed. Glory to God.
“Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)
In International Connection, the English as a Second Language program at RBC, it is only occasionally that we have the blessing of walking a student through the doors of salvation (for a variety of reasons – various faith backgrounds, cultures, linguistic challenges, etc.) This past year, however, one of our teachers had that very privilege with a woman brand-new to our program in September 2009. B., though entry-level in her understanding of the English language, nevertheless managed to grasp the truth of the gospel very early on with the help of her teacher and other believers to whom she was introduced.
B. had other issues to surmount in her life. She lives in a women’s shelter due to a domestic abuse situation. However, she was extremely motivated to make this country her home and to get to the point in her language ability to make a living for herself and her family. She attended our program twice a week faithfully as well as that of another church-based English program. She was promoted to our Beginner-level class from Pre-Beginner quickly. She began to attend church every week and got into a Shepherd group. In time, she had a devoted “family” of believers whom she could count on for love and support.
A friend of B.’s told her about her plan to go on the Brazil mission trip and asked B. to pray for her, including asking the Lord for financial provision. The needs in Brazil are familiar to B. because, sadly, there are women and children who live on dumps in her home country too. In addition to praying, B. wanted to contribute $100. The only problem is that B. does not have a job because she does not have her green card yet. She is limited to only working an occasional personal job, like babysitting. Another friend of B.’s knew she was a certified beautician in her home country. That friend asked B. if she would come to her house and cut, color and style the hair of yet another friend. B. accepted and was delighted to earn the $100 she needed for her gift!
She emphatically and joyfully gave that income to the person signed up for the mission to Brazil this summer! A whole host of people who know her were touched by this generous and sincere gift – and the blessing will be extended to another group of people far more destitute than B., thousands of miles away in Brazil.
We are in awe of the lessons God has shown us in this situation – that financial support can come from completely unexpected places and that He can use even brand-new, cross-cultural believers in the faith to inspire the rest of us.