(This piece was originally written for The Dialogue, the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO.)
During worship services, you may have heard me mention Faith in Action, one of the ministries of our church. First Christian helped start FIA back in the early 1990’s to organize volunteer caregivers for people with HIV/AIDS in our community. Over time, the county health department took over that role (FCC’s own Kelly Kibirige is the HIV/AIDS nurse for Buchanan County and would be glad to talk with you about volunteering). Faith in Action evolved into an organization that helped people with a variety of medical conditions through volunteers coordinated by Heartland Hospital. Eventually, Heartland and area churches decided that needs could be better met if the churches made this ministry their own.
About two and a half years ago, I was a part of the reorganization of Faith in Action and today I serve as chairperson of its governing board. Although FIA still receives some support from the Heartland Foundation (free office space at Hope House, etc.) and some logistical support from Heartland Hospital (IT support, etc.), the organization is governed and financially supported by St. Joseph churches. First Christian is one of them. Rather than being a non-profit organization, FIA is a coalition of 29 churches and organizations that provide volunteers to help low-income people (often seniors and disabled people without family support) in a variety of ways. If St. Joseph churches choose not to make FIA happen, it simply disappears.
A great thing about FIA is its diversity. Member churches include Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical Protestant ones. FIA churches come from downtown, southside, northside and the east side of town. At FIA’s annual meeting this past Sunday, we met in a Roman Catholic church, heard an African American gospel choir sing and a white Baptist minister preach, while clergy and laypeople from Disciples, Presbyterian, non-denominational, Nazarene, Catholic and other churches spoke and shared about their ministries to people in need. Each church provides volunteers who provide ministry to people through transportation to doctor visits, building wheelchair ramps, minor home repair, phone calls to seniors living alone and many other ways. Here are some highlights from the wonderful work done by FIA over the last year:
· One year ago FIA had 184 clients; today it has 249.
· One year ago FIA had 60 volunteers; today it has 104.
· Two lawn-moving companies volunteered to help low-income seniors by moving 15 lawns each week for free!
· FIA volunteers built 9 ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps for disabled people.
· FIA volunteers provided 375 rides for 193 people to medical appointments and other places, most of the clients were low-income seniors.
· During 2010 volunteers gave over 1300 hours of their time and drove over 7000 miles!
During these difficult economic times, FIA helps people who would otherwise not be helped. The clients helped are often referred by social service agencies that for one reason or another cannot provide what is needed. These folks would fall through the cracks without the volunteers from St. Joe churches. An important by-product of the work of FIA volunteers is that low-income seniors who do not have support from family are able to live independently in their own homes rather than facing the choice of moving into a care center or possibly becoming homeless.
Although FCC has several volunteers working through Faith in Action, for over a year we have not had a “team leader” to get our church involved in this exciting work. A team leader’s responsibilities are simply to communicate with FIA and share that information with the church, as well as helping anyone interested in volunteering get involved. I believe our church could join others in our community who are out in the community building ramps, doing yard work and more for elderly and disabled people in our town. We just need someone to take the lead.
Do you feel like God may be leading you to get involved with Faith in Action? If so, I’ll be glad to talk with you about it.
Grace and Peace,