– Dr. Derrick Mueller
This time of COVID-19 has given us many opportunities to do ministry differently. It has forced us to be more intentional in our relationships. Actually, even in this time of isolation with the 6-foot distancing rule, I have never been closer to people in my neighbourhood and on my grid.
Stacy, my wife and a nurse, instinctively began looking for ways with COVID-19 to connect, putting our new digital evangelism training into practice. She says, “I began with those in my neighbourhood and tried to find ways to practically care.” She picked up laundry for those who needed it done. She made banana bread and left it at people’s doors with her card and encouraging note. She shared her baking adventures and pictures on social media, which immediately multiplied itself, as other women started doing the same reaching out to others.
Stacy quickly learned she had another grid—her social media grid. She began looking for opportunities on Facebook and made it a regular part of her routine to message and phone people with encouragement.
Like many communities, Welland is no exception: construction in spring is inevitable. Stacy and I found that we had another opportunity to reach out. With approximately 30 construction workers excavating the streets around our home, with adjusters, supervisors, foreman, flag holders, truck and tractor drivers, there was a new grid of opportunities. You could not help but see them. In the rain, snow, and heat, they were there. We both noted that these orange and yellow-clad people with white hats are seen in a negative light, and unlikely of receiving any good deed. They appeared rough, imposing, and further adding to the complications of life.
Stacy thought, “Here’s another opportunity to apply the grid teaching and evangelism approach in my neighbourhood.” She baked more bread, put on her mask and gloves, bought water and pop for these workers, and dropped it off. Sending a smile through her eyes, she delivered this package of hope. She had learned a simple model to reach out: “connect, share, present, and direct,” and used it to connect with a flag woman—who seemed hardened not only by the elements but by life in itself—and who would become a friend.
Below the Surface
With the ministry launching a new initiative, both Stacy and are had heightened awareness of those around us. The construction workers began to press a burden on our hearts. Unknowingly, below the surface, there had been a lot of opposition to the city’s project and to those contractors coming in to do the work. Very vocal people had proclaimed doom. So these workers symbolized to the community that the city was not listening. You could tell that the negativity was taking its toll.
Other neighbours starting catching the vision and reaching out to the workers. There were other bakings and acts of love, and a noticeable change in the attitude of the neighbourhood. They wanted to do good also. The acts of love had no limits, and the construction crew wrote a letter of appreciation to Stacy, on behalf of their team to the community.
Together as a couple, Stacy and I were learning to be creative, intentional, and relational where opportunities presented, or online by just listening and responding to brokenness. After watching the “Digital Evangelism During COVID-19” mission trip, we sat down together and brainstormed how we would use the principals we learned and do our own mission trip. We thought it would be nice before the construction team moved on to another project to host a barbecue.
Applying the lessons of spiritual conversation and the template for reaching out, we connected with the supervisor of the excavation team and said we would love to do a barbecue. I thought the young supervisor was going to cry. “No one has ever done this for me,” he marvelled. The supervisor went on to comment about how the banana bread Stacy had given a week earlier reminded him of his mother. The conversation went from small talk to personal talk to almost spiritual. The young man thanked Stacy, and said he’s connecting more with his mother because of her reminder. It seemed too simple! An act of love and respect changed everything in a moment.
When the supervisor told his company what we were willing to do, they saw this as an act of love and decided to pay for all the food. The company let the city know how welcomed they had felt. Emails were exchanged. On Monday morning, food for thity people was dropped off. “I decided to make it more personal,” said Stacy with a smile. “I made chocolate chip cookies, bagged two for each person, and wrapped them in a note that said ‘made with love.’” I love to cater and took over the “kitchen.” Our new extra-large barbecue seemed perfect for the occasion.
The neighbours were eager to help (from six feet away) and a plan was put in place. In an hour, thirty people were fed limitless love—or at least, a hamburger with bacon and cheese, a sausage in a bun, veggies, two cookies made with love, cold drinks, and a smile. One guy teared up. Another just couldn’t express his thankfulness. It is a brief time, but a time to spark hope, to begin to connect, and be a living Hope magazine to construction workers on our street.
It wasn’t about food. It was about love, and modelling the limitless love of God. We get to be sparks on our grid (our community) for good, and see the spirit of a community be changed. The barbecue was our way of taking the evangelism principals we were taught, applying them to our grid, and having our own mission trip. How can you impact your neighbourhood?
Even from six feet away, we can be light and hope to a generation lost without Christ. When we tap into the limitless love of God, it becomes contagious. The ministry has only begun!