God started laying the groundwork for an event to serve the Jackson community well before I [Kimber] even knew I’d be living in Jackson, Mich., when I visited a church and saw them participating in a “love your city” event with several other churches. As soon as I moved to Jackson, I began brainstorming how our congregation could love our city well. So, when the Michigan District challenged congregations to serve their community in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I invited Trinity, the other LCMS church in our community, to brainstorm with me, and that’s when our partnership to love and serve our neighbors was born.
Redeemer and Trinity joined forces to share the love of Jesus with the community in order to meet some basic needs at an annual event. We served nearly 1,000 families over three years with school supplies, socks, underwear, hygiene products, haircuts, and spiritual resources until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we were forced to reconsider how to serve safely. Our all-indoor event, with several hundred people crowded together in a fellowship hall, needed a remodel. While we began plans for something smaller, God brought us an opportunity to continue forward in an even better way—by adding another partnership with a local non-profit. They provide food for us to do a monthly giveaway, and our churches continue to offer supplemental items and volunteers to staff the giveaway. And with this new opportunity, God has also shown us how He continues to work.
Joy. Gratitude. Humility. These three ideas are expressed in a myriad of ways toward the servants from both Redeemer and Trinity, Jackson. And we are privileged to see and hear the thanks given to our Lord as well. The expressions are as varied as the people who drive or who sometimes even walk to receive the help and love passed on in the street before old Trinity downtown. “Thank you, thank you. You don’t know what this means,” or “I’ve really been needing some gloves and mittens for my children.” One of my favorites as I’ve leaned into the passenger side of a vehicle is, “Your smile makes my days easier to walk through.” I [Craig] even tear up as I share these faces and words. Such an immense privilege it is to serve our city together anytime, but especially in these days, this season, in the name of our dear Savior.
Can you watch the Savior in the gospels kneeling, holding, healing, and declaring the Good News in so many ways and not sense the beat of His heart toward those He has made? I [Craig] suppose you can, but find Him in His Word and watch Him long enough and you just have to get in the game. At least that’s our team’s experience as we transport, unload, pack, and give to those in need. Perhaps it begins with “we really should do something,” but the ongoing work of the Spirit of the Lord transforms the bare “should” into “we just can’t help it.” I remember dear Paul saying, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” His tasks are our tasks done with the same heart, the same Savior and the same compulsion to give everything for our brothers and sisters and those we hope will join the family. We do not serve to somehow “get them in.” We do what we do—and this should be true every day no matter what task He gives—to put Him on display. He’s promised to build the family. We’re just there to say, “You’re welcome.”
Photos courtesy of Trinity, Jackson