On Saturday August 15th the work began well before the first glimmer of the morning sun. When we arrived we found heavy dew on the ground in the O’Fallon Community Park and the warm summer air was static and sticky. In just a few short hours there would be over 3,000 guest taking advantage of a day of neighbor helping neighbor. That is the Convoy of Hope philosophy. There would be over 1,000 volunteers most wearing their blue Convoy of Hope t-shirt with the word Momentum printed in large letters on the front. Momentum can be defined as “mass in motion” and that is what we were, a group of volunteers all in motion preparing to receive our “Guests of Honor.”
Over 50 Metro-East churches came together to offer a day of love, care, and generosity to those that may need a little assistance. Before the sun came up volunteers were unloading a 53 foot 18 wheeler full of groceries. Written on side of the 18 wheeler in huge letters over a red, white, and blue background are the words “Convoy of Hope.” The groceries were sorted and bagged and ready to hand out. Not far away the smell of hot dogs cooking filled the air. By now the sun is up as well as the summer temperature and the call for everyone to stay hydrated rang out. Final preparations were made in the “Kids Zone” and the haircut area. At the far end of the field the Veterans Administration and the National Breast Cancer Foundation area were ready to receive visitors.
The O’Fallon FUMC responsibility was Jobs & Career Services which involved organizing employment counselors to be available to assist our guest. Jane Jung assembled an “all-star” group of counselors that offered a high level of care and expertise to job seekers to get them to the next level of their employment search. The employment counselors also offered workshops which in one such workshop visitors learned how to network with employers and how to use on-line “job boards.” At the end of the day over 275 customers came through our 40 by 60 foot tent seeking advice. To aid our job seeking guest we offered childcare which proved to be a great help to those that needed to speak to a counselor.
Overall the day of neighbor helping neighbor included free groceries, haircuts, family portraits, backpacks, shoes, and a free lunch. The Veterans Administration sent a Mobile Vet unit which was equipped as “offices on wheels,” with the capacity to provide individual and group counseling for Veterans and their families. Veterans also learned how to access their benefits and were able to make follow-on appointments. The National Breast Cancer Foundation Mobile Van contained state of the art equipment to offer screening, counseling, and education. In the medical area people could get flu shots, blood pressure screening, and much more. The Kids Zone was a huge play area with bounce houses and games.
By mid-morning the O’Fallon Community Park was a village where radical hospitality ruled the day. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV) Peter tells us that we each have a special gift and we should us it to glorify God. By any measure Convoy of Hope Metro-East was a huge success. The number of guest served was very impressive but more importantly the relationships forged together will leave lastly impressions.
I heard stories of how people discovered anew how important it is to stand in the gap and pray for others. Volunteers that were paired to work together boldly stepped out of their comfort zone to serve others. Here is a story from the Veterans Administration tent: “I had quite a few Women Veterans who approached the table and were informed of our services, who expressed a desire to enroll. One in particular, a blind Woman Veteran who is at imminent risk of homelessness, came by and was given resources to assist her. She has a 6 year old child and a husband who is being treated for lymphoma. She is planning to enroll so that we can assist.”
It is not about the project but about building relationships. The project was to hand out groceries, lunch, haircuts and more but the true measure of success is about the relationships. We can transfer that philosophy to our daily lives. Take time to say hi to the cashier at your local store or to offer a smile to someone you meet. Maybe that is all it takes to get that person through another day. You are showing God’s grace to others. May God’s strength be with you as you boldly step out of your comfort zone to serve others.
Convoy of Hope Metro-East Statistics:
- Volunteers – 1,128
- Guests in Attendance – 3,040
- Guests Prayed with – 2,736 (90%)
- Looking for a church – 50
- Gideon Bibles handed out – 2,136
- Haircuts given – 652
- NBCF guests – 606
- Women’s shoes – 960
- Children’s shoes – 1,790
- Plum Organics guests – 1,270
- Job & Career service guests – 275
- Portraits provided – 413
- Meals prepared – 4,430