Figuring out how we can make a difference in our world, in our community, can be intimidating. I’m just one person. Where do I begin?
Over the last two and a half years, God showed me that we don’t need to have a big master plan worked out. He lights the lamp at our feet, giving us the ability to take a step, and then the next. That’s enough.
In late 2019, my friend Laura Putnam mentioned wanting to serve somewhere with her 12-year-old daughter. Immediately, Shepherd’s Gate run by Miracle Hill came to my mind. I’d volunteered at the shelter for women and children on multiple occasions with several women from Seacoast’s Greenville Campus. Surely, we could do something there.
Doing some research, I learned that the shelter needed a group to throw a monthly birthday party for the residents. I loved birthday parties! Laura and I became official volunteers and showed up on a Saturday in January 2020 with desserts, decorations, games, and prizes from Dollar Tree.
It wasn’t long before we had a whole group of people coming with us, celebrating shelter residents’ birthdays.
Then COVID hit. Time went by. Hardship struck so many of us.
A dear friend and long-time member of Seacoast Greenville found herself in a tough spot. When she reached out, Pastor Ross White and I both recommended Shepherd’s Gate. She became a resident there, and every week, I picked her up for church. Soon, she was inviting others to join her, and my van filled up. Inviting and driving was such a simple thing for us to do, but it was a way for these women to find God, the source of all comfort and hope.
Our next birthday party wasn’t until June of 2021. Although Laura, her daughter, and I were the main volunteers for a few months, we had the idea to expand from birthday parties to a Christmas celebration. We asked for donations for Secret Santa gifts, and we got a great response. And once Laura posted event photos on the Seacoast Sisterhood Facebook page, even more people wanted to be involved.
That led to a lunch at the shelter with a trained chef at Eastertime. Even though I was far from gifted in culinary arts, I found myself assisting in the kitchen. And I kept feeling God nudge me to make the meal a regular part of the monthly birthday parties.
That Sunday in church, I couldn’t concentrate on the message. “Okay, God,” I finally said. “But I’m going to really need some help. And how are we going to pay for it?” Providing a dessert and some prizes was one thing, but a monthly meal for up to 40 people was going to be expensive…and overwhelming. But in faith, I told the shelter that the parties each month would now include a lunch.
That week, Pastor Ross called. Someone had given money through the Legacy Fund for local missions. Did I have any ideas of how part of it could be used at Shepherd’s Gate? You bet I did!
By now, the number of ladies at the shelter who needed a ride to church each week had gone beyond what my 8-passenger van could hold. I hated having to tell people I didn’t have room. When others learned of the problem, several volunteered to drive, too. Since then, five women from the shelter have gotten baptized at our Greenville campus, one woman gave her life to Christ, and so many others have experienced the love of Christ through our weekly church services and monthly birthday parties. And my friend has since moved into Miracle Hill’s transitional home and is doing really well.
This past week, the Shepherd’s Gate monthly birthday party became a serve project for Seacoast’s 2022 Serve Day. Not only did people serve at Shepherd’s Gate, but three of the residents who attend the Greenville Campus, volunteered for another Serve Day project to serve others.
For me, this Serve Day event was a celebration of everything God has done, starting so simply with my friend’s desire to serve with her daughter. We began with what we could manage by ourselves. It grew into something much bigger than us, and God sent the help we needed. He showed himself to be present through each step of this journey, strengthening our faith and trust in him and transforming the lives of women at the shelter.
If you are looking to experience God more fully in your life, just do the one thing in front of you and see what happens.