HOW TO MAKE AN UNCHURCHED NEIGHBOR CRY MIKE LARSON | TEACHING PASTOR, EPIKOS CHURCH
What would it take to bring an unchurched neighbor to tears? In a good way, of course. Tears of joy and appreciation.
In a letter to Titus, the apostle Paul gave him this important advice: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14).
Since its start in the fall of 2008, the people of Epikos have passionately followed this advice, especially in serving the village of Ntandi, Uganda. This past month, we engaged in our first home renovation project as part of a vision to replicate the success we’ve had in Uganda in our own backyard.
Our first project involved serving one of our own. Over the past four years, Shelley, a regular attender at Epikos, has battled with multiple myeloma cancer as well as administering her own dialysis treatments. Her medical regiment left her exhausted and unable to take care of her daily needs at home. She needed the bathrooms updated to make them more accessible, new flooring that made maneuvering and cleaning easier, and a variety of other touch ups to create a cleaner and safer home environment.
Right away, we knew we had to make sure Shelley was taken care of. The big challenge was getting the expert guidance we needed to tackle this project. An initial estimate priced the project at above $30,000 and we knew this would be a daunting endeavor if we didn’t get many discounted materials and services volunteered, as well as expert advice to prioritize our repairs. We needed someone with the skills for the project, but also with a heart for the mission.
When lead pastor Tim Geisler shared our 3-year vision for Epikos at a vision night meeting, God brought us the perfect fit: Alison Lovell. A member of Epikos and local business owner with her husband Don, Alison shared our concern for the community and for Shelley in particular. They both eagerly volunteered to help. Teaming up with Joe Stotz, a capable and compassionate local contractor, we created a game plan that would bring the necessary renovations while slashing the budget to just under $7,000.
During the last weekend of June while Shelley stayed in a hotel, over 25 volunteers, including 10 young people, went to work on a variety of tasks: washing walls, shampooing furniture and carpet, replacing the flooring, installing new toilets, fixtures, and a doggy door, trimming trees, weeding the beds, and power washing outside the house.
True to the words of Paul, the project was productive. Of course, there were the obvious results of a home that looked and felt new and provided Shelley with security she needed to go about her daily tasks. Thanks to the help of so many volunteers, we used only a fraction of the $7,000 we had budgeted.
But it was so much more that that. All of the efforts and donations assured Shelley that she wasn’t alone, that her Epikos family stood with her no matter what she faced. There was the new relationships formed from those who had seen each other across the aisles at church, but got better acquainted and even became friends as they served side by side. There was Shelley’s unchurched neighbor, Rudy, brought to tears to know that a church community would come together for a project like this. For those of us who got to be the hands and feet of Jesus through this act of kindness, seeing this kind of kingdom impact was as good as it gets.
As he sat with Shelley, shook his head and wondered at this expression of love, Rudy offered a final heartfelt word of encouragement: “God bless you,” he said, still holding back tears.
Thank you, Rudy. God definitely has!
I’m so glad that God called us to start a church that reaches people who need Jesus while obeying His call to help those who can’t help themselves.
So here’s a question: What about you? What is God calling you to do? Maybe it’s inspiring people to do something bold in your city. Perhaps He’s prompting you to start a church that changes the story for hundreds of people. Or maybe He wants you to make a donation that changes the game for Mission Catalyst. Are you willing? Thanks for saying Yes!
Pumped up for the Kingdom,