Today I close the fifth month of Reach Out stories–of reading how God’s children across the nation are actively sharing the love of Christ. You’re at park benches, on subways, reaching out to the homeless, the orphan, and the felon. With each encounter, each authentic display of love, you are revealing the nature of Christ. In today’s world with so many political battle lines and carelessly spoken words, Christ’s image often gets tainted. But life by life, as each one of us reaches out to someone else and allows God to love them through us, we help others see Christ as He truly is–filled with a passionate, initiating love–a love that drew Him to the cross.

I loved this month’s reach out stories, each one for different reasons.

I loved Vona Elkins Bankson’s story because it demonstrated an important truth–one we must not only remember but actively live out. Our church is our family. We’re a unit. When one member hurts, every member hurts. It is important that we reach out to one another within our church body as much, if not more, than we reach out to those outside it. When we sit in the pews and watch the others sit around us, may we always remember they are our sisters, our brothers, fathers and mothers.

Here’s a snippet of her story, Lives Intertwined.

“Recently the Young Adult men’s Sunday school class led by Rodger Nix, heard of a young couple with many needs who had moved into the community. The father was battling cancer; the mother was working alongside him in a tree grinding business trying to eke out a living for them and their four-year old daughter. …” (Read more here.)

I loved Jennifer Hallmark’s story for two reasons. First, it reminded me that the church body exists beyond our church walls as well and includes all who love Jesus Christ. It also reminded me we can serve where ever we are. Often we think we have to wait until our church starts a program or ministry, but if God’s laid something on your heart, follow through. There are countless ways to serve each day. Find one and jump in! And like Jennifer says, become a revolutionary–someone who inspires others to love and greatness.

Here’s a portion of her story, Be a Revolutionary:

“Are you a revolutionary? Encarta Dictionary has two definitions I like: “causing, supporting, or advocating revolution” and “so new and different as to cause a major change in something.” We can start a “revolution” in our circle of influence through outreach.” (Read the rest here.)

Sandra Robbin’s testimony of a time when she reached out to a broken woman on the subway touched me deeply because I’ve been that woman. I’ve never feared losing a child, but I’ve had times where I’ve been broken, longing for support or comfort. (I suspect we all have at some point.) I’ve also been on the other end. I’ve been in a crowded area–the airport, the grocery store, a restaurant–and have seen others distraught. Most often, I’ve walked away, not knowing what to do. Sandra reminded me sometimes the best thing we can do is offer to pray with that person.

Here’s a portion of her story, Reaching Out to the Broken:

“I was excited that day as I arrived at the airport to fly to Texas for a visit with my daughter’s family. But I wasn’t as excited as were the men on the packed shuttle bus that picked me up in parking lot. Since this was during March Madness, I knew right away from their clothing and their boisterous voices that they were on their way to a basketball game. I squeezed past the ones standing in the aisle and reached a bench that ran along the side of the bus. I sat down, my knees almost touching a woman sitting on the bench facing me. …” (Read more here.)

I’d love to hear from you. What did God say to you through these posts? Which one impacted you most, and why? Tell us about it in the comments. Would you like to read more Reach Out stories? Or is there perhaps another topic you’d like to see addressed? Let me know. 🙂

And again, I want to give a huge shout out of thanks to all my August Reach Out donors:

Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancera novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chanceanother novel with an outreach focus; Sandra Robbins with Fatal Disclosureand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.

                    I’ve shared in previous posts how difficult our move to Nebraska has been for all of us. It has been less than two months now, but a blip, and yet, already we feel at home. Why? Because God placed us in a community of believers that opened wide their arms and have accepted us as family. The other night, reflecting on all God has done through the grace-filled men and women at our church, my husband and I discussed how difficult life must be for those who don’t have such a community.

Today’s post comes from a fellow Christ to the World writer. Vona Elkins Bankston’s dramas are broadcasted, via radio-waves, across the globe, sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ with millions, many in areas hostile to the gospel. Today she talks about leaving a faith-driven legacy. Her story reminds me, our church body is more than a gathering of people–it is an interconnected body, a family, divinely designed to provide love, community, and support.

A  Legacy of “Living out loud”  by Vona Elkins Bankston   

Psalms 145: One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your mighty acts.       

Nestled at the bottom of Bankhead Forest in Northwest Alabama, lies a little community called Wren. As you look to your left going south, you see a stately church with a steeple rising toward the heavens as a monument to the grace and love of a faithful God.

Since 1847-1848when the first Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established… to the present time, the church has embraced the mandate given by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This community of believers, (now in the third building) has been living out loud through evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship.

Recently the Young Adult men’s Sunday school class led by Rodger Nix, heard of a young couple with many needs who had moved into the community. The father was battling cancer; the mother was working alongside him in a tree grinding business trying to eke out a living for them and their four year old daughter.

The little church they attended helped as much as possible but were unable to provide that which the family needed most– better housing.

 Knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, the desire of the father’s heart was to see his wife Deborah, and daughter Shirley Mae, settled into a warm, comfortable home before he passed from this life.

By talking among themselves and spreading the word around, others in the church and community joined in with the Young Adult Men’s class and started remodeling a house about five miles from the couple’s mobile home.  Materials were donated, monetary gifts were received and skilled laborers donated time and talent. The women joined the effort by providing household goods and furnishings.

A few weeks before his death, Gregg asked if he could come in person to express his gratitude to the church and the volunteers for being the hands and feet of Jesus to him and his family. There were few dry eyes in the church that morning as the little family stood before the congregation.

Not many weeks after that Gregg went to be with the Lord. The house was not quite ready for Deborah and Shirley Mae to move into, but Gregg died, knowing a comfortable earthly home would soon be ready for his little family to move in to.

 11 Corinthians, 5:1 says:   For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gregg died at peace,  knowing he could look forward to living  in a house not made by human hands but by the hand of his loving Heavenly Father.

By “Living Out-Loud”  the Young Adult Sunday School Class left a legacy that will reach into future generations and witness to the mighty acts of God.

Vona Elkins Bankston has 3 married children,7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

She writes Biblical monologues, skits for my church,and dramas and HEAR THE WORD Bible studies for Christ to the World Ministries. She belongs to a writer’s group called “STEPPING STONES” OF NORTH ALABAMA. Currently, they are writing short devotionals for a local newspaper. She has a heart for missions and believes the methods for reaching people can change, but the message must remain the same.
Life is tough. Tragedy and difficulties are bound to come. When they do, will you have a close family of believers to lean on? If not, how you can begin to develop those vital relationships *today*? No church body will be perfect. Humans are going to mess up. They’ll let us down, say and do things they regret. As will we. Finding community isn’t about finding perfection but instead, relationships. Don’t let unrealistic expectations or past hurts keep you from experiencing one of God’s greatest gifts–Christ-centered relationships.
I want to give a shout-out thank you to all the August’s Reach Out Donors:
Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancer, a novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chance, another novel with an outreach focus; and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.
Have a great, interdependent week in Christ!