The following article was recently published online in the Religious Herald: Newsjournal of the Baptist General Association of Virginia:
Blitz empowers churches in Virginia’s Southside to serve communities
By Barbara Francis, Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
DANVILLE, Va. — In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus says a person keeps the commandment to love God and neighbor by ministering to his neighbor.
Saturday, Oct. 8, is a day that will long be remembered for ministry as more than 1,500 members of 36 churches in the Pittsylvania Baptist Association participated in Operaton Inasmuch, offering themselves in service through more than 160 neighborhood projects.
Operation Inasmuch is a ministry that helps local churches move congregants out of the sanctuary and into the streets to serve the neediest in their communities. It is based on Matthew 25 in which Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
“We had two churches participate in single OIAM events with good results,” says Cliff Hudgins, ministries coordinator for the Pittsylvania Baptist Association. “Their excitement led me to present the concept of the association churches doing the project on a larger scale.”
According to Hudgins, a task action group was formed to spearhead the planning process. Churches were grouped geographically, forming 10 clusters, with a cluster leader and a member from each church in that area planning to participate.
Clusters selected mission projects. A “Make It Happen!” grant from the Danville Regional Foundation funded the community home and buildings improvement projects. Participating churches provided monetary gifts and purchased items for smaller ministry projects.
Wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with Pittsylvania Baptist Association and Operation Inasmuch, volunteers took to the streets on Oct. 8 to serve their neighbors.
The Chatham cluster consisted of members from Chatham, Mill Creek and First Community Baptist churches. Building projects included constructing a handicap ramp and carpet replacement for a resident and painting and staining the ramp at the Northern Pittsylvania County Food Bank.
The Children in Action from Chatham Baptist Church went to a local supermarket and discount store and distributed slips of paper, requesting shoppers to purchase a can of corn for the food bank. There were 183 cans of corn donated that day. Youth and their parents assisted shoppers by placing groceries in their vehicles.
Volunteers assembled 33 five-gallon blessing buckets for God’s Pit Crew, a non-profit crisis response organization. Items packed included bottled water, canned food, can opener, cleaning supplies, a flashlight with batteries, personal grooming items, paper towels and toilet tissue, peroxide and a small Bible. The organization responds to disasters in the United States and abroad and the buckets are a blessing to those in these emergency situations, says Eleanor Haskins, leader of the Chatham cluster.
A winter coat giveaway was held at the Community Center of Chatham where church members assisted in giving away 150 coats for adults and children. Volunteers were placed at three laundromats offering quarters to individuals to wash and dry their clothing.
Moffett Memorial, Rivermont and Woodberry Hills Baptist churches formed a cluster, led by Russell Scruggs from Moffett Memorial. One of its projects was to paint the exterior of the Little Life Pregnancy Center in Danville.
Scruggs says the workers at the paint store said the job couldn’t be done in one day. Several on the painting team had doubts, he admits. “And while I believe all things are possible, this was going to be a real test,” he says. Yet at the end of the day the center had a fresh coat of paint.
Moffett Memorial and Woodberry Hills Baptist churches opened their clothes closets for Operation Inasmuch. Shoes 4 Souls donated 120 pairs of shoes and 100 pairs were given away that Saturday, along with clothes and bags of toiletries. Volunteers provided car check-ups and oil was given those whose vehicles needed an oil change.
Volunteers in each of the 10 clusters gave “Why We Serve” cards along with their offers of compassion. The card identified them as members of churches in the Pittsylvania Baptist Association. It read that the reason for their service was because they had experienced God’s love and hoped their actions would draw others closer to the love of God.
Scruggs notes that one of the most meaningful aspects of Operation Inasmuch was getting to know people from other churches. “Everyone was involved in a common cause,” he says, “and people from our church were serving at another church while members of other congregations were involved in projects here.” He feels it was a great opportunity to bond with other Christians.
At its fall meeting in October the program included a sharing time as a representative from each cluster reported on community projects and how Operation Inasmuch had changed lives in their communities and churches.
“People who return from a missions trip have a sparkle in their eye and are ready to tell how it felt to be a missionary serving the Lord,” says Hudgins. “I saw the sparkle in many eyes of those who participated and I heard over and over the story of how people felt like missionaries serving their Lord, but this time in their own backyard.”
Operation Inasmuch provided churches in the Pittsylvania Baptist Association a means of showing their love for God and their neighbors — up close and personal.
Barbara Francis ( email@example.com) is a staff writer for the Religious Herald.