The Scarf-it-Up ChurchIn response to some of the posts on this blog about helping the homeless, a woman named Beth sent me the following message on Facebook. It was so encouraging, I asked her if I could share it with all of you as well. She said yes, so here is what she wrote:
It’s so refreshing to find out there are more like my family out there!
I was adopted by missionaries in the early 1960′s, and, in the following decade my Dad became a pastor. His degrees were in Theology, Philosophy, and Business. My dad was the type of man who would bring homeless folks home and sit them at our dinner table. As a teenager, I have to confess it embarrassed me. These folks smelled like urine, body odor, and booze. At some point, I grew up and realized that it was not about giving them a meal, he could have bought them a hamburger. By bringing them home, he gave them their dignity and treated them like any other guest.
As much as I adored my folks and their love for Christ, as well as the way they showed their love in how they treated others, especially those considered unlovable (or invisible) by most…the fact is, their religion — Pentecostal Holiness — was a huge turn-off and as a result, I struggled for 20 years over my faith.
In the Pentecostal Holiness church, one almost has to be perfect to make it to heaven. I wasn’t allowed to have my ears pierced, go to movies, swim with boys, dance, etc. As an adult, I attended various non-denominational churches, but so many of them were more about growing the congregation and offering entertainment choices, then about teaching folks to have relationships with Christ and each other. None of them taught how to treat one another.
The political in-fighting, constant pleas for more offerings, and competition with other churches was all too much. The clincher was when the pastor of a church I had attended for six years got in the pulpit and asked everyone to take out a cash advance on their credit card to buy some latest, greatest gadget the church just had to have.
Once I stopped attending, the senior pastor sent me a Facebook message telling me that I could be such a great cheerleader for God if only I would return to church. This is ironic because of what I did after I “left” church.
I started a group 5 years ago of friends and strangers called Scarf it Up. Here are some of the things we have done in the past three months alone:
- We had a yard sale and raised over $3k for a veteran and his family facing foreclosure.
- We bought and installed a water heater for a disabled woman.
- We held a Valentine banquet for 150 homeless folks and gave each one a rain poncho, coat, and a small ziplock of home baked cookies in addition to a meal.
- We feed homeless people monthly and are having a cookout planned for April 6th.
- Every December we fill backpacks with socks, scarves, blankets, granola bars, toiletry kits, etc, and pass them out on December 15th… this year we distributed 250 kits.
- We are also an emergency resource for our local Salvation Army and last Thursday they called to ask us if we could help a young mother of two who was short $275 paying her March rent after an illness put her in the hospital and out of work. Within an hour we had the money plus $100 extra for groceries. Over the weekend we discovered she had no furniture. None. So far, we have obtained a sofa, love seat, queen bed, twin bed & trundle, kitchen table/chairs, dishes, and other items as well.
Recently a well-meaning friend told me I needed to get my family in church. I’m a Realtor by profession, but I also home-school my three younger sons (two are grown). My 14 year old son and I read the bible together daily and are currently in the book of Mark. My younger children and I also read stories from the Bible daily, pray together, and discuss the kind of people we need to strive to be. All of my children help in our efforts to help others.
I may not be physically in a church building, but my husband and I put 10% of our earnings into our “blessings fund” from which we have helped a family with nine children keep their home when facing foreclosure, paid $1800 for a family to have a broken axle repaired on their only vehicle. From this fund, we regularly buy groceries for needy families, make chicken soup for our sick friends, watch the children so a deployed soldier’s wife can get a few hours to herself, take blessings baskets to folks who need a smile after life’s tripped them up, and numerous other ways of blessing and loving others.
We hug our homeless friends, and they know that if they need anything — from shoes to mosquito repellent — all they have to do is ask. To me, many churches are run like businesses and too many pastors are making too much money. The average home price in my market is $160k and yet we have pastors living in million dollar homes in our small city!! I don’t understand it. I don’t agree with it.
So, no, we don’t “go to church,” but we love God and we strive to make Jesus “smile” (that is how we explain it to our 6 year olds). I’m so tired of folks judging my family and thinking we’re “not living right” just because we don’t attend church in a building.
I’m glad there are folks like you telling us that we, in fact, are not doing it wrong and it’s OK for us to worship and serve Him in our own way. Though our service in the name of Jesus may look different than those who “go to church”, it is no less sincere.
And thanks to all of you who read this blog and who write about similar things on your own blogs and on Facebook. All around the world, people are beginning to see that it is possible (and maybe even easier) to follow Jesus outside the four walls of the church and do so in a way that takes His love to the neediest people in our towns and cities.
Sitting in a building on Sunday morning is not the only way of following Jesus!
If you appreciated what Beth said, go “Like” her Scarf it Up page on Facebook! Maybe you can start something similar in your own town. If you do, let us know!