A seed is planted…Mustard Seed Mission of Venango County
There have been several pleasant surprises here in Franklin in my first ten months: the ease of making the transition due to the overly friendly people, the amazing ecumenical cooperation among our churches, and now the fulfillment of a vision that began before I arrived but which I have become a part of.
Mustard Seed Mission of Venango County: a cooperative effort where Faith Works.
This group is the official name of the Venango County Children’s Roundtable’s effort to come to an understanding with local churches in order to help (primarily) the children who are on the CYS caseload. Of course, when you help the children, you help their families; and when you help families, you help the community. This effort represents cooperation between more government agencies than I can possibly keep track of (amazing in and of itself) and more churches and denominations (a God thing if anything is) than I can list.
My involvement began this past spring as a substitute pastoral representative at a meeting of about 20 people where we heard about the work of Seeds of Hope in Tioga County, an organization that has been doing something similar for the past ten years. Other meetings followed, and the numbers began to grow; 30, then 40, and finally over 75 in September. By then, there were representatives from about 50 churches throughout the county that had attended or expressed interest. There was a critical mass of enthusiasm and hope, but a beginning still needed to be made.
And now, in the last 2 weeks, we have chosen representatives to be on a committee that will begin to move this vision into reality. Our first priority: get out into the real world and help one of the families that we’ve been talking about all year. That is now a reality that will soon be coming true; a local mom with a teenage daughter living in a home that is not safe will be receiving new windows, probably a roof repair, likely some new plumbing, and new doors (more or less). All this with the generous donation of people’s time and money, and especially the help of people with training and expertise in the building trades.
Soon, the project will be regularly helping with unsafe housing, rides to doctors appointments (using county vehicles, expanding an already existing system), and mentoring and counseling of families. Each time a church offers real help to real people the potential exists to turn that moment into the beginning of a relationship. Our goal, even beyond the very big task of helping in these situations, is to help construct the support structure that every person and family needs. Where does that structure exist already? Within our churches, as those of us who have been blessed with a church family know. Where is the answer to drug abuse, alcoholism, neglect, anger, hopelessness, insecurity, grief, and every other such trouble that is common to man? In the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We, Mustard Seed Mission, are not a social service organization; those already exist. We’re not an evangelism arm of our churches, they exist too. What we are is a mixture of both. By offering real and meaningful help to people, by showing the love of Jesus Christ through deeds not just words, we show to those in need that they have value; that God loves them. If those who receive our physical help decline our spiritual help, we offer them God’s blessing and leave the door open; if those who receive our physical help wish to know why followers of Jesus Christ would be willing to help them, we have an answer ready to share, “we love because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
Will it be easy? No. Will it be without bumps along the way? No. But then again, what worth doing really ever is, and can you think of anything else our churches should be doing more than this?