Through our connection, we shape congregations who offer Christ one neighborhood at a time.
Operation Swaddling Clothes
“And You Shall Find the Babe Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes”
On an ordinary day at the St. John’s Methodist Church’s Food Pantry in Memphis, Tennessee, volunteer Jaime Winton and her 6-month-old baby girl met another young mother and her baby who would change the course of the ministry. As the young mother entered the pantry she asked, “Do you have any diapers?” Diapers—the food pantry never stocked diapers. At that moment, Jamie’s heart broke for the “child of God” the church could not help, and the idea for a new mission was born.
During the next UMW meeting, the need for diapers was shared. As members discussed the situation, one woman asked, “Is that how we would want to think of the Christ child—wet and wailing?” The woman’s question prompted action and a new ministry was named and organized. “Operation Swaddling Clothes” is a response to a dire need that is often unrecognized. In any community where there are people who need food, there will always be little ones who need diapers. Though government support programs such as WIC and food stamps offer food for families, they do not provide diapers for babies. Seen as consumable items and therefore not covered by social services, diapers can cost more than $100 a month for one baby—making diapers unattainable and unaffordable.
The members of St. John’s partner with Operation Swaddling Clothes to make diapers available to families. Members of the church staff and the food pantry donate diapers and organize diaper drives to help ensure that the ministry continues. When a person comes to get food at St. John’s food pantry, volunteers ask if there are children in the home. If there are children and if diapers are a need, a two-week supply of diapers is offered. The result of this effort has been life-changing for parents in need. Recently, a teary-eyed father came to the men’s group at church and mentioned that he didn’t need food or money, but he did need diapers. Because of Operation Swaddling Clothes, the men were able to give turn desperation into joy when they handed him the diapers he desperately needed for his little one.
Operation Swaddling Clothes was born because of an intentional relationship with neighbors and people in need. As the congregants of St. John’s connect and work in relationship with the individuals who visit the food pantry, they demonstrate the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, treating each visitor with dignity and grace.
Over 85,000 diapers have been distributed since 2008. The demand for diapers is ever-present and the St. John’s continues to respond. We are one of the 72.
72+ You Ideas:
- If your church already has a food bank, offer diapers to families with little ones.
- Organize a diaper-drive in your church.
- Reach out to civic organizations such as schools, clubs, and local businesses and partner with them to organize diaper drives.
- Accept financial donations of money and gift cards to purchase diapers for the pantry.
- If your church does not offer a food bank, partner with other churches or organizations to make diapers a part of their service by assisting in supplying their organization with diapers.
- For more resources on starting a diaper bank, use http://diaperbanknetwork.org/.
Church of 35 Members Offers VBS for 100
For the past four years, Trinity United Methodist Church in Giles County has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Pulaski to offer VBS to 100 kids. With an average attendance of 35 people, every church member is involved in creating the dynamic, summer experience for kids. Church members in their eighties serve alongside twenty-somethings to bring the event to life by teaching Bible stories, playing games and providing scrumptious meals at lunchtime. An astonishing 150 meals are prepared and served each day.
In addition to the food, faith and fun at VBS, each child receives a special Trinity UMC t-shirt bearing a picture that depicts the love of Christ. The shirt serves as a great reminder of the love the kids experienced at VBS and the love Jesus has for them everyday.
Many memories are made at the weeklong VBS, but perhaps one of the most special parts of the VBS is when church members create a “treasure trove” of yard sale items for the kids. Clothes, games, books, and other trinkets are displayed, and kids are given the opportunity to choose what they want. Most kids select a combination of clothing items and toys, offering thanks as they receive them.
The members of Trinity UMC have been blessed by their partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. They realized any important truth about offering Christ to a hurting world—no task is too great for a congregation when God is involved! As they look forward to VBS in 2015, the congregation is anticipating more kids and more blessings from God.
Community Arts Space Offers Hope and Healing
Artist Pam Santirojprapai creates art with a heart. As our artist in residence at Highland Heights United Methodist Church, Pam’s passion for creativity, people, and Jesus birthed a vibrant community arts space filled with paints and mixed mediums, ready for people to use for creative expression. Every Monday, Pam with the help volunteers, leads a two-hour art adventure where new and experienced artists embark on creative journeys surrounded by people who love and nurture their talents and souls.
As people make paintings and projects, they experience the love of Christ in a room full of inspiration. One morning, a mother arrived to paint a postcard for her incarcerated son. As she painted her card, the other members of her class were inspired to do the same. A short while later, the incarcerated man received a handmade, one-of-a-kind card from each member of the class. Moved to tears, the woman was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for her and her son. Seeing the impact of a simple hand-painted postcard, the class now sends hand-painted cards to anyone in the hospital, sick or shut-in.
While our artists discover their creative abilities, they find community and hope. One student, a homeless gentleman, learned to paint and began selling his paintings on a local street corner, gaining income and stability. Another group of students painted folding chairs for a recovery ministry for women while singing hymns. On Mondays that are holidays or during the summer, kids let their imaginations run free, making beaded jewelry and special cards for family members and friends. As they create in the house of the Creator, they meet new friends of all ages, seeing the Body of Christ at work.
God is at work through the ministry of the Art Room. The arts space has helped people discover hidden talents and heal brokenness through an environment of love and acceptance. Because of the powerful impact of the ministry on the community and church, we have asked the artists to design images and murals for our wooden fences and “barn.” Through this partnership, we hope the artists will feel valued, trusted, and part of our church community. Our goal is to express God’s love through the beauty of the arts for the whole neighborhood to experience. When you visit our church, you can see and feel God at work–building bridges and mending brokenness on this corner of his Kingdom. We are one of the 72, offering the love of Christ through art.
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