Baked goods and Good News
One of the shoppers asks for a Bible. Minister A.J. Snively is happy to oblige. He opens God’s Word and points to a few specific verses.
The church, like so many across the nation, suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendance is about 100 on a good Sunday, Snively says. This room, the fellowship hall, has served as its meeting place since a fire in March damaged the auditorium.
That hasn’t slowed the giveaways or the church’s Magi gift box efforts.
Baptisms have resulted through the church’s community outreach, Snively says, but the church still struggles to grow numerically.
But maybe it’s not about numbers, he adds. Maybe it’s about answering Jesus’ call to “give to anyone who (has) need” as the church described in Acts 2 did. Maybe it’s about modeling generosity for the church’s children, including his own boys, who often spend their Tuesday afternoons running around the fellowship hall, helping out.
Despite its attendance, the church is well known in Brighton. Everyone seems to be aware of “the church that does the giveaways,” Snively said. That’s why they can clear the building of untaken items and still have stacks and stacks to offer next week. People bring their donations to the building constantly. A nearby Panera donates baked goods so that the shoppers can break bread together and take some home for their families.
During the brief devotional, Simmons takes prayer requests from the shoppers. One woman asks for healing for her legs. Another says that her daughter, who lost her job during the pandemic, has found a new one. The congregation applauds. A third says that her best friend just lost her mom.
Simmons prays for them all, asking God for healing and for blessings upon all who have gathered on this wet Tuesday afternoon.
“We know, Father, that without you in our lives, that our lives would be void. They’d be empty. They’d be dry.”
A gift for a princess
As the shoppers collect their bags and return to the cold, the volunteers gather the unclaimed clothing for shipment to its next destination. Among them is Simmons’ 67-year-old daughter, Sandy. She lives in a small town near Harrison, Michigan, about 150 miles north of Brighton, but she makes the drive whenever she can to help with the giveaways.
As the temperature drops, she expects to see more homeless visitors here. The volunteers have a procedure for that, too.
“I’ll say, ‘Follow me,’ and I’ll hook them up with boots and shoes and socks and underwear,” Sandy Simmons says. “Then we’ll go to the bedding, get them a pillow if we have one or sleeping bags, hopefully a suitcase with wheels or some backpacks. …
“Hang on,” she says, interrupting herself. She pulls a blue Cinderella snow globe from the box of Christmas decorations before it’s carted outside. She presses a button, and snow flurries spin around the plastic princess as music plays.
“I’ve gotta find someone to give this to,” she says, walking across the room as the globe continues its twinkly tune: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King.”
She hands it to a young Somali girl sitting on a church pew. The girl stares at the gift, confused, and looks up at her mother, who smiles and leans close.
“Christmas,” her mother whispers.
This piece is republished from The Christian Chronicle with permission.