“Faith” is believing in something you can’t see. Walk by faith, not by sight. These sayings have never been more true for me than the last few months. I have had the honor of serving through Asbury’s Faith in Action ministry, which provides financial assistance for people in need in our backyard of Shelby County. I rarely see these people we help; I only talk to them over the phone. Faith guides me on how to assist each one. The Holy Spirit leads me in each and every conversation, prayer, and decision made.
Faith in Action primarily helps families with utility bills or gas cards, or the homeless with a temporary place to stay. Someone in need comes by the church office almost daily, and most days there are many. Their stories are similar, and most of those in need are just like you and me; they have lost jobs, or have fallen ill, or have very sick children. Sometimes it is hard to decide to what degree we will provide assistance. I ask God to guide me with every situation.
When I think of all the countless people Asbury has served through Faith in Action, one stands out. A lady needed help paying her water bill. Before I called her, I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to help her more than our normal guidelines suggest. She had fallen behind and her water had been turned off. In our conversation, she said, “I am going to be honest with you. I have been making it without the water. I have a neighbor who has allowed me to walk to her house each day and get buckets, pans, whatever, full of water and bring it to my house to use. I have been doing this everyday, but I just don’t think I can do it anymore.”She told me it was particularly hard on her sixteen year-old daughter who lived with her. She had never asked for help, and wanted to get back on track without asking anyone. She said she just was at her breaking point. How quickly I would have broken if I walked in her shoes. I told her we would pay in full to have her water turned back on – but, on that Friday, after checking, I learned that it couldn’t be restored until Monday. I hated knowing she would have to go through the weekend without water but she didn’t mind; instead, she sung praises to God. She said, “A few more days is nothing. I am just relieved to know it will be back on.” As we ended our discussion, I happened to ask how long she had been without water: “May was a year ago.” It had taken 14 months for this sweet lady to reach her breaking point – of carrying water from a neighbor’s house to cook, to clean, to bathe, to brush her teeth and to take care of her teenage daughter. Wow! I knew then why God was leading me to help her a little more.
I learned from her. She showed me how faith in God always works. She showed me the tremendous needs right herein our church’s yard. She showed me how much I take everyday luxuries for granted. And she showed me how Asbury UMC makes a difference by putting our faith in action. Thanks to all of you we are able to demonstrate faith to those in need and show them the love of Jesus.
Gina McIntyre, member, Asbury UMC
Asbury’s Missions in Action Committee has a wonderful program to help those in need outside the church: Faith in Action (“FIA”). FIA provides one-time assistance with a bill or a need to one experiencing financial difficulties. FIA has paid utility bills to prevent disconnects — sometimes on the very day cut-off is scheduled, it has prevented families from being evicted, and it has rendered aid to those sick or disabled who have fallen behind. Some of the many lives touched that stand out to me: assisting a mother with sickle cell disease recovering from surgery and facing eviction; numerous cancer patients who have fallen behind due to extreme medical expenses; and a young woman who had been burned in a house fire and was hospitalized — she got a call while in the hospital that her car was going to be repossessed because she had missed two payments, and FIA helped her with a car payment and she was able to return to work after some recovery from her burns.
Many grandparents are having to raise their grandchildren, while living on fixed incomes, and never planned on bringing up children at that stage in life. One grandmother that FIA assisted with her power bill is raising three grandchildren that were abandoned by their mother; one of them is autistic and has had to have multiple surgeries as well. When I met them, they were about to lose their electricity and had almost no food in the house. FIA stepped up.
I feel Faith In Action is such an important part of Asbury and what our church is about. It truly ministers to “the least of these” as Christ commanded — and does it in a way that shows love and respect. I think about the times when we are about to take communion and Pastor Kip says that this is not a Methodist table, and that you don’t have to be a member of this church or any church to partake. That is what FIA does for people. Most that come in and apply are broken and hurting, and our church helps them without judgment. The easy part is having a check written to solve the financial problem. The more pressing issues for me are to show compassion to all who need help and to be willing to listen to their stories. Many situations are heartbreaking; I often don’t always have an answer. However, I remind each one that God loves them, and offer to pray with them. I also invite them to church and Wednesday night dinner.
FIA works hand in hand with the Asbury food pantry, Asbury Angels food program, Wednesday night dinner, ACT Ministry, and Oak Mountain Ministries to provide for the needs of the applicants. We have Wal-Mart cards and gas cards for those in immediate need. I have worked with FIA for some time; it is such a gift to be able to tell someone that they won’t lose their electricity or gas, and that we are so glad to be able to help them. It has blessed me in so many ways to have the opportunity to meet and assist the many people Asbury has helped. I promise you that it is hard to focus on yourself and your own problems while you are involved in helping others! FIA is a blessing to those who are assisted, and Asbury is truly blessed to have the financial resources to make it all possible. It is a program that truly makes a difference in so many ways.
Pam Ottaway, member, Asbury UMC
Every day several people (10 or more) call the church office asking for help with things like power bills, gas bills, water bills, etc. Our rules require they live in Shelby County and have been not helped by Asbury before. We always ask. Then we tell them to come into the office, bring their bill along with a picture ID and fill out a form for us. It is my privilege to talk to these people on the phone and in person. Many don’t say very much, just that they need help. Some are very open and tell me why they are in the situation that they are in. I collect their information and forward it to a member of the Faith In Action committee who looks at it, gives them a call, assesses each situation and makes a decision about how much we can pay. Normally, that amount is between $100 an d $200. When their bills are higher than we can pay we give them a card which list other agencies who partner with us.
One of my best memories is of a man we assisted who came back to the office with some cash in his hand to give back for our help. We told him that is was not necessary and even had Rev. Greg Foust talk to him. He was insistent that he was raised to give back when you have received. We took his donation, he felt he had done the right thing and we were truly blessed.
Sometimes people also need groceries and we refer them to the Asbury Food Pantry. Sometimes they just need to be around people so we invite them to Wednesday Night Dinner at Asbury. The Food Pantry is open Wednesdays from 2 until 3:30 PM. It is located in one of the modular buildings in the back of the church closest to Doug Baker Blvd. Families may come every other week to receive food.
In 2013 we assisted more than 300 people through Faith In Action. I was privileged to speak to most of those. Almost every day my life is touched by someone through this ministry. I see hurt, I see smiles, I see tears and sometimes I even get a hug!
Karen Kirkpatrick, Asbury staff member