June 19, 2013

God at Work through Hands-On Love

Sometimes being the hands and feet of Christ requires blood, sweat, and tears. Sometimes it requires power tools! When the Werley and Mueller Riverside Life Groups decided to help an elderly disabled woman, they knew she needed more than a few meals and encouragement. One of the obstacles in her daily life was simply accessing her home safely. Her ramp was old and unstable. She traveled up it backwards in her wheelchair with great difficulty, afraid she’d end up falling backwards down the ramp should it collapse. Riverside Church partnered with The Heights Foundation and Home Depot to replace the old ramp. It was a big project, but together they had the funds, man-power, tools, supplies and know-how to get the job done. 

A member of the Werley Life Group, George McMahon played a big part in the project, not only on-site, but also behind the scenes. As with any building project, plans and permits all had to be in order. He recalls how timid the elderly lady was when he first approached her to review some of the project details. He’d been cautioned that she was very private, and he wanted to be sensitive to her hesitancy to have a dozen strangers working around her home. By the time the ramp was done, though, she had warmed up quite a bit, even sitting in the doorway watching and visiting with the crew.

Pastor Chris recalls how excited the woman was—and her family—to see so many people caring for her, doing the things she could not do for herself. Over the course of 4 days, the crew not only built the ramp, they did a ton of yard work, trimming trees and bushes, putting down bark, and even planting some decorative plants around the ramp. One of Pastor Chris' favorite moments was when he realized that Beth Morford from his own life group knew how to seriously handle a chainsaw! Not only did this project help the members of the Mueller life group learn more about each other, he feels it really helped bond the group. It felt good knowing they’d joined resources to help someone from whom they never expect anything in return.

Julie Workman attends Riverside Church and is also the Chief Advocacy Officer of The Heights Center, an impressive facility and resource dedicated to helping at-risk children in the community and strengthening families. According to the foundation’s website: The foundation is a grassroots, hands-on organization that celebrates the strength and diversity of the community and has the goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. Its work supports community development programs for individuals, students, and families, and provides charitable outreach projects in the community. Julie is so thankful these Riverside Life Groups chose to take on this outreach project, helping a very special woman in the Harlem Heights community, an area with twice the poverty rate of Lee County. Together the live group crew put in 140 hours on this project. “What a difference [they] made...truly loving and living like Jesus!” Soon after the completion of this project, through the encouragement of a close friend, Julie and her husband Matt joined a life group close to their home.

George says it was so gratifying watching the elderly lady come out of her shell a bit, going up and down her ramp with confidence. Pastor Chris is sure this is just one of many projects the Riverside Life Groups will be able to do with The Heights Foundation and looks forward to seeing how God will work in others' lives and in our own hearts as we continue to reach out to “the least of these” in our own communities.

Praise God for the funds Riverside Church was able to contribute and for inspiring people from our own life groups to be a part of caring for the less fortunate in a very necessary and tangible way. Praise God that He is bringing glory to His own name and strengthening the church body through hands-on-love.

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