The Bible reads: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” — Romans 12:1.
One way to do such worship is to offer ministry via community outreach. Many area churches offer ways of spreading the gospel beyond attendance on Sunday mornings.
Ministry at hip height
Peace Lutheran Church in Grand Island offers several outreach ministry options. One of those options has four legs.
Eddie the comfort dog has been spreading ministry and well-being for seven years, all without saying a word. Eddie is part of the Lutheran Church Charities.
The Rev. Luke Biggs, the church’s senior pastor, said his church views the community in a unique light.
“We see ourselves not apart from the community, but as a part of the community,” Biggs said.
Eddie has provided comfort to people from all walks of life, he said, including those who are shut in, those in nursing facilities, and people in prison, where the church leads a Bible study on a regular basis.
Biggs said Eddie has been there to comfort people, no matter the situation.
“He has responded over the years, not only here in Nebraska, but also to people all over the country — those in floods, regional crises and many others,” he said.
The comfort dog only goes where he is invited, but he is known around the U.S.
Outside of Nebraska, Eddie has flown with his handlers to comfort members of communities affected by tragedies, including:
— Umpqua College shooting in Roseburg, Ore.
— Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
— Route 91 Concert shooting in Las Vegas.
— Santa Fe, Texas, high school shooting.
He has traveled to hurricane and flooding crises in Baton Rouge, La., and Houston, Texas. Eddie also went to Stillwater, Okla., to comfort people at Oklahoma State University in wake of the homecoming parade tragedy where a car drove into the crowd, causing many injuries and death.
His other travels include:
— Northrup, Minn., after a major fire in the community.
— Concordia, Mo., where two students drowned days before they were to graduate.
— Redding, Calif., after the recent Carr fire.
— Rural northern Minnesota after the death of a 10-year old who was hit by a car just as he was getting on his school bus.
Eddie has also been to many tragedies throughout Nebraska.
Clothing those in need
Another outreach program in Grand Island is “Mary’s Closet,” located at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Ann Baker runs the store at St. Mary’s. She said the idea of the closet came from a congregation member’s brainstorm.
“We had a member here who got the idea after doing a couple garage sales. She then talked Fr. Richard into starting a thrift store in the basement of the church,” Baker said.
Baker said donations come from all over.
“Our parishioners donate. People in the community, and Hope Harbor, have brought us a lot over the years as well.”
Money raised from Mary’s Closet goes to support both the cost of operating the church and the church’s missions in Haiti.
Baker said they do sell some furniture, but what they don’t accept for the store is given to someone else in need.
“I grab a couple of Friendship House guys and we pick it up. If we don’t want it or don’t have room, we will deliver to Hope Harbor, or to somebody in need at the Grandview Apartments. I also work with St. Leo’s Church because they may know someone in need.”
She said they also donate some furniture to the Central Nebraska Community Action Program.
Baker said the cold temperatures during the winter made the need for coats a little more prevalent earlier this year.
Mary’s Closet is located in the cathedral’s basement, accessed through the northwest door, and is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
The store will accept donations of clothing, small appliances, toys, home decorations and kitchenware. Furniture and large electronics will only be accepted by Baker. Volunteers are welcome to come and help any time.
If you have questions or want to volunteer, contact Baker at (308) 391-1527 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘A perks and a prayer’
First-Faith United Methodist Church in Grand Island offers outreach for your tastebuds with its Wednesday morning coffee drive-through.
This program started in early April.
The Rev. Dr. Trudy Kenyon Anderson, the church’s pastor, said the hope is just to get the word out, literally.
“We just want to get the name of the church out there,” Kenyon Anderson said.
She said they want to extend an invitation to anyone to attend the Wednesday morning free coffee drive-through. They offer both caffeinated and decaf cups of Joe.
The pastor said the church also has a sewing and quilting group that sews blankets for the WIC program.
Serving the community
The members of Messiah Lutheran Church are involved in several outreach programs.
Every Saturday from 4:30 to 6 p.m., the parishioners offer Saturday Supper to the community.
Brenda Kucera said this is an opportunity to serve the Lord through a big meal.
“This is a hearty, hot meal prepared and served at the church for anyone in need,” Kucera said.
The weekly attendance varies from 75 to 150. She invites anyone who wants to make a difference to help.
“We’re always in need of volunteers to help with serving the food, if you’d be interested in helping or seeing this outreach in person,” Kucera said.
She added they could use volunteer interpreters to help with some language barriers so nobody who needs their outreach is left out.
No matter the season, churches are looking to reach out through the year.