The Witness of Partnership
By Carl Stagner
More and more congregations are recognizing the value of service projects. Not only do community service and missions projects address real needs among us, but they also demonstrate the love of a Savior. The witness of service projects often says a lot more about who Christ is than a tract or a sermon does. When a church partners with community organizations and individuals to accomplish a task, those organizations and individuals also witness the power of Christ’s love. Highland Park Community Church in Casper, Wyoming, partnered with local organizations, schools, and residents who recognized the great need. The recipients of more than 200,000 meals observed the hands and feet of Christ, but the community of Casper also saw what the love of God can do.
To meet their goal of 200,000 packed meals for the hungry in Nicaragua, the church needed 775 volunteers. Nearly five hundred volunteers showed up from the church, but the project “was promoted as a Casper community event,” says Pat Potter, volunteer coordinator for the early October service project. Nearly all of the remaining positions were filled by organizations such as the Rotary Club, Casper College, and the National Honor Societies from Casper high schools.
In 2011, Highland Park hosted the same service project and packed 151,000 meals. “Last year,” Potter reflects, “I needed 521 volunteers. This year, I needed 775.” Not only did the church recognize the value of this service project, but the community also recognized the great good that could be accomplished by working with Highland Park. “I had no problem getting volunteers this year,” she says. “We had 108 people walk in the front door who had not signed up at all. Following the project, everybody walked out with a smile, and many were saying, ‘Can we do this again?’”
Highland Park has a recent history of sending work teams to Nicaragua. The fact that so many in the church have witnessed the country’s needs firsthand made this project one to remember. Potter explains, “Our people were there and saw the poverty, talked to the teachers who said the kids can’t learn right because of lack of nourishment, and visited with those who can’t feed their family on little income.”
Potter describes the atmosphere on that day as “electrifying.” As volunteers poured the various ingredients into each package, they chanted, cheered, and hollered in a spirited display of healthy competition. Each table worked as a team, and each worked to pack as many meals as possible. When all was said and done, Highland Park sent 234,164 meals, as well as a massive shipping crate filled with linens, clothing, school supplies, pots and pans, bicycles, chairs, and filing cabinets, to the needy in Nicaragua. With the help of community partners, Highland Park got the job done, and everyone who participated witnessed the love of Christ in action.