As followers of Christ, we need to constantly be on the lookout for ways we can make a difference in our communities. Being “salt and light” requires a vigilance that involves creativity and commitment. Consider some of the following as avenues to be salt and light where you live.
Graffiti Be Gone
Graffiti decreases property values and many times goes unchecked in our communities. Check with local law enforcement to see if you can enlist volunteers to throw a graffiti clean-up party. Concentrate on one area at a time so you will see tangible results from your efforts. Gather buckets, scrub brushes, sandpaper, hoses, etc. The project may require special permission so be sure you investigate that type of requirement ahead of time.
Many cities have community gardens. Abandoned lots can be turned into a garden by a group of volunteers armed with seeds, tools and muscle. Again, check with City Hall to see if a permit is required. Enlist neighborhood residents to get involved as they will be responsible for maintaining the garden. Hopefully, relationships in the area will grow along with the garden!
Upgrade a Local Park
If there is a neglected park in your community, how about planting some colorful flowers, weeding and upgrading its appearance? Be sure to receive permission to do these things before publicizing the project. Replace bark, rake leaves, weed, replant flowers, screen sticks and broken glass out of sandboxes; repaint hopscotch patterns, repair fences, etc. Local businesses are good sources for financial donations to help you tackle this project. Often the money is available but man-power is missing.
When cold weather arrives, homeless individuals often struggle to stay warm. Collect blankets, coats and other warm clothing for them. Businesses may be willing to donate funds toward the purchase of new blankets. The most frequently requested items are rain-ponchos and socks. Some churches publicize they are going to make a “blanket run” and receive donations on a certain day. Deliver items to local homeless shelters for distribution. If your church is small, network with organizations already in place rather than “reinventing the wheel” with your limited resources.
Holiday Visits to Hospitalized Children
Some holidays are excellent times to visit children in hospitals to bring them some cheer. Halloween could be a time of costumes and delivering treats (not necessarily sweets) to young patients. Singing Christmas carols, taking small gifts of coloring books, etc. in December may be just what a family needs when a child is ill during that season. Visit and pray with the parents and follow through with other contacts later to continue to encourage them.
Ruth gleaned wheat from Boaz’s fields. While not something we usually think about, orchard owners and truck gardens may be places willing to donate leftover fruit and vegetables for distribution to food ministries. Groups willing to do the picking/harvesting may be surprised at the amount of food that would otherwise go to waste. It never hurts to ask!
When your community faces a crisis, where does it turn? Will it be aware your church is even there? A church that reaches out to minister to its community creates a place in people’s memory. When tragedy strikes, that memory comes back and there is another opportunity to minister at a time when people are receptive to God’s love as demonstrated by His people.