God’s Hand-Picked Messengers of Hope and Encouragement: How local church members are transforming one woman’s life, one week at a time through Open Table
“I feel as though God hand-picked my table members for me,” says Connie Doss, one of Cleveland’s first Sisters to benefit from Open Table. “In every situation, they show me that God is bigger,” she adds.
Before Open Table, God had already began transforming her life significantly. Years before, Doss found herself using drugs and alcohol, which eventually led to her spending time in a penitentiary. She then went to Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center for 10 months, and that’s where she says God got a deeper hold on her life.
Doss began attending Gateway West Church, a church partner for Laura’s Home, where she grew in her relationship with God. Soon afterward, she was baptized, started working on her GED, and began serving as a volunteer in the church’s ministry. Last year, Gateway Church recommended her for one of the first Open Table ministries to launch in Cleveland.
“When Pastor Dan (Ghramm, lead pastor of Gateway West Church), told me I’d be a good candidate for Open Table, I cried and thanked him,” says Doss. “I cried because I’m used to always receiving bad news, and at first, I thought I wasn’t worthy of something like this,” she added.
Her Table, led by members of Cuyahoga Valley Church, along with others from her own congregation, began meeting last summer. Since then, Table members have noticed significant changes in her life. “When we first started meeting as a table, Connie would keep her head down and was very reserved,” says Joe Haddad, Table Director for Doss’ Table. “She has really opened up, her faith in God has really grown, and that shows in her increased confidence and positive attitude.”
Doss admits it has been hard, at times, to keep making changes in her life. “There were times I wanted to quit, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me. I feel Him so strong through the prayers and friendship of my Table members.”
Her Table members have helped her with everything from her finances, to preparing to take her GED test, to encouraging her to maintain her vegetarian diet and healthy eating habits, to even collecting letters of support to attempt to have her record expunged. When asked what has been the most helpful thing her Table members have done for her, Doss simply responded, “I could probably give you 100 answers to that question.”
BHITC introduced Open Table, a national ministry model for transforming the lives of people in poverty through the power of relationships, to Northeast Ohio area churches, organizations and agencies in 2014. The Tables, consisting of 6 to 10 volunteers each, meet weekly and act as a team of life specialists, encouragers and advocates for people in poverty (referred to as “Brothers” or “Sisters” on the Table).