Transforming the SERVING as well as the SERVED
Sending mission teams out to unfamiliar locations to provide relief or share God’s Word can be an inspiring experience for churches. Those who participate often return with a renewed sense of purpose for their lives that’s contagious.
Grace CMA Church, located in Middleburg Heights, knows this to be true. The congregation has long been known for sending many short-term teams and missionaries overseas. However, a blossoming new partnership with BHITC has opened for Grace a new mission field opportunity for its members: the city.
The relationship between Grace and BHITC began more than four years ago when the church’s Missions Pastor, Jim Hicks, sensed he was being led to pursue new local opportunities for mission and service. “It says in the book of Acts, ‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,’ and I felt this nudge from God that we needed to be more involved in our ‘Jerusalem’ – Cleveland,” says Hicks.
That “nudge” from God has led to Grace in the City, weekend mission trips into urban Cleveland for Grace Church members with BHITC as their guide. To date, nearly 100 of the church’s members have since taken part!
While serving on a Grace in the City weekend, church members are introduced to all the needs – physical, spiritual and emotional – of those in the city. Grace Senior Pastor, Jonathan Schaeffer says, “We want as many people as possible to experience the needs of our city, and to gain a vision for what the Body of Christ is doing – and what more they can do – to be salt and light.”
Chuck Anderson, a member of Grace who has participated in a weekend, says he saw needs and plenty of opportunities for ministry. “All of our society’s problems are magnified in the city, which means it’s a great place to be used by God as His messengers of hope,” says Chuck, who now organizes a monthly service opportunity for Grace in the City “alumni” to continue serving in the city.
Loretta Stiles knew she wanted to join in on a weekend as soon as the opportunity became available. She says, “Most missions are about going overseas, but there’s so much we can do right here in our own backyard.”
Pastor Schaeffer agrees. “It would be a travesty to leapfrog our local communities to serve in faraway places. We believe the heart of Jesus encompasses places and people both near and far,” he adds.
A great benefit for participants in Grace in the City is a deepening of their understanding of God’s love and mission, especially among people who are different culturally and socio-economically. “I do not know exactly what my presence did for anyone I encountered each time I participated, but I know that each weekend changed me,” says Pat Massey, a member of Grace Church, who has also served on BHITC’s church planting team in Cleveland’s Westown neighborhood and in other BHITC service projects in Cleveland.
That’s the ultimate vision for the partnership between Grace and BHITC. Pastor Jim Hicks sums it up this way, “Through our church’s involvement, we pray that real transformation would take place – for those who serve and those who are served. That’s what it’s all about.”
Interested in developing a weekend mission trip for your congregation? Contact BHITC’s Amy Mitchell to learn more at (216) 281-4673.