From the mission field:
We received a thank you letter from our friends at Room In The Inn. Having just completed the season, we are told that 199 congregations across the Nashville area participated, making it easily the most ecumenical effort in Nashville. 7,000 volunteers provided 29,900 shelter beds, 86,000 meals, and 137,000 volunteer hours served. Our congregation provided 212 shelter beds, 424 meals, and 900 volunteer hours. Mike Voyles and Andy Braswell have been our Room In The Inn leaders for several years, and we are truly grateful to them for their leadership and compassion.
As I write this on Sunday morning, a crew of 20 plus folks from our church are working on a Habitat For Humanity house. This is a mission our church has been involved with for decades. You are probably aware that Habitat partners with deserving families who not only pay for these homes, but also have “skin” in the game by providing “sweat equity:” meaning that they assist in building their home. Our church provides not only the “human power” to help build the house, but we also help provide the funding to build the home. Brian Sipple has been our “straw boss” for these builds lately, and we are in debt to him for his guidance.
And then there was Cuba. You may recall that we collected medicine and eyeglasses for our partner church in Cuba, Vedado Methodist Church. What we didn’t realize was how difficult it was going to be getting these items into Cuba. You see, as a communist nation, the Cuban government has strict guidelines about what can enter the country. We learned last year with our team that any attempt to bring bulk items into the country (i.e. shoes, clothes, etc.) would be seen as an attempt to start a business which the government would not allow.
We collected nearly 200 pounds of over-the-counter medication and vitamins. Our intent was to locate a company that could ship these items into Cuba. However, we found that none of the companies we contacted could accommodate us for fear of damaging their own relationship with the Cuban government. And so a choice had to be made: find a new destination for the medication or take our chances by smuggling it into the country.
Reb Ferrell and I packed up two suitcases filled with the medication. I also packed a carry-on with eyeglasses, toothbrushes and such. We flew into Cuba a couple of weeks ago. I had done some research; it seemed the worst that could happen would be the medication could be confiscated. Even with that prospect, we knew that eventually Cubans would benefit from the medication so we felt it worth the risk.
Upon arrival, my carry-on was scanned, and I was pulled from the line and taken to different area where I was detained for a while and questioned. They found the eyeglasses and toothbrushes and informed me that I was only allowed to bring 5 of each into the country. They wrote up a lengthy report on me. However, they never asked to look into my luggage that was right beside me while all this was going on.
So the good news was I wasn’t arrested and the medication, all of it, made its way to the Vedado church. Their pastor, Lester Fernandez, tells me that a physician in his congregation is distributing the medication as needed.
There are many places for you to plug into a mission effort here. Every month we support Community Care Fellowship and Loaves and Fishes, two missions that help the poor in East Nashville. Our partnership with the local schools in our neighborhood, Hillwood High School, H.G. Hill Middle School and Gower Elementary, provide numerous opportunities to serve. And one of our Sunday School classes has begun a hunger effort in partnership with the West Precinct of the Metro Police on the west side of town; you’ll hear more about that later and ways you can participate.
This is church. This is what we do.