Celebrating What We Can Do, Not What We Can’t

| November 18th, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

On the first Sunday of every month after sharing in communion together, you often hear one of our pastors inviting you to give a second offering to our John 3:16 Benevolence Fund. If you wonder what that fund is or how it’s used, you wouldn’t be the first! I want to use this week’s letter to you to talk a bit about our Benevolence Fund and how it’s used to help folks with financial need, in particular because we’ve used it a good bit as of late!

Sometimes when people come by the church house, they’re in need of prayer, or simply someone to listen lovingly and compassionately to the circumstances of their lives. Pastors can do this, of course, but any of us can! 

Sometimes folks come seeking food assistance, in which case we pass along a bag of shelf-stable food and water so lovingly packed by our youth! If you’re at the church house and encounter someone needing food, please ask an usher, greeter, or pastor to show you where these bags are located! We’re delighted to serve our neighbors in this way.

Sometimes folks need assistance beyond what we can provide, in which case we offer a broad spectrum of information about our missions partners located nearby which can! For reasons such as these, we partner with organizations like Crisis Control Ministries, Samaritan Ministries, City with Dwellings, Habitat for Humanity, the Shalom Project, you name it!

But most often, people come seeking financial assistance of some kind. While we’re not equipped to offer financial assistance on a Sunday, we encourage anyone who comes outside of church office hours (particularly on Sundays!) to come back or call the church office during the week to explain their need. When folks call the office, one of our staff members (most often Sally or Olena!) records their information and explains the process by way we can offer financial assistance from the John 3:16 Benevolence Fund. Intended to meet immediate, urgent needs (food, clothing, shelter, emergencies) for our most vulnerable neighbors and members experiencing a crisis, the John 3:16 Benevolence Fund is administered by our pastoral staff, with occasional input from our Missions Committee or Deacon chair. 

So that we can help the most people possible, we offer to help each person one time a year up to a certain dollar amount. The pastoral staff reviews these requests in our Wednesday staff meetings, and then checks are cut directly to the biller and available for pick up or mailing in the week ahead. Priority is given for our closest neighbors in downtown Winston-Salem (particularly those at Crystal Towers) and for needs related to housing (like rent, mortgage assistance, and utility bills). Oftentimes this means paying several months’ rent, or a water bill, or a medical bill. It’s a joy to be able to help folks in a real moment of need, and as our staff reviews them, we pray for each person whose name comes before us.

Because specific needs like these are handled confidentially, it’s important still to celebrate the gift of being able to say ‘yes’ to one in crisis, a gift that the John 3:16 Benevolence Fund allows us to do. In just the past three months, we’ve extended over $15,000 of financial assistance to our neighbors, staving off eviction, keeping the lights on, giving them the hope of a new apartment after domestic violence, and offering hope and healing along the way. (Should you desire to contribute to the Fund beyond what we do on the first Sunday of the month, you can do so here.)

A few hundred dollars here or there might feel like a drop in the bucket given the enormity of need around us. Yet it matters to each one. Undoubtedly! David reminded us this week of our friend, Lori Carter’s, perspective on these funds: “celebrate what you can do, not what you can’t do!”

For the gift of the John 3:16 Benevolence Funds, the small gifts of dollars and cents that add up to make a huge impact, and the gifts of the people who find hope from its use, thanks be to God!

Together in God’s work of Love,
Pastor Emily