by Alice N. Daniels
In his song “My Own Little World,” artist Matthew West swallows hard about living where things run smoothly and he never feels material want. A world where the population, he confesses, consists entirely of “me.”
Many of us have felt this same angst, and some volunteers from Durham, N.C., are doing something about it. Each Wednesday morning they open the doors of their church, Grey Stone Church, to welcome their neighbors. They are invited in and given a chance to share their burdens with volunteers whose hearts break for the things that break the heart of God. It’s all part of a dynamic ministry called Second Mile.
Since 1994, Second Milers have dedicated one day per week to providing emergency financial assistance and food to those in need. Clients submit past-due bills for rent or utilities, and a counselor works with the landlord or company representative to help the clients meet their financial obligations. With a sense of relief and a burden lifted, the clients then visit the church’s well-stocked food pantry for a bag of groceries.
Pastor Brian Barndt, who oversees the ministry, says,“A lot of folks we’re seeing haven’t had good days in along while. People with health problems, those who have lost their jobs, single moms — this can be challenging work.”
After just a few personal encounters, Second Milers realize how richly God can use them in their empty nest years.
THE TRUE ANSWER
The Second Mile volunteers know only God can satisfy our needs and the true answer to life’s problems is a relationship with Jesus Christ. This eternal perspective rubs off on their clients. One woman, who had been jobless for two years, sent the Second Mile team a thank-you letter and a check.
“I got a job in August,” she wrote, “and I promised God I would pay one month’s tithe to Second Mile for this blessing. Thank you for helping me and my family!”
A brokenhearted man sought help from the ministry when his son, a Duke University student,lost his life. Six months afterward,the father returned with$200 wadded up in his hands.“When I came here,” he said,“I just needed somebody to listen to me, and this is a small way to pay back what you did.”
This meeting of emotional and spiritual needs, as well as physical ones, is patterned after Jesus’ holistic way of healing. Brian believes this is a unique opportunity for Boomers to stand with people in their pain and sorrow.
“It’s where the Lord has placed us,” he says. “Every week I get to see the kingdom of God in action.”
RICH IN DEED
Before getting face to face with those in need, some volunteers“thought we handed clients a bag of food and a tract and pushed them out the door,”ministry director Linda Herring recalls. However, after just a few personal encounters, Second Milers realize how richly God can use them in their empty-nest years.
Volunteer Rollin Burhans describes counseling a young woman who needed assurance of her salvation. He reminded her of the truth of Scripture,and it was such a powerful experience that tears of joy began to flow. Rollin says, “Over and over again, she expressed how much more this little session meant than the financial aid she received. She left with joy in her heart; God had truly liberated her spirit.”
Those who serve Second Mile also have learned through life experiences that God is in control, not them. Patience is an important aspect of the ministry.“Most of us struggle with a ‘we want it now’ mindset,”Linda admits. “But God is teaching us to do our part, and He is faithful to do His.”
Randall Floyd, education pastor at Grey Stone, sees the ministry as a way for volunteers to fulfill the Great Commission.“It’s part of our Acts 1:8 mission: This is our Jerusalem,” he states.
Every needy individual who walks through the doors of Grey Stone each Wednesday leaves a rich person — because Second Mile is not simply feeling good about handing someone $100 and a bag of groceries; it’s about giving people hope.
And the lesson Second Milers have learned is one all of us should embrace: Take seriously Christ’s words in Matthew 5:41,“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” By taking this path, we will see our population grow from “me” to a Christ-like more.
Alice N. Daniels is a teacher and writer with a passion for global missions.