By Bradley Robertson
When we think of missions, we often think outside of our own borders. Places like Haiti, Honduras and Uganda. I have been on these mission trips, and they will change you forever. Seeing another’s homeland and how they do life is bound to do that. I love mission trips, but it has taught me the value of mission in my own homeland.
The greatest of missions can take place within our own communities. Where we are serving our neighbors and giving our time to people in our own backyards.
A local Sunday School class at First United Methodist Church of Opelika began their own mission project a little more than a year ago. The class agreed they wanted one central idea to devote their time and service to. One that would continue year to year and continue to make a lasting impact in Lee County.
This was the beginning of “Clothed with His Love.” The vision was a mobile clothes closet for school-aged children that would also serve the purpose of sharing the love of Christ. The idea was to be able to pop up in different areas of the community and allow families to shop.
After taking time with the details and gathering donations, the team was set for their first distribution on Nov. 3 of last year. During this inaugural mission, the pop-up closet served more than 100 children for the Esperanze House organization.
Following this success, and with the support of church funds, “Clothed with His Love” was official, and a trailer was purchased to store materials and serve as the traveling closet.
Stacey Jordan, a leader in the mission, said, “we were also given monies to help buy new underwear and socks for the children, as well as snacks and waters that we give out during distribution.”
With the purchase of a new trailer and an organized system, the second distribution date was set for May 4.
“We passed out flyers at bus stops,” Jordan said. “And delivered clothes behind Midway Plaza in Opelika. This distribution too was a huge success.”
What makes this mission unique, and was evident at the second project, is the ability of team members’ children to join in the efforts as well. Parents serving can include their children to be helping hands, but also to play with the kids and enjoy the company of everyone involved.
Kids were seen playing kickball and simply hanging out and being kids together. Adults were serving, helping parents shop, checking out items and passing out waters and snacks to anyone that came along.
A valuable piece to this mission is the time spent learning about others and reaching into a new community in a space that is outside of our norm. Yes, serving is the goal, and yes, loving our neighbor is a given, but when you choose to step into someone else’s territory, completely different than our own, we are reaching into their life. It’s like showing up and saying, “Hey. I don’t know anything about you.
But I’m here. How can we love you?”
We seldom leave the comforts of ourselves to reach out to someone else. We like our safety zones. Our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches and our friends. But how do we grow to serve the world if we can’t grow out of our own space?
I’m certain God’s world isn’t made up of people just like me. It’s made up of everyone. So how then will we learn who God is if we can’t learn about all of His people?
The third and most recent distribution took place on Oct. 5. The traveling closet opened just behind Carver Primary School, and 441 pieces of clothing were distributed.
“We still have enough inventory left that we are hoping to organize another location later this season,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, it will be cooler, and people will actually want to get coats and fall and winter clothing.”
Local missions go far beyond just service – it is the beginning of building relationships and fostering human connection. We all long for that, to be noticed and to be loved by the world around us.
Through this mission, the team has met a young boy and his father who have home needs that the class has been able to assist with, such as a new refrigerator. They have helped to make a few minor home repairs, and the boy has been attending church activities as well as a tutoring session offered by the church.
A pastor once reminded me that church on Sunday is meant to recharge our batteries so we can take our faith and action outside the church walls, where real discipleship begins. There’s no greater time than now to step out and into the lives of those who need to see God at work.
“Clothed with His Love” is currently looking for a location to set up within in the next few weeks. If you want to learn more about this mission or to assist, contact Jordan at email@example.com.
Bradley Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as southern culture and lifestyle writing.