“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17, emphasis added).
These words of John serve as an accurate representation of a special ministry offered by Living Hope, Commerce City, Colo. The church’s Sharing Hope team provides food and necessities for those who have fallen on hard times.
Sharing Hope’s largest initiative is a monthly food bank that got its start during the height of the COVID pandemic. Josh Sternhagen, pastor at Living Hope, explains, “We hear stories of people laid off, of immigrants from Ukraine and the Caribbean who struggle to settle into life in the US, and of families with small children who struggle because of the cost of living.”
The food bank as well as Sharing Hope’s other initiatives provide an opportunity for volunteers to put the love of Christ into action.
Deb Ramsey is one of those volunteers. Deb, a member at Living Hope, serves as the coordinator for Sharing Hope. As a person who understands what it is like to struggle, Deb’s experiences as a young mom years ago have informed her vision for the organization’s food bank.
“I was a single mom, and I found myself in a situation where I needed help,” Deb explains. “I went to a church that advertised a food bank, but there were probably six pages of paperwork to fill out, and I was asked to commit to community service.”
This was not a one-time occurrence. Deb has since encountered multiple non-profit organizations that ask individuals to provide personal information before benefiting from the service provided. She explains, “It’s humiliating to tell someone what happened to you.” This is why Deb was adamant that individuals visiting Sharing Hope’s food bank would not be required to share their names, contact information, or any other personal details.
The congregation has uncovered a real need in its community. As inflation has driven up the cost of food, the number of people using the food bank has significantly increased. Each month, about 20 families—many of them quite large—come through the food bank. As it is able, Sharing Hope also provides help with clothing, bills, Christmas gifts, or “first night” backpacks for foster kids.
But the support given to the community does not end with material possessions. Sternhagen explains, “Meeting the physical needs of the people of Commerce City North has opened doors to meeting their spiritual needs as well. I have had several visits with those whom we have helped—opportunities for counseling and for praying. We are also developing a reputation as a compassionate church with the community.”
With the high demand for its resources, Sharing Hope is partnering with local businesses and the community so it can continue serving its neighborhood. The ministry is primarily supported by the offerings of Living Hope members. The congregation also recently received a grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief, which will help significantly in the coming year.
Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, commends Living Hope for its efforts in the community, “What a wonderful way to share the compassion of Christ with people who are struggling.” He says that it’s a great example of a congregational ministry of compassion, which can lead to opportunities to proclaim Christ’s love.
Learn more about starting a ministry of compassion in your community at wels.net/relief, including how your congregation can receive a Community Care and Compassion matching grant.
Volume 110, Number 8
Issue: August 2023