In 2001, my husband and I moved to a small Midwestern town in central Ohio to plant a Vineyard church. The population of the town is just under 11,000 people. Main Street is made up of beautiful homes with well-manicured lawns. The town square has boutiques, antique stores, and coffee shops. The churches are plentiful and well attended.
When we decided to plant a church there, many people asked us, “Why? We have plenty of churches already here!” To be honest, I had the same question. I argued with God, saying, “Why here? This is a lovely little town with friendly people, most of whom already attend a church.”
When that didn’t change God’s mind, I came at it from another angle: “God, what about the cities? We are surrounded by much larger communities. You know they have more people, right?”
Despite my best efforts at talking God out of this idea, we continued to sense the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit saying, “Here. Right here is where you plant.” So we did.
As we established ourselves in the community, we discovered that just a few streets south of our picturesque Main Street were the ugly realities of brokenness, addiction, and poverty.
Our twin daughters were only in kindergarten for a few weeks when they started coming home with troubling stories. Around the dinner table each night, we heard about various classmates. One cried every day when it was time to go home because he liked being at school better than being at home. Another was so hungry he was stealing food from the teacher’s lunch to share it with his siblings.
Rather than being defeated by the bigness of the needs surrounding us, we chose to press in and do what we could with the resources we had.
The stories of hungry kids, homeless kids, kids without the basic necessities to withstand the harsh Midwestern winters went on and on and on. The needs were high and our resources were limited. Our church of under one hundred people, many of whom were struggling themselves, could do very little to help those around us. But we could do something. Rather than being defeated by the bigness of the needs surrounding us, we chose to press in and do what we could with the resources we had.
For example, we purchased blankets and donated them to the homeless shelter. We collected non-perishable items for the food bank. We volunteered at the soup kitchen and encouraged our volunteers to not just serve the food but to get out from behind the counter and interact.
Did we eradicate hunger in that town? No. Did we solve the addictions and the brokenness? No. Did we even move the needle on the poverty gauge in our small community? Probably not.
But we did do something.
The call is to obedience even in the small things.
As is often the case when we walk with Jesus, his call is not to solve, fix, eradicate, or entirely unravel the problems we see around us. Instead, the call is to obedience even in the small things. Jesus calls us to follow his example of reaching out to the marginalized, the addicted, and the broken. We are called to obey even when we can’t see anything changing despite our efforts.
Will we ever solve all of the social issues we see around us? I don’t think so, but we can be obedient and respond to the needs right in front of us. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
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Vicki Esh is the Associate Pastor of Vineyard Church of Marysville, Marysville, Ohio. Prior to this position, she planted in the small town of Urbana, Ohio as well as in the inner city of Reading, Pennsylvania. She and her husband, Conrad, are raising their 3 teenage daughters in their adopted home town of Marysville. Vicki enjoys strong coffee, dark chocolate, and long conversations. When no one is looking, she kisses her Goldendoodle, Junia.