Christmas on Lake Street
By NMC - December 17, 2015
Posted in Partnerships, Stories from NMC
What began as a large pile of cardboard turned into a giant stack of 300 assembled boxes overtaking a corner of the Grand Hall on a Monday afternoon. The following Sunday, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, grandmas and grandpas took those boxes home to fill them with gifts for another family. For the next week and a half people returned colorfully wrapped, filled boxes to the Grand Hall, reminding everyone of NMC’s mission. On a foggy December morning, a group of people transferred the stack to a moving truck headed to Gary, Indiana. At their destination, teams took the boxes to the neighborhood, knocking on doors and offering a simple gift: a box of food for their family.
A dream forged over 10 years ago has now flourished into an incredible partnership and ministry tool for The Revolution Church in Gary. It’s a tangible example of people helping people and offering gifts during this Christmas Season. To the people of NMC, these boxes are known as the Gary Food Box initiative. To the people of the Revolution church, this Saturday is only the beginning of a weekend filled with fellowship with those in their community. About five years ago, Ryan Flemming and his team decided create an addition to the food boxes known as Christmas on Lake Street.
As Ryan and his team debriefed the food box initiative one year, they discussed the many benefits of meeting people at their homes, of knocking on their doors and entering into their space. At the same time, they didn’t see those same people connecting with the church in ways they’d hoped for. When one church member mentioned the idea of hosting a Christmas dinner at The Revolution Church, the connection became obvious. Giving the boxes initiated a conversation on Saturday, and they hoped a Christmas dinner would allow people to engage with the church on Sunday. It made the church building a safe and inviting place for people to come as they are, and it made the food box initiative an even better relational tool.
By meeting felt needs, a natural door can open as Ryan and his team share the gospel with those who come. In a community with both racially and economically diverse people, this event helps bridge the gap as they are served by over 25 volunteers.
These volunteers begin work in late summer and kick it into high gear in mid-fall. Right after Thanksgiving, they pull together to clean and decorate the church. Their hours of service aren’t finished until the end of the night when the last chair is stacked and table folded. Their goal isn’t to provide a soup kitchen experience; rather, they are inviting people into their space, their “home.”
The sanctuary transforms into a dining room filled with long tables where families and individuals can sit to enjoy their meal. Through the partnership of other organizations, The Revolution is able to provide the best possible food and personal service. When people come in, they are greeted by Ryan and Johanna, and ushers take them to their seats. As people eat, kids get coloring sheets and music plays in the background. This year, free family pictures we offered as a way of serving people in an unexpected way. Toward the end of the night, all other activities come to a close as Ryan shares the Gospel and passes out gifts to the children.
Over the years, Ryan and the people of The Revolution have witnessed many stories of impact through Christmas on Lake Street. Often times people step into the church who would never come to a Sunday service. Last year a man came in with a terrible attitude. Ryan made it his mission to see his attitude change and was amazed when God used a good meal to soften the man’s heart. By the time Ryan served him dessert, the man was smiling and freely engaging with him. As they pass out gifts each year, Ryan also loves to look around at the kid’s faces. It’s not about giving a toy. It’s about communicating love to both the child and the parents through a simple gift.
Because of the actions of The Revolution Church, they are making an impact in Gary’s community. Through the partnership of NMC, we have the chance to come alongside their mission. Thanks, NMC for partnering with The Revolution Church. The impact of this partnership and of The Revolution Church will never be fully known!