by David Bounds
When the Lord Jesus commissioned the early disciples to be His witnesses, He not only intended them to go around the world but also across the street to their Jerusalem. Jesus never intended His followers to stay within the confines of the church building. He envisioned a church without walls.
Menchville Baptist Church in Newport News is seeking to be such a church. Pastor Jim Weston had a unique vision to reach the community—a vision with three purposes:
MEET a heartfelt need, INVOLVE as many members as possible, and IMPACT the community.
From this desire came an evangelistic emphasis to reach the first responders of their city.
For two days last August 800 gift bags were delivered to every Newport News police officer, firefighter, EMT, and 911 dispatcher by Menchville’s church members, who prayed with and for the recipients they met. These were moments of great encouragement for those who lay their lives down daily to protect and serve their community.
The project began months before with hundreds of members of Menchville working as a team to prepare for the community event. There were those who donated items or money to purchase items. There were those who stuffed gift bags with gum, bottled water, applesauce, nabs, cookies, raisins, Mentos, candy bars, Cheez-It crackers, a granola bar, tissues, and a business card that included the church’s information and a Bible verse. There were also those who delivered the gift bags.
Having policemen and firemen within the congregation proved helpful in gaining access to reach the community’s first responders.
The recipients could not have been more grateful. The chief of police and fire chief each sent a special letter of thanks for Menchville’s kindness and support. One precinct even sent a thank-you card signed by all of the officers. There were also Facebook posts from grateful hearts, including the following:
Thank you, Menchville Baptist Church, for taking time out of your day and dropping off a bag of thanks to all of the officers. They also shared a prayer with us asking God to provide wisdom and safety to us. Their love and support are greatly appreciated in light of the current state of our nation and the misguided few who wish to make war against society and its police. Thanks again and God bless you Menchville Baptist!
Menchville Baptist Church stopped by the station today to pray for us and to drop off a goody bag for every detective/officer. My bag is looking a little light due to me emptying out all the chocolate. Wouldn’t want that to melt. Thanks ladies!
The effects of Menchville’s kindness have extended beyond what they expected. Not only were the first responders blessed, the church members who participated were too. Menchville’s story has even inspired other churches to do the same. One church in Gloucester is currently making plans to reach out to the first responders in its “Jerusalem”.
Menchville Baptist Church is an example of a church without walls, one of reaching out instead of staying in!