UCM Students Reach Out to The Community
In January and February, Dinner and Discussion explored a mission theme around serving our community and our neighbors in Northwest Arkansas and the world. This series included presentations from organizations working locally, nationally, and globally, as well as hands on opportunities to engage directly in service. It was a great month of learning about needs that often go hidden in the prosperous economy of Northwest Arkansas while dipping our toes into the waters of serving others.
A Week by Week Summary:
On January 26, we were joined by Dr. Ashley Goad, Associate Pastor and Director of Global Missions at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport Louisiana, and Lauren Blanco of Forgotten Song and Hello Cocoa. Ashley and Lauren shared with us the amazing ways that their organizations are working as partners with local organizations all over the world to provide and support sustainable development and shared opportunities for our students to join them in their work this summer.
On February 2, Lindsey Strong, Public Relations Director and Volunteer Coordinator for the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas joined us to talk about homelessness, food insecurity and addiction recovery. Lindsey opened our eyes to the enormous needs around us (25% of children in Northwest Arkansas are experiencing food insecurity) and answered a lot of questions surrounding complex social problems. Lindsey invited us to engage in serving the homeless of our greater community and offered some suggestions, as well as volunteer opportunities with Salvation Army throughout the year. Lindsey’s presentation powerfully impacted a number of our students who then emailed asking for tangible ways for UCM to help.
We harnessed that momentum on February 9 by building blessing bags for students to carry in their cars to hand out to homeless individuals asking for help, packing rice and beans for the Springdale High School food pantry to send home with students in spring break food baskets, and donating items for Snack Packs to be distributed to food insecure children in Fayetteville through the Yvonne Richardson Center. Also on February 9, we watched a presentation about Laundry Love, a ministry serving low income members of our community by providing them the dignity of clean clothes.
Then on February 16, we wrapped up our mission month by taking Dinner and Discussion on the road to serve with Laundry Love at the Park Street Laundry in Springdale. Through this opportunity we were able to serve a number of people, including several families with small children. As we played with the children and helped facilitate the clothes washing and drying process, we witnessed first hand some of the challenges faced by income insecure people in Northwest Arkansas.
I think for most of us the needs we heard about and observed were greater than we ever imagined, yet, so were the organizations and individuals employing creative solutions to meet those needs. We learned that we may not be able to solve all of the complex social problems that exist in our world, but we can show up, serve faithfully and in the process improve life for one person at a time and that is what God asks us to do.