Get ready to serve!
Dear Fr. Zagloba,
I'm sitting at home watching the hurricane winds roll in. Rain moving horizontally is quite the sight to see. The Food Bank is closed today, as is most of the state. It's not as bad as we'd feared, thank God, but down in Florida and the islands to the south the damage is terrible to contemplate.
I am glad that you did a second collection at Mass for the hurricane victims. It's important to encourage people to get involved with the recovery even as the storm is beginning to batter us. I want to suggest a few ways to make this call to action more powerful.
Encourage thoughtful giving
When you announced the second collection, I don't recall that you mentioned where the funds would be going except in the most general way. This is a very important piece of information. Will we be sending the money to Catholic Relief Services, or do you know a parish down there that is in the storm's path? Knowing what their donations will be doing will have a big impact on the level of giving in the parish.
Secondly, a second collection that you haven't advertised in advance falls into the category of 'impulse giving.' You're only going to get whatever cash people are carrying with them. I rarely carry cash, and I know that I'm not alone. So if you want to gather a more substantial donation, we should run the collection for several weeks and enable an online giving option.
Sharing a clear plan for the donations and giving people enough time to prayerfully consider making a gift will significantly increase the amount the parish will be able to give to people in storm ravaged areas.
I also think you should consider going a step further.
Time to get our hands dirty
We should think about putting together a mission team to go down into the storm wrecked areas. Not immediately because many of the areas are only open to emergency personnel right now. It would be best to partner with another parish that can line up about a week's worth of projects for however many people we can bring down with us. We should plan it with enough advance warning for us to purchase the supplies that we'll need using donations. The rebuilding process will take months, so there's plenty of time to do this without rushing around like crazy people.
This is not an outlandish idea. I have friends who attend Protestant churches that send mission groups all over the world to build churches, hospitals, schools, and homes. Each missionary is responsible for paying their own way, and they often have to raise more than $3,000 a head to go. The mission trips are so popular that they keep a waiting list. They don't have enough slots to take all of the people who want to go.
The fact is that people like to do something concrete. They get a satisfaction when they look at something they have built that will make an impact in people's lives. And we don't even have to send people to another continent to serve! The need is just a bus trip away, but the experience will be the treasure of a lifetime.
This gets me so excited. We can have our laborers share after Mass when they return. We can put some posters with pictures of the team at work out in the narthex. All this will help the people of the parish feel like the have really served, as indeed they have.
Discover what blessings are hidden outside our comfort zones
When you're thinking about building a discipleship/stewardship culture at the parish, you have to think about how you're going to invite people to live this kind of life. It's not going to happen by accident. And it's not going to happen without your leadership. Serving people in a hurricane ravaged area is a terrific way for people to live discipleship.
Exercising leadership doesn't mean you have to do everything. You can deputize a leader for this mission project and giving the authority to make this happen. You're just following the model Jesus gave you. As just one Man, He couldn't get everywhere with His proclamation of the Kingdom. So He selected 12 from among His disciples to be sent forth. His Apostles. Sending out a mission trip to serve in the hurricane's aftermath follows that same model.
Let's face it… you can't go wrong if you're following in the footsteps of the Master. Even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Even if it pushes our parish out of the its comfort zone. When Jesus asked a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, and others to become traveling preachers, it was like a hurricane sweeping through their lives. Comfort zones demolished.
The Kingdom of God is over there… do you see it? Outside your comfort zone.
Nathan - The Almoner
P.S. If you think that a week is too much, plan it for a long weekend. This is the first time we've done a service trip. It will get easier with practice. Just don't be afraid to take the first leap.
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