A Loaves and Fishes story from Broad Ripple UMC
“Abundance on top of abundance on top of abundance!” wrote Rev. Brent Wright, pastor of Broad Ripple UMC in Indianapolis. “Just when I thought I had seen God’s miracle happen, God kept going! It’s loaves and fishes, one relationship at a time, in Broad Ripple.” He continued:
As we’re working to reconnect with our neighborhood, we have been doing the slow work of building connections with Broad Ripple High School, which is just down the street from the church. After I participated in their career fair last spring, a student reached out to us to help pay for her summer mission trip with the Cru club. We surprised her by raising the $1,500 she still needed in one day; through this experience, we began a relationship with a staff member of the Cru club. When, in the weeks ahead of Christmas, one of the students of the Cru club envisioned blessing BRHS families in need, the Cru staffer called us. Could we help support the student in his ministry vision. We jumped at the chance!
A young couple in our congregation worked with the student to help him organize and plan. Part of the vision was a food basket for each participating family; a BRUMC member worked alongside the BRHS social workers to procure major food donations for the food baskets. Another part of the vision: gifts for the families. BRUMC adopted two of the families and bought and wrapped the gifts. Finally: the student envisioned a banquet for the eight BRHS recipient families and some BRHS staff and Cru volunteers. We hosted the banquet, decking out Fellowship Hall in Christmas splendor, cooking the meal, and serving over 100 people.
I got a call from one of the recipient families. It turns out, as incredibly grateful as they were for all the gifts and food, this was not what they needed for Christmas. Their gas and water utilities had been cut off in September. “I hesitated to call, pastor, but I don’t know what else to do,” said the single mother of five. She told me the story of all the closed doors she’d encountered (including two large, wealthy churches). "All we want for Christmas is heat,” she told me. They were $1,600 in debt to Citizens Energy. I sighed, thinking to myself that we had just spent all the ‘holiday capital’ we had to make that event happen, and it hadn’t made any difference to this family’s real need.
So I told the mom’s story to the congregation of about 45 on Sunday morning, the 21st. By the time they were gone, we had $700 in hand. I sent the story out to our email list on Monday, the 22nd. By the time we began our Christmas Eve service, we had over $1,500 in hand. In addition, one of our members who’s rich in social services experience had arranged for this mother to have an appointment with the Energy Assistance Program on the 26th. …In the end, the EAP paid about half of the debt. BRUMC paid the other half of her utility debt. The gas and water were reconnected on the 27th. And since we still had $700 that had been collected in response to her story, we paid it into her utility account to create a credit that will cover their utility bills for the next few months.
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