Creating a missional environment

The first Annual FHL Week in 2005 happened because of the needs in our own backyard – volunteers who want to serve and recipients who are in need of assistance.

Costly Mission Trips

We found out more than 11 years ago that many volunteers want to do mission work but do not have enough money to pay for their missions. Meanwhile, countless people in our own neighborhoods are in need of assistance.

This was the first banner displayed at a few locations in Castleton and Nora areas in July 2005.
This was the first banner displayed at a few locations in Castleton and Nora areas in July 2005.

The birth of Backyard Missions

The concept of Mission Trips in Your Own Backyard was well received. We divided central Indiana into different areas. Each area had its own leadership team with Area Coordinators being the point persons. It was like a wildfire as it gained popularity in central Indiana. We even had people from other states who stayed in Indy for several days to learn how we accomplished it.

As this annual event continued to grow, I had to start the preparation 6 months ahead of time. The 1-week event consumed my time and energy year after year. However, I continued to justify that a week of missions in our own backyard was well worth it! After all, we touch thousands of people every year!

A better way

Leading an “annual” backyard missions wears you out! In the past several years, I have been asking the Lord to teach me how to train others in living a lifestyle of missions as opposes to event-driven missions.  I thought that there’s got to be a way to teach and to empower the local communities to be missional all year round. In other words, to reach out to others beyond the missions week.

Awareness of hunger compel people to action
Awareness of hunger compel people to action

In 2010, I started to teach organizations how to start and organize food pantries. In November 2013, after many board meetings and discussions, FHL announced its new mission of incubating missional food pantries.

Missions rooted in relationships

These pantries were designed to be missional, in other words, relational. Although most of them give food only once a month, the pantry leaders are trained to engage their community to be part of the solution on a continuous basis. Together, with the monthly food pantry, follow ups and occasional events are implemented to make sure that the relationships that started during the pantry are nurtured.

Pantry of Love at Beech Grove
Pantry of Love at Beech Grove

Then in late 2014, a revelation came to me! God had already granted my prayer – train others to live a lifestyle of mission. God used food pantry leaders to be the area coordinators in their own communities. We were already doing it but I did not recognized it right away!

Creating missional communities

The pantry leadership teams are trained to teach their volunteers how to reach out and to create an environment of missional living. I am observing that the follow up system that I have been teaching is successful in different neighborhoods as residents are getting connected and engaged. Rather than making people dependent on the system, they become part of the solution – giving back!

Opening of new food pantry during FHL Week
A new food pantry was opened during FHL Week

During FHL Week last week, most of the food pantry leaders that I trained did their own FHL Week in their own neighborhoods. I did not have to organize the entire central Indiana for a week of missions. The system that we created to operate missional food pantries becomes the catalyst for ongoing missions. Thank you God!

Hotdog for the neighborhood
Hotdog for the neighborhood

From my previous Blog, I wrote the first half report of the 2015 FHL Week.

Neighborhood cookout
Neighborhood cookout

The 2nd half of the week was full of activities to engage and to serve the local communities such as neighborhood cook outs, bottled water and food give away, canvassing the local neighborhoods for pantry clients, food distributions and many more.

The ending is just the beginning

And so the closing of the 11th Annual FHL Week (Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard) is also the commencement of a life style of missions. I pray that in the years to come, this tradition of giving will continue with or without the direct involvement of FHL. The seed was planted; we pray that God will do the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.

God bless,

Merlin

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