The term “on mission” is a popular one in the church planting world, so it begs the question: What does it mean to live on mission? Rather than do a Google search for a definition, we at Stadia asked some of our planters and partners to describe what living on mission means in their churches and in their contexts. The next series of three blog posts will demonstrate what living on mission looks like for our friends in Ohio and Nebraska, as well as highlighting what our mission is at Stadia — why we will plant churches that intentionally care for children until every child has a church. We invite you to prayerfully engage in each of the next three posts and begin to ask the question, “What would it look like if my life (or my church) was truly ‘on mission’?”
Helping Kids Through Building Beds
Restore Community Church partnered with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, one of the fastest growing non-profits in the United States that is dedicated to helping kids through building beds. Here’s what we learned.
When we launched Restore Community Church just over 4 years ago, we were dedicated to making an impact in the lives of children in our community. On some scale we accomplished that through our children’s ministries, VBS, and other outreaches. However, we always knew that we were missing a piece of the puzzle.
Enter Sleep in Heavenly Peace. No, not the line from the Christmas carol, but the non-profit that builds beds for kids who sleep on the floor. Studies prove that children who sleep in a good bed have better self esteem, have a higher educational capacity, and are healthier people physically – hence the mission of SHP. We heard about them last year at about the same time that 11 million other people heard of them. They were a small non-profit with 9 chapters around the country that were featured on Mike Rowe’s Facebook show, Returning the Favor. Since that episode went viral about 16 months ago, SHP has exploded to 170 chapters across the country and from building about 1,000 beds for kids a year to building 5,000 beds IN ONE DAY during their upcoming Bunks Across America build day on June 15th!
Our Omaha chapter has experienced similar growth. We started 8 months ago in October, and I had a simple goal: I wanted to raise enough money by the end of 2018 to get 40 kids off of the floor. Well, when we wrapped up our deliveries for the year on December 29th, we had delivered 133 beds in Omaha. So far this year, we’ve delivered about 150 more. Here is some of what we’ve learned:
- Serving children in need is an evangelistic activity. Even though SHP is not religiously affiliated in any way and our chapter is not run by our church, the chapter is led by people who are deeply committed to Christ.Christians who serve with SHP get noticed by others for what they are doing and are regularly asked why they do what they do. In a society that is increasingly post-Christian, I believe that it is vitally important for Christians to serve in organizations that are not explicitly Christian and to be a light there. People need to know that we don’t serve to get anything out of it, but that we simply serve because Christ’s love compels us to help children in need.
- Serving children in need changes the conversation. Since we started our chapter, we have delivered beds to about 100 refugee children. This is a unique experience, because most people on our side of town have never even had a conversation with a refugee, let alone been invited into their homes. In our polarized culture that sees refugees as political talking points, we have been able to see refugees as people who are beautifully created in the image of God. We have had refugees from tropical countries walk barefoot out into a foot of snow to help us unload beds. We have had moms and dads who don’t know a lick of English want to thank us so badly that they unexpectedly hug us with tears in their eyes in order to communicate to us how much they appreciate us helping their children. We have served refugees who were persecuted for their faith, and we have served refugees who were interpreters for the U.S. military and were forced out of their country because of death threats. Every refugee has a story. Our job is to listen and to help that story have a brighter future.
- Serving children in need furthers the impact of our church. In seminary, we were asked a very difficult question: If your church were to disappear tomorrow, would the community be any worse off without it? In our case, we can say yes. Our internal church giving right now is only about $150,000 a year, but since people from our church launched our Omaha SHP chapter, we have raised the equivalent of $80,000 in donations of both cash and materials that have gone directly back into helping children. With each bed estimated to provide 3,650 nights of sleep in its lifetime, we recently broke our 1,000,000th night of sleep through the beds delivered just in Omaha!
- Serving children in need shows us God’s sovereignty in our calling. Just days before we hosted our first SHP Omaha build day last October, the city of Omaha condemned a housing complex where 500 Burmese refugees lived. The deplorable condition of the apartments required the tenants to throw away everything they owned—including their bedding. Then this spring, Nebraska and Iowa experienced record flooding where thousands were displaced from their homes. But God wasn’t surprised. He knew these kids were going to be in need, and he had laid it on our hearts to start SHP Omaha before we ever knew that there was going to be a flood or a refugee crisis. We’ve seen God’s hand in this whole situation, and we know he’s just getting started.
We can’t wait to see what God continues to do through our involvement in SHP, and we’re honored to be on mission in Omaha!
If you are interested in starting an SHP chapter in your community, please shoot me a message at [email protected] as I’d love to talk to you more about it!
When Dustin was young, his life was forever changed when his family was reconciled through the work of West Side Christian Church. On one occasion, Dustin told his mom that when he grew up he wanted to be a preacher like Charlie Lee, the pastor who had counseled his parents. He only said it once, but his mom prayed for it thousands of times! Now as Dustin and Kristen serve with their family, Tyler (7) and Norah (5), they hope to invest strategically in the lives of young families; they wish to offer them the same hope that Dustin’s family received nearly 30 years ago!