Hillsboro congregation worships as they serve community

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HMBC trades warm sanctuary for frigid Sunday of service projects

By Don Ratzlaff

Nov. 30 wasn’t the best Sunday for an outdoor worship service, but when serving others is understood as an expression of worship, it turned out to be a good day after all.

That was the response of Brian Allen, pastor of Hillsboro (Kan.) MB Church, a day after nearly 200 people from the church family endured bone-chilling temperatures and wind to tackle a to-do list of 16 projects within the city instead of meeting in the sanctuary for a traditional worship service.

The list of outdoor projects ranged from raking leaves and trimming branches at several residences, to replacing the wood planks on park benches and rehabbing picnic tables at Memorial Park.

One team picked up trash in the wide-open spaces along U.S. Highway 56, vulnerable to the cutting north wind. Another team cut and hauled away 10 pickup loads of limbs and branches from trees on the elementary school campus.

“When you go out and do something like that on a day like that, I think it speaks to the heart of the people who are doing it,” Allen says. “The harder something is to do for someone, in many ways the more it communicates that you care. It adds to the challenge and the chance to communicate God’s love to people.”

The community service day was the culmination of a nine-week “Trans­formed Campaign,” a church-wide effort that involved people in themed worship services, classes and small groups all following materials based on Romans 12:2.

“The community service day really was not part of the campaign material,” Allen says. “I think the desire came from: If we’re experiencing transformation personally from God, then God’s Word encourages us to share it with others—to be a light and a conduit of God’s love.”

Not every task on Sunday was outdoors. One team painted interior rooms at Parkside Homes. Another team painted the hallway at the Salem Home apartments while a different team played board games with the residents of the care home.

Back at the church, teams put together care packages for families at Main Street Ministries in Hills­boro as well as for overseas missionaries the church supports.

Another team provided child care for young children while older children and parents were pursuing other projects. An effort was made to provide an outlet of service for people of all ages.

Allen said the congregation had voted several months ago to devote two Sundays per year to pursuing community projects in lieu of a Sunday morning worship service.

He said the idea was broadly embraced, though some had reservations when it came down to actually planning the event.

“The idea of doing this was connected in the mind of some people with the Bible’s instruction not to work on the sabbath,” Allen says. “But this wasn’t that. It was more of what Jesus did when he did miracles on the sabbath—he was meeting the needs of the people, caring for people.”

Allen says considering the newness of the idea, doing it on a holiday weekend and then the impact of the weather, he was pleased with the response.

“Given all of that, the participation level was very high,” he says. “I don’t know that no matter what day or temperature we would have done it, that we would have necessarily seen a higher participation level.

Don Ratzlaff is the editor of the Hillsboro (Kan.) Free Press. This article is reprinted with permission.

Photos from the Hillsboro Free Press:

Photo 1: A Transformed Campaign small group removes branches and cleans up the yard of a Hillsboro, Kan., resident.

Photo 2: Not all of the Sunday service projects were outdoors. Here youth and adults play games with residents of one of the local senior adult care home.

Photo 3: HMBC members braved bone-chilling temperatures the Sunday after Thanksgiving to serve their community, including winterizing a door for an older Hillsboro resident.

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