Jesus told His disciples to go into the world to preach the Gospel. Members of the Berean Baptist Church and Kodiak Bible Chapel decided to begin the mission in their backyard.
Whether handing out toiletries to the homeless and cups of coffee and hot chocolate to cold strangers having Bible clubs in a neighborhood park or fixing creaky stairways and cleaning out cumbersome brush for the elderly, they were sharing the Gospel, said Matthew Altman, Berean associate pastor and one of the initiators of the project known as Go Week.
“Our aim is to encourage kids to serve the city in the name of Christ,” said Matthew.
Three groups carrying out the Go Week mission included the Mercy Team, Back Yard Kids’ Club and the Construction Team.
Chris Matlock and Larry Taylor led the construction team.
He said the crew tore down a shed, delivered over a thousand pounds of scrap metal and debris to the dump, weed-whacked a path to a fish table, replaced rotting boards on a deck, split and stacked firewood, cleaned out flower beds, uprooted and removed a 10-foot alder, picked up trash and garbage, and did other work.
“Our ministry was showing Christ’s love through our ministry and action,” said Chris.
The idea of Go Week was introduced by Matthew, who “had done this at his church before coming up here,” said Chris. “He saw Christ work in that ministry and was motivated to make it happen here.”
Bible Chapel organizers included Chris, Jon Breuninger and Chris Pollum.
The Mercy Team kids and leaders collected food for the Kodiak Baptist Mission Food Bank, prepared meals for Brother Francis and gave out toiletries to the homeless in the mall.
They were able to get many of the supplies by setting up a table in front of Walmart, asking shoppers to buy those products for the needy.
“They gave out coffee, talked with folks and prayed with them,” said Matthew. “Walmart was super gracious, very helpful, letting us help on short notice.”
In the evening, the teams gathered for dinner, worship, small group discussions and “silly games,” Matthew said. “We had a lot of fun. We’re learning in the evening, serving in the daytime and hopefully growing as we go through it. They were burning the candle on both ends.”
The full, busy schedule was at times exhausting. In a very tiny way, they experienced “suffering with Christ,” said Melissa Griffin, one of the leaders of the Mercy Team.
“When I was serving, I was so happy. I forgot my tiredness,” said team member Ngaire Long. “I felt awesome. I’m learning how wonderful it feels to serve the Lord. I get so excited and genuinely happy. I’m so pumped. God is good.”
Holding up a pair of “some really nice hiking shoes” that team members had found in a trashcan, Ngaire said, “Someone had the idea to bring them here in case they needed shoes. I think that God planned all of this and will send us who needs these shoes.”
“We’ve been trying to help serve others and God, so that we can help others learn about God,” said team member Bryce Paddock.
“I’m learning to help others through my compassion,” said team member Jenina Ryan . “You don’t have to always give money to people, but physical items, like toiletries.”
Jenina also handed out compliments.
“I commented (a lady) on her outfit, and she was very flattered.”
Some of those who received compliments and gifts from the kids, said “’thank you.’ Others were so surprised, that they did become uncomfortable,” said Jenina.
“It’s been fun to watch the kids step out and get excited,” said Melissa.
Nicholas, the youngest crewmember, was “bold for the Lord. He was getting those donations at Walmart. He wasn’t going to let anyone get past him.”
Said Nicholas, “I was luring people to the table with coffee and doughnuts. I like to help others in need.”
Team member Zack Hecht said he did something like the mall project while in the Boy Scouts, but “this is a little different.”
One of the projects of the Back Yard Kids’ Club was making a galaxy in a bottle to “show the greatness of God’s creation,” said adult leader Aaron Griffin.
Aaron and Melissa Griffin’s son, Eli, led a children’s Bible study that showed “how God made creation and how He wants to have a relationship with us,” said Eli. “Through prophesying and sending His Son to die on the cross, He was able to fix that (broken relationship), and through faith in Him, we’re able to have a relationship with Him.”
Eli said the kids are excited about what they’re learning. “They’re getting the story; they’re asking questions.
“I love the kids,” said Eli. “I love seeing their smiling faces, getting down to their level and talking to them about the Lord. I’m amazed to see how much they know.”
Through social media, kids are “exposed to a lot of (the Bible) but don’t have a lot of understanding. I’m trying to help them (understand) what it means and what it could mean to them. I’m learning that kids are way smarter than what we give them credit for. The Lord is definitely working in this city right now.”
Right now the city is hurting, said Aaron. “Kodiak is definitely in a transition period. We see it with our drug abuse problems, the level of homelessness and the number of families that are requiring assistance.”
Noting that, “The churches are not stepping up to meet the primary needs in the community,” Aaron said that Go Week is a way of reaching into the community.
“We believe that there’s not going to be any healing in Kodiak that is absent of the Lord’s will,” Aaron said. “If God is not involved in the process, we’re going to keep bandaging all of the symptoms and not addressing the real issues, which is people’s souls.”