Church's 'Blessing Box' embraces mission of serving community

January 13, 2017
Photo courtesy Bishop Karen Oliveto for the Mountain Sky Area
Bishop Karen Oliveto, left, and the Rev. Lou Ward pose by the community kiosk in front of the United Church of Walsenburg in Colorado. The kiosk is modeled after the Matthew 25 scripture in which people can take or leave items, such as food, clothing and toiletries.
Submitted by the Rev. Lou Ward
Pastor at United Church of Walsenburg

In 2015 as part of our Charge Conference, Trinity District Superintendent Rev. Margaret Gillikin challenged the churches in attendance to rethink how we did missions in our communities. I left absolutely convicted that we needed to do more. Although we handed out Matthew 25 bags like many other churches (gallon Zip lock bags filled with food, socks, toiletries, water etc.), was that really enough?

After praying for some time, I approached our leadership team with an idea based on Matthew 25:31-46 in for an outdoor food/clothes/toiletry kiosk after seeing a book exchange kiosk in another city. Our leadership team fully embraced the idea. I drew on our whiteboard a really basic idea concept with a box, some shelves, and two posts. Anthony Miller, a talented local woodworker on our leadership team, took the idea and created plans and built our kiosk within a couple weeks for the bargain price of $195. We installed the posts and kiosk on a Saturday and held the dedication on Sept. 11, 2016.

It was important for our church to continue to find ways to fully embrace our mission of “being” Matthew 25, remembering verses 31-46. Reminding ourselves: whatever we do for those labeled as the least of these; we are doing for Jesus. Our food kiosk allows us to serve those labeled as the least of these with dignity and love. We placed our kiosk in an area secluded from the main traffic so as to provide as much privacy as possible. We understood that there were risks involved.  

A few questions we received were:
  • What if the teenagers vandalized it? 
    • Fortunately, as I suspected, that never happened. 
  • What if people steal all the food or clothes at one time and hoard it?
    • It happens occasionally but very rarely. 
We trust that God is using us and the kiosk to get the right folks the right stuff. We store much of the donated food in an indoor storage pantry and take it outside as needed. We’ve included prayer requests for those using our kiosk and average 20 to 30 prayer requests every couple of weeks as well as a “What do you need?” box where many of our ideas have come from in terms of supplies. As a church, we are learning to trust better in God, trust in our community, and most importantly, trust deeper in those we are called to serve.

We fill the kiosk with food, clothing (including hats, gloves, scarves), and toiletries as a church three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. What started as our church serving our community, quickly morphed into the community serving the community. Within less than a month word had spread and we found community members as far as 40 minutes west of Walsenburg driving in to bring items during the month. We receive donations in the mail from friends of our Facebook page; as well as a large church in Pueblo that saw our Facebook posts which had been shared. They did their own drive and ended up donating three large boxes for the kiosk. They told us how impressed they were with what we were doing and only wished that every church would do the same. 

We truly have been blessed to be a blessing.