For the past few years, the congregation of Affton Christian Church has adopted and adapted a one-word mission statement: “INASMUCHAS.” Taken from Matthew 25:40 (The Message), “INASMUCHAS” has challenged us to look out for those who are often overlooked and ignored. We have allowed this word to serve as our “polar star” when it comes to being the hands and feet of Christ in our community.
On the last Wednesday of the month, several people prepare and share a meal with the residents of the Fisher House, a place of lodging for veterans and their families who have traveled to St. Louis for an operation they cannot receive at home. Think Ronald McDonald House but for the VA. Often, families travel hundreds of miles and do not know how long they will need to be in St. Louis. Not knowing anything about the area – streets, directions, services; families often feel lost and alone. Deidra, ACC’s coordinator of this ministry, shares the following story:
At the Fisher House dinner last April, we were serving the guests, when a woman in her late 60s walked into the kitchen looking very sad and exhausted. She looked at the spread of food on the large kitchen island and then looked up at us with a strange look on her face. One person from Affton went over to her and asked if she would like something to eat; another, asked what she would like to drink. She just continued to look at us with a look of disbelief on her face, and then she leaned on the island with her head down. When she finally looked up at us, there were tears in her eyes. She explained that she had been at the hospital since early morning, before the sun had come up. Her husband had surgery that day, and it did not go as well as expected. She did not have a chance to even eat lunch. Traveling home from the hospital she decided it was the worst day of her life. She went on to say, that she was wrong about that now. When she walked in and saw she had a hot dinner waiting for her, and people with smiles on their faces to eat with her, something good had happened to her that day. It was not the worst day of her life, and she was sure that tomorrow would be better.
Another way we practice “INASMUCHAS” is through our Thursday Night Food Trucks during the summer. Once a month, we invite 3 or 4 food trucks to set up shop in our parking lot. We pitch a tent and provide tables and chairs and invite the community for dinner. This isn’t a fundraiser, as we receive nothing from this event – other than the pleasure of meeting our neighbors and sharing a meal with them.
People often ask how much we make or why we are doing this. It is rewarding to be able to tell them we do this just so we can get to know our neighbors. They see our sign in the yard that reads, “All Are Welcome Here,” and surprised we are not trying to entice them to join our church, they often go on to ask questions. And this gives us an opportunity to have real, meaningful conversations with our neighbors.
Sharing meals, conversations, and experiences – this is how the congregation of Affton Christian Church lives into God’s mission of “INASMUCHAS.”
Story and photos courtesy of ACC pastor Rev. David Woodard.