When is Toilet Paper Sacred?

First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Doniphan, Missouri and New Life Christian Church United are two small membership congregations in Southeast Missouri that have each discovered renewed vitality in mission. On any given Sunday average attendance at FCC is 25-30 persons and NLCUU varies from 20-25. FCC is an older congregation in both history and average age. NLCCU has been around since 1985 and the average age is significantly lower than that of its sisters and brothers in Doniphan. The two churches are in towns roughly a half an hour from each other and they share a pastor.

Neither church has the financial resources nor the number of people to engage in huge mission events as some of our larger churches are able to do. That does not stop the folks in these congregations from being active together and as individuals following the Way of Christ in this world. Combined, the 45-55 folks have a passion for feeding the hungry, and seeking and ministering to the disenfranchised. FCC supports the Lean on Me Food Pantry in Doniphan/Ripley County with monthly financial contribution, donations of food, volunteers to assist, and in making known the needs of the pantry to others. NLCCU partners with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, members help out at the Northside Nutrition Center and that includes helping deliver Meals on Wheels. At the last fundraiser for Northside, folks from New Life generously donated over a third of all money raised! NLCCU also reaches out and helps find resources for the Families and Caretakers of those who suffer from mental illness and also provides meeting space to various organizations. Both congregations collect and deliver personal care and hygiene products to the women and children in the domestic violence residential shelters in their respective communities. In addition NLCCU makes sure each victim receives her own pillow when she arrives. Members of the Disciples Women’s Ministries group at FCC serve as life mentors for women in the shelter in Doniphan, teaching them, among other things, how to make better choices when food shopping and how to portion and store food more economically. And sometimes, they simply share a cup of coffee and listen to someone who hasn’t had an ear or shoulder before. NLCCU has collected items to give to resettled refugees and has partnered with the International Center in St. Louis to get those household items directly into the hands of those being resettled. Both congregations contributed generously to an appeal from Disciples Home Missions for assistance with Refugee Resettlement Ministries. NLCCU has also hosted two sets of Global Ministries partners who were “home” and visiting in the Region.

Yes, these two small, sometimes overlooked congregations “down in the sticks” do ministry that is local and also that reaches around the world. And both find Jesus and themselves smack0dab in the middle of the process.

So what does all of this have to do with toilet paper?  The staffs at Lean on Me and St. Vincent DePaul both tell us that people often ask if toilet paper is available. Most of us don’t have to think about making a choice whether or not to buy something as simple as toilet paper. Saving the price of a package of toilet paper frees up funds that are already stretched to the limit for the households served by the pantries. So both churches have begun taking toilet paper the pantries. Just as we pray for those who receive other services, we pray for those who will be receiving the toilet paper. One of our members, with a smile on his face, refers to it as “The Blessing of the Toilet Paper.”

In both churches folks gather on Sundays and some again mid-week. While together, we worship, pray, study, and provide nurture. Each week we figure out what we need to do and where we need to work and then we simply depart to try to BE God’s love.

And for us-----well----that is mission.

Story and photo courtesy of Rev. John Harwell
who pastors both of these congregations.