God’s Closet brings so much joy to our church, to the Carolina Conference and across the nation (including Australia and Canada). It is growing rapidly for many reasons. God’s Closet is a ministry that collects children’s clothing year-round and four times a year we open our church to the community. The God’s Closet shoppers pay $1 to register and then they shop for free. It is exciting to arrive at the church two hours before the event starts and see people already lined up at the door waiting for us to open. At opening, we have averaged about 300 shoppers each time.
At the end of Shop Day we hold in our hand a brick of gold: the registration cards. We have the name, address, phone number and email of each shopper. In the past three years of doing God’s Closet at the Mills River Church we have tried many ways to follow up with our shoppers. On the card, shoppers will request prayer for various things: health issues, family issues, financial issues and much more. They have an option to volunteer. They mark if they are interested in children’s programming. Every Shop Day we have shoppers request Bible studies. We also added to mark if they are interested in having their child dedicated to the Lord.
Follow-up has been a challenge, with so many cards to sort through. It has been a learning process. Even though the gold is within those priceless cards there is still some “panning for gold” that has to take place. As we are told in Luke 10:2, “therefore said He unto them, the harvest truly is great, but the Laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” It was really necessary to find a person who could organize and create an outreach program. We wanted to provide clothes to our community but we wanted to do so much more. The Lord sent us the perfect person to lead out in our outreach program. Joni Henderson–our high energy, totally committed Pastor’s wife–was the perfect choice. God brought her to us, and at the perfect time. Joni has been instrumental in so many really successful follow up programs that have touched many hearts. She has helped us to build relationships that are valuable to the shoppers as well as church members.
The first thing she did was to organize a journaling class. Out of that group came our sweet and precious Irma. Irma is a mother of two and has an amazing husband. Irma decided that she liked us. She started coming to any activities we had not only as a participant but a helper. She took Verified Volunteers and started helping us on shop day in Childcare. Over the past months Irma and her husband Adam chose to have their children dedicated.
At our child dedication service, we fed the families dinner on a Sunday evening. We had three families attend. Pastor Ralph Henderson had the honor of dedicating seven beautiful children to the Lord.
Irma has been attending church on a regular basis. She also put her son in the Adventurers Club and has also signed him up for guitar lessons with Pastor Ralph. She has also started taking Bible Studies where she wholeheartedly accepted the Sabbath saying even as a child she wondered why people worshipped on Sunday when the Bible clearly stated the seventh day is the Sabbath.
Pastor Ralph and Joni also started a Young Couples group. It’s for married couples ages 20-40. A time for them to get together when we provide Child Care. These couples went to dinner a few weeks ago and Irma and Adam joined them. They had a great time and the next Sabbath Adam joined Irma at church. What a blessing they have been to our church. Another couple from God’s Closet joined the group. In talking with her after the dinner she was all a glow in spite of her disability. The next event they have scheduled Irma’s mother is going to teach them how to make tamales with the help of one of our God’s Closet Dads who loves to cook.
Single Moms’ ministry has been launched and it was successful. The really interesting thing that happened at our Single Moms’ Dinner is that we had a Catholic mom and two girls call to see if they could volunteer. They have volunteered many times for sort day. They are excellent help and such a blessing that we are reaching such a wide spectrum of people.
Parents’ Night Out has been a huge success. Parents love bringing their children for us to take care of while they have an opportunity to escape for three hours to enjoy time with each other. Through this program we have been able to build some very special relationships. We will be inviting them to the next young couples’ get together.
At our Shop Day we have a drawing each time for a pregnant mom and give one baby shower each quarter. We have done two baby showers at this time. The last one we gave for the parents of twin boys. Because we have so many things going on it is hard to schedule everything. The date for the baby shower was changed several times. However, God had it under control. We had it on a Sunday and the babies were born on Monday!
Over the past three years of doing God’s Closet the hardest thing has been to figure out a way to handle our Bible Study requests. Not all people who request them really want them. Joni came up with a brilliant idea. We are just beginning this process and are already encouraged at the results. The shoppers mark on their registration card that they are interested in Bible studies. Joni has a team of individuals that are ready and willing to do Bible studies. After our Shop Day she meets with her team. She hands out the names to the folks who live closest to them. The volunteers visit the addresses, wearing their God’s Closet shirt and a God’s Closet Lanyard. They take the card to the door without calling ahead. We have tote bags that we can put food in (our shoppers love food baskets), or a loaf of bread or maybe an apple pie or something to break the ice.
When the person answers the door, the volunteer shows them the card, and says, “At the last God’s Closet Shop Day you indicated that you were interested in Bible Studies. We are here to leave the first study with you, along with this bag. We will be back next week about this same time to pick up the study and leave another one with you.” Results of getting into the homes has been very encouraging. It takes time to figure these things out.
So what is God calling you to do? Are you ready to start “panning for gold”? God tells us himself the harvest is plenteous are you willing to join the forces of laborers to finish God’s work with a truly amazing ministry called God’s Closet?
God’s Closet – Mills River