I’ve spent countless hours in recent days going through GraceWorks’ founding documents, and I’ve recognized a common theme in them from the early meeting notes to more formal legal documents. GraceWorks exists because local church members saw a community need: a centralized place for the poor and marginalized to find hope and resources.
This need soon turned into a vision, and the vision into a reality. The majority of the startup leadership, the volunteers and the dollars came from local church members.
Twenty years later the role of our now-120 church partners remains important. Williamson County has grown, GraceWorks has expanded to reach more people, and the church engagement has grown with it, in some essential and creative ways.
GraceWorks could not possibly have advised and fed 16,008 people in 2015 without the day-to-day volunteers from our local churches. From the lay counselors who listen to and pray over clients to the food pantry workers to the countless volunteers who process donations to event volunteers to those who serve on our Board of Directors — we simply could not meet the needs with paid staff. We rely on volunteers who come from our local churches.
One of my favorite things to do is to meet these volunteers, and thank them for their service. Somewhere in the conversation, I ask them what their local church connection is, and I am amazed how many of our churches share in this work.
In addition to volunteer service and essential financial support, GraceWorks and local churches often partner together for creative community outreach. Recent examples are a church that opened its new building by packing food for GraceWorks, churches who have led in creative ways to reach outlying communities like Fairview and College Grove, and churches who hosted rest stops at their buildings for the Ride The Vines cycling event. The out-of-the-box vision of our partner churches amazes me.
But most of all, I am thankful our local churches exist to provide a long-term spiritual community to neighbors we usually can talk to only a few minutes about the hope of Christ.
GraceWorks provides the triage, but the local church is the hospital. I thank God for this partnership, which reminds me of a plaque posted on the wall at GraceWorks. It is an older (but excellent) version of our mission statement:
“United by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ, GraceWorks is dedicated to sharing the hope and the grace of God by helping our neighbors in need.”