“Some cool mission stuff is happening,” Mission Director Whitney Bell said, referring to the last several weeks of donations coming into Covenant and other plans that are underway.
For starters, Whitney said, Covenant has been asking for donations to some specific mission partners. To determine what our partners need, Whitney reached out to them. “The important thing about mission is that we don’t determine what the need is, we ask,” she explained.
Each week, Covenant members have responded, filling up the bins set up just outside Covenant Hall with the requested items. “I’m at the office, but I don’t watch. I just go outside and the bins are full,” Whitney said. “I have no idea how many people are showing up, but it seems like different people show up each week. We’ve been able to collect just what these organizations need.”
The first couple weeks, Whitney was delivering all the donations to our partners herself. “It’s not the best use of my time,” she said. “I started reaching to out to different people. It’s turned out to be a really cool way for people to participate from a safe distance.”
Jean and Dennis Brender have picked up and delivered the donations for Street Youth Ministry (SYMin) each week. “My husband, Dennis, and I help with the deliveries to Street Youth Ministry because we have volunteered with this ministry for five years,” said Jean, who is the liaison between Covenant and SYMin. “The amount of stuff donated varies by week, but most weeks there have been many items donated, including bottled water, packaged snacks, clothing, shoes, plastic dinnerware, food takeout containers and other items that will help Terry Cole and his staff minister to the needs of Austin’s homeless street youth during these difficult times.”
Jean said she and Dennis find volunteering with the Street Youth Ministry “rewarding and a very tangible way to live in the spirit of Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25:35-40.*”
The chairman of the mission committee, Michael Knisely, has delivered Covenant donations to Manos de Cristo every week. “It’s a two-step process,” Michael said as he waited to pick up the items the last Wednesday in April. “Because Manos closes at 1 o’clock, I pick up the donations one day and deliver them the following day.”
He laughed, adding. “It does get me out of the house two times.”
“It’s just really cool for different people to come and participate,” Whitney said.
Meeting Mission Partner Needs
When asked, Texas Reach Out Ministry (TROM), East Austin Young Life and Helping Our Neighbors requested HEB cards. So Whitney asked the Mission Committee if she could buy $1,000 worth of HEB cards to have on hand. She bought 40 $25 HEB gift cards and delivered 33 of them to all the Texas Reach Out residents. (TROM provides housing and support for men and women who have recently been released from prison and are trying to get back on their feet.)
“We set aside a good amount of undesignated funds because we weren’t sure what that year would look like,” Whitney said. “God knew! He knew we had to set aside money for a pandemic.”
One huge benefit Whitney has observed is that our partners are recognizing where they can help each other. While Whitney has been able to connect some of our partners, mission committee members also have seen the obvious links. For example, committee member Melissa Gaskill, who has handled deliveries to Austin Voices, reached out to Chris Fisher at Young Life. She recognized that AVEY could fill a need for Young Life families.
Whitney said that Chris came to the church to pick up the HEB cards for a family, and they continued the conversation. “The reality is that cards are temporary,” Whitney said. “One of the high schools in Chris’ network is Juan Navarro. He didn’t know that Austin Voices has a food pantry there. Melissa and I were able to connect these two Covenant ministry partners to cross-serve the need.”
Whitney said she was also able to provide information about the Austin Voices food pantries to Texas Reach Out founder David Pena. “AVEY provides food to the community; you don’t have to have a student. Anyone can come and get it. AVEY has flung open their doors to truly serve a community in need.”
“It’s cool to see our committee work the way it’s supposed to,” Whitney said.
New Donations in May
During May, Covenant is collecting donations for the Central Texas Food Bank. “The food bank is in dire need of extra things,” Whitney said. “I called and asked for specific things we can gather. Donating to the food bank makes sense because it supplies food for a lot of our partners. So, by supporting the food bank, we really are supporting many of our partners.”
Learn more about the Central Texas Food Bank and its needs here. Then, bring those items to the church on Wednesdays in May, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
*Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,A)”> 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me,B)”> I was sick and you looked after me,C)”> I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’