“Fix your eyes on Jesus” is not simply a Conference week theme, it is a theme we are called to live out daily. As Conference President Kevin Butler continues to encourage us to turn our gaze upon Jesus, I believe that this powerful quote from the nineteenth-century writer Theophan the Recluse is especially fitting:
“Into every duty a God-fearing heart must be put, a heart constantly permeated by the thought of God; and this will be the door through which the soul will enter into active life. . . . The essence is to be established in the remembrance of God, and to walk in his presence.”
The 2020 SDB Conference theme along with this quote about refining our focus sets the stage for a series of blogs that are being composed by General Council Member Patti Wethington. She is listening to churches who are engaging in this active life– walking in God’s presence as they seek to bless the community that God has called them to reach out to. Please be encouraged by the following story of the Milton SDB Church that Patti has shared with us:
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
“I cannot think of a better passage to summarize the following story, of living the love of Jesus in simple, practical ways. Not only because it is the epitome of what our teachers stand for, generosity and pouring out their love to refresh and build up our children, but also because the Milton Church has taken its principle and resolved to return the same compassion toward the very people, who daily pour their love on the next generation.
The passion and excitement were palpable as I spoke with both Janet Butler and Pastor Nate Crandall regarding their Elementary School outreach, which is called “East Side Story.” Over the past year, their church has lived out the Lord’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Milton East Elementary School is a little over 100 yards away from the church, so they are literally neighbors! Their goal is as simple as show and tell. They want to show the love of Christ so that they can tell the gospel of Christ.
They started last February by simply providing a lunch of pizza and desserts for the teachers and staff. Every employee was given a card signed by dozens of church members that included personal notes of encouragement. One teacher said that in his over 30 years of teaching at Milton East, nothing like this had ever been done for them!!
Later on that year, their story continued as they provided “Welcome Back to School” kits for every teacher which included a personalized notebook, supplies and goodies. At first the teachers thought that their principal had provided the kits for them, but Mrs. Cramer made sure to let them know that the church was responsible. It is because of Mrs. Cramer’s desire to partner with the church that they have been able to make such a big impact in such a short period of time.
This past fall they added another chapter to their story by providing sweet treats to the teachers during Parent/Teacher conferences. Their goal is to keep showing love in practical ways, so their plan is to keep the treats coming because they know how stressful those conferences can be for teachers.
The next chapter in their story is to start a lunch buddy program which will begin in February 2020. A lunch buddy is an adult who comes simply to offer a listening ear and loving heart while the children eat. This will give them an opportunity to step into the life of this generation and see life through their eyes for a short while, as well as offering wisdom and compassion to children who may not have a strong support system at home. Ultimately their goal is that they are able to make meaningful connections and plant seeds of love and acceptance into the life of every child they encounter.
However, in saving the best for last, the team accepts that the most vital support they can provide for their community is as prayer warriors. We believe in a good God who desires to pair with us in reaching broken people and submitting everything we do through prayer is where the transformation really begins. This last year they walked the perimeter of the school in prayer, standing in the gap for the staff; praying over their needs and over their influence in the children’s lives. The team prays for the safety of their community and for protection over the children within the walls of the school. They even pray for the homes that each child returns to each evening; that through their small interactions with each child, they would have an encounter with God. That they would understand their value and that they would bring home this hope and truth to their families.
Pastor Nathan shared that the response from the school staff continues to be overwhelmingly grateful for the many ways they are being been blessed. At the latest teacher and staff lunch which just happened in January, several teachers commented that they were grateful not only for the free food but also for the opportunity to sit down and talk with their fellow teachers. Most of the time teachers don’t have this kind of interaction with one another, so this time was seen as especially meaningful. As you can imagine, this only fuels the excitement and determination to continue their work through East Side Story.
What an amazing testimony of how simple acts of kindness can affect so many people! Way to go people of the Milton Church. It takes an army of selfless people to pull off this amazing feat and although your name may not be in this article, the eyes of our Father are looking down on you with so much gratitude and joy! You have sacrificed parts of your own life to actively be the hands of God to your community and I am confident that He is excited to reward all of your hard work.” (Patti Wethington)
Thank you for this story Patti! Be on the look out for more of these encouraging stories.
Grace and peace,
Carl Greene, Executive Director, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of USA and Canada
 Theophan the Recluse. As quoted in Igumen Charitron. 1966. The Art of Prayer, ed. Timothy Ware. London: Faber and Faber. 85, 98; cited in Nouwen, Henri. 2017. You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, ed. Gabrielle Earnshaw. New York: Convergent, 25.