The impression was so strong. Donna Wagner, from Belgrade, Montana, turned on her car blinkers, changed her course and drove into the apartment complex. As she climbed the stairs she wondered if she was doing the right thing. At her knock, the door opened and Kelly, who lived there, burst into tears. "Oh, Donna, I have been praying someone would come, and here you are." Tears poured down her face as she shared her huge problem. Donna quietly prayed, "Lord, I'll do whatever You want me to do."
That experience made a huge impression on Donna and "woke her up" to how God wants to partner with His children in practical and personal ways. She determined to be more in tune with God's plans in the midst of her busy agenda.
That decision has dramatically changed her life and her outlook on ministry. Because of her commitment to follow God's providential "divine encounters," He has worked through her to reach and redeem others as well. —Linda Glatts
Helping Young Mothers
As a newly baptized mother of three small children, going to church was an overwhelming challenge. One Sabbath everything was fine until the sermon when I had to leave—newborn in one arm, a screaming child in the other, and the oldest tagging along behind. As we headed out the door, all eyes were on us. Leaving the sanctuary, feeling totally humiliated, I accidentally dropped my screaming child, only to have the greeter come up and scold me. I left, not sure I ever wanted to come back. After praying all week, I gathered up all the courage I could muster and went to church. What I needed was help, not criticism.
A few years later, I decided to put my experience to good use. In my efforts to help young parents with their active little ones, I have found a great and rewarding ministry. Some have even said, "If it were not for you sitting with me, I wouldn't even try to come to church." I am delighted to give this simple, yet meaningful gift. —Judy Driver
Putting Heaven on Their Heads
During a challenging season in my life, I decided to focus my thoughts outside myself. I went to JoAnn's fabric store and wandered over to the knitting section. I discovered a loom knitting kit with a hat pattern. I was intrigued at how simple and fast it was to make hats. When I showed my first hat to a friend, a cancer nurse, she exclaimed, "Wow! These hats would be wonderful for our cancer patients." She said some people lose their hair and need hats. And so the ministry was born.
My best friend, a teacher at Livingstone Adventist Academy, got her students excited about it. She explained that it was like loving these people in the place of Jesus—like putting heaven on their heads, which led to the name Heavenly Hats. Soon the students were donating yarn, staying in during recess to work on hats, and taking supplies home over the weekend to complete hats. Larger hats go to the adult cancer unit, and the smaller ones are given to a social worker to take to the Doernbecher Children's cancer unit. One student says, "These should be called happy hats because they make people happy." —Linda Shaver
Treating Others As Jesus Did
The largest food distribution agency in Oregon is thriving today thanks, in part, to the work of a former executive director who wasn't even sure she was qualified for the job. Rhonda Whitney heard about the leadership opening at Portland Adventist Community Services while she was working as a secretary for one of the agency's board members. "As I got involved I saw the needs of people and the importance of responding to them," says Whitney. "The longer you volunteer the more your heart gets involved."
Whitney now serves as Oregon Conference director of community outreach, but is still an active member of the PACS board. The agency continues to serve thousands of people from all parts of Oregon and Washington, providing food, clothing, friendship and spiritual relationships. "It's as important to the volunteers as it is to the people receiving the services," says Whitney. "We are created to be compassionate people; we don't truly find fulfillment unless we're serving others." —CJ Anderson
Ministries With Style
Carolyn Brown has come a long way from living on the streets, battling drugs and alcohol, to experiencing the transforming power of Christ's love. Now, she's committed to helping other women overcome these challenges through the Maranatha Adventist Church just south of downtown Seattle. "There are women out there who are just like I was," says Brown. "I just want to make a difference in their lives and give them a chance to present themselves differently." This summer she plans a "Dress for Success" event so homeless women and single moms can pick out one business outfit and interview for a job. Once these ladies have a job, they can come back and select five more outfits.
For their Christmas celebration, the church decided they wanted 125 homeless and single-parent families to have a Christmas just like everybody else. Every department of Maranatha chipped in to provide clothes, books, invitations for counseling and after-school tutoring, and a full Christmas meal. "I decided if we were going to do this that each family would get no less than what I put on my table," says Brown. The event even included a family photo for each parent and three toys for each child.
"I've experienced how God can make you feel different," says Brown. "I will never stop doing God's work this way." —Heidi Martella and CJ Anderson
Solid Like a Rock
When Ileana Villeda-Cortes saw the need for a ministry that would reach second- and third-generation Latino Adventists, she joined five other members of the Hillsboro Spanish Church in providing such an alternative. Their program, called the Rock (www.mysolidrock.org), has grown from a monthly program to a vibrant and diverse program of youth ministries and service. "I saw our youth hanging out in the hallway or not coming to church at all," Villeda-Cortes said. "I knew we had to find a way to bring them back."
The Rock has incorporated youth and young adult Sabbath School classes with specialized ministries for teens and young couples. In addition, the Rock sponsors service projects, such as prayer ministry, graffiti cleanup and feeding the homeless. The Rock also sponsors the Heart Rock Café, an informal Friday night gathering that provides a wholesome alternative to heading into the city.
"Our goal is to become organized as a company in the very near future," says Villeda-Cortes. "What we need most at this time is prayer!" —CJ Anderson