Teaching His followers how to live in their communities, Jesus told them, “Be salty and to be like a light shining on a hill.” A thousand years before this, King Solomon said, “Doing right elevates a nation and when righteous people bless a city, it is exalted.”1 These words of wisdom are divinely inspiring to Christians and become the marching orders for how we interact with the people around us.
Have you ever wondered, how does one become a salty Christian? And how does one know where to shake? Since Jesus is the prime example, we should emulate Him. He spent more time building relationships and healing people than He spent preaching. He went to parties, became their friend and met their needs.2
Merlene Olmsted and Carol Matlock were invited to Spokane County Christian Summit in April of this year. Sherriff Ozzie Knezovich and leaders from a variety of churches met together to challenge the faith community, asking what they could do to make Jesus happy, what things are going on that make Him sad and what we can do about it.
Walking With Seniors
Inspired, Olmsted and Matlock decided they wanted to work with the quality of life for seniors, so they went to the senior luncheon and learned there is no senior center in Airway Heights, Wash. A group wanted to walk together but had no leader, so Olmsted and Matlock stepped in and began a walking group.
They walk three times a week, choosing nearby streets for the route. When Earl, in his 80s, came on his first walk, he shuffled with a cane. Matlock was worried about him as he walked down the hill, so she helped him. Now after a few weeks of walking, he can walk 2 miles and no longer shuffles. He says his legs don’t hurt now — an unexpected perk.
Two weeks ago, Mary starting walking. In her mid-50s, she was out of shape, shook quite a bit and could only walk three blocks slowly. Last week she walked three-quarters of a mile and is very pleased with her progress. Olmsted and Matlock find great joy in their walking group.
Olmsted was involved in cleaning up a community garden where there are 11 plots. She had an idea that people who could not get to the local community garden or who don’t know much about gardening might like a 4-by-4 garden box and assistance with planting.
She researched 4-by-4 gardens and applied for a grant. She produced a pamphlet that described the free gardens. To receive the gardens, applicants had to be low-income, have space with enough sunlight, and be families with children or elderly folks in their homes. Church members mixed the soil in a cement mixer and bagged it, and they built the boxes. They delivered eight gardens on June 1.
“Giving out the brochures to people was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done,” Olmsted says. “When people learned we just wanted to help them make gardens, this opened up the floodgates. People asked questions, and it was just a delightful experience."
With produce coming on, Olmsted plans to hold a meal using the vegetables they are growing in their gardens. They gave each new gardener 16 kinds of vegetables. She plans to prepare some tasty recipes for a meal at the local fire station.
Playing at the Community Playground
“Come with me to the happiest place on Earth,” said a little lad in Four Lakes, Wash. He pulled his mother’s hand and insisted that she come. The two strolled down the street to the Cheney (Wash.) Church, where there is a new jungle gym and other playground equipment. “This,” the boy said, “is the happiest place on Earth.”
Two and a half years ago, the Cheney Church bought some new playground equipment even though their church had few children and their school closed years ago. They wanted to make sure the neighbors had a place to play baseball and could enjoy a parklike playground.
They recently took a survey of their neighborhood, asking what kinds of things they would like in the playground. “We want to increase our presence outside,” explains Jerremy Foss, Cheney Church pastor. “The neat thing about the playground is that we are focusing on what is already happening and where God is intersecting our church with the community.” They hope to tabulate the results of the survey and add something that will meet the neighbors' needs. Foss is excited about this project. “The playground is a start, a place where we can talk to the community.”
Family Fun Fest
Family Fun Fest in the Spokane Valley was held for the second time this summer. Organizer Dusty Borders, Spokane Valley Church outreach coordinator, reports, “Last summer we had four to five people attend from the community; this time we had 40 to 50.”
The July event provides a free mini-carnival for kids. In addition to food for sale, kids and parents could enjoy tic-tac-toe, can smash, high-striker bell-ringer and spin art. The event also had two inflatables for the kids, one with an obstacle course and another called “kid zone” for younger ones. New this year was a petting zoo with goats, a donkey, rabbits, chickens and ducks.
“People loved it,” Borders says. “It’s a fun way to get in touch with the community.” They provided GLOW (Giving Light to Our World) pamphlets and information about the school and held a drawing. One attendee expressed an interest in Bible studies.
When we treat others as Jesus would, looking out for the well-being of others, we are truly following Jesus. It can only be accomplished through a love for others, the same kind of love Jesus has for us. The Apostle Paul said, “When we give happiness to others in a way that helps them with their needs, this can also save them.”3