Santee UMC has a new way to serve the people in its neighborhood – A Blessings Box. Miranda Williams, a member at Santee UMC, explained that the Blessings Box is “our way for us to tell people in the community, ‘Hey, we care about you.’” The box was recently installed on a wall of the church and was filled with an assortment of food and toiletries. About the items in the box Miranda said, “If you need them, please come, take them. If you feel it in your heart, you can leave something for others.”
The idea of the Blessings Box was brought to life by Miranda because she grew up often in need of the very things offered in the box. Her parents could not provide the items, but Miranda did not want to bring embarrassment to her family by asking for them from school or a church. She understands the humiliation in that.
The Blessings Box allows people not to have to ask.
At the consecration of the Blessings Box on April 23rd, Rev. Christian DeMent reminded the crowd, “As Christians, we don’t keep our distance from those in need. We are drawn to those who are in need and drawn into solutions to issues in our community such as food insecurity.”
A month has passed since the Blessings Box was unveiled to the community, and the church reports that at times the box is full. Other times, it is empty. That tells them people are donating, and people are being served. So far, it has been a success.
The South District recently checked in with Pastor Christian to see what went on behind the scenes to contribute to the success of the Blessings Box. “We started with the ‘why,’” Christian simply stated. Indeed, members at Santee UMC have been taught to think about and clearly articulate “why” they are in ministry. For instance, the words of Matthew 25:40 — “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” — guide the members of their Missions and Social Justice Committee.
“As a matter of fact, we discuss the ‘why’ at every Church Council meeting, every committee meeting, and even in worship,” added Pastor Christian. “A lot of our understanding of the importance of the ‘why’ comes from a training by Simon Sinek on TED Talk. We have what we call ‘All Church Dialogues’ every quarter, where we invite the entire congregation to gather and dialogue about the direction and the future of the church. After showing the TED Talk to everyone, we agreed that we don’t do anything at the church unless the ‘why’ is clearly understood and communicate-able.”
Equipped with the “why,” many people from the church got involved – from the Missions Committee to the Church Council and Trustees – and the project came to life. “It no longer was ‘Miranda’s Project,’ and instead became the church’s project,” Pastor Christian commented. There were certainly apprehensions to address, and members asked many questions about what would happen if the project failed. Contingency plans were put in place. Pastor Christian added, “We didn’t let the fears outweigh the possible outcomes.”
It is fascinating that the Blessings Box at Santee UMC is surrounded by the notions of both “asking” and “not asking.” While the Blessings Box provides its users with the dignity of not having to “ask” for help, it cannot be denied that lots of queries happened prior to the time this important gift found its place on the church’s wall. As Pastor Christian prayed at the consecration of the Blessings Box, “We ask your blessings upon on all of those who receive and all of those who give.” It is a good thing to ask.