Adventist Community Services: Serving 'Til the End'
When some think of Adventist Community Services – Disaster Response, they may think only of the Dorcas society of yesteryear.
But the truth is that the Adventist Community Services (ACS) of today has grown and matured into a multiple service personal ministry that meets community needs while directing them to Jesus Christ.
Meet Joyce Stevenson, who spent many years working in Ithaca’s school districts. After attending a GYC conference with her daughter, Stevenson felt a deep call to ministry and was impressed to dedicate her retirement years to the Lord’s service. When she retired, she was asked by her local church family to serve as the director for Ithaca’s Adventist Community Service center—and she said yes!
Stevenson began her ministry by using Ithaca’s already established clothing closet, however, from her experience in the school system, she knew that there was a huge need that was mostly unnoticed. Using her connections within the school district, she began a program to ensure that students who needed clothing could receive them. Stevenson also ensured discreetness so that students were not embarrassed but excited to go to school in nice clothes!
This is just one story of many that are using their talents and gifts to make the community a better place while showing that we are a church that cares; we’re a church for community members to be a part of.
Adventist Community Services has adopted Luke 10:45 as a model text: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Service centers and leaders all over Michigan serve tirelessly and selflessly to their communities, not expecting anything in return.
This is the time to serve. The statistics are alarming! The 2020 Census showed that 1.337 million in Michigan live below the poverty line—that is 13.4 percent of Michigan’s total population! Conditions, unfortunately, have not improved since 2020. It is estimated that Michigan food banks fed 20 percent more families in 2022 compared to 2021. Twenty-seven percent of Michigan’s children are fed with assistance programs. These statistics are alarming, and that is why we are needed in our communities. This opens the door to planting a seed in the hearts of many. It is an opportunity to share, through neighborly kindness, that Jesus loves them. We can make God’s love real by meeting basic human needs.
Michigan is blessed to have over 76 ACS centers across the state, and these centers have been busy meeting the needs of their communities. We have distributed millions of pounds of food, clothing, bedding items, and personal care items. Our goal, however, is to be more than just a food and clothing distributor, but rather, to be the “hands and feet of Jesus” following His method, commonly known as Christ’s Method Alone. “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them “Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). As we serve with disinterested beneficence, we embody Christ’s Method to meet their needs and then introduce all who come through our doors to Jesus Christ.
Members give thousands of hours of service, greeting and mingling with those who may never cross the threshold of the church on a Sabbath day, but who freely come to receive help during some of the worst times of their lives. People who enter our centers are not strangers: we know them by name, we pray for their loved ones, and they know that they can trust us. Through food items packed into a bag or box, ready to be placed into their cars, or through school clothes given to an excited student—every moment of ministry shows that we are a church that cares.
But is that it? Is giving out clothes and food enough to follow the complete example of Christ for soul-winning? It is not. Food and clothing are temporary solutions to a bigger problem—the answer to that problem is Jesus. As we work in our communities, we see that people need Jesus now more than ever.
We have many wonderful centers staffed by volunteers who work tirelessly to share Christ in their communities. There is not enough time or space to mention all the work that is being done across Michigan, but an especially inspiring story can be found at the Ionia ACS.
They provide food and other necessities and bring in local community students to help. This offers an opportunity for both students and clients to come in contact with Christ. Williamston church holds a free BBQ, thanking first responders, and Ann Arbor ministers to the refugee communities. The Upper Peninsula has centers helping their communities in whatever way is needed. Big or small, centers across Michigan are using the talents God has given them, and they are able to meet the local needs of their community and introduce them to the Lord. Working with ACS is a beautiful process of “connecting to the church to the community,” says Dr. Sung K. Kwon in his book Burst the Bubble, which focuses on community outreach (p. 6). We have been commissioned to reach the world by demonstration of our care and love for those who are our neighbors.
When you are a volunteer or leader of Adventist Community Services and Disaster Response, you are a part of a family, a family with a goal to minister to the community. Those who are committed to the good of others, acting as the hands and feet of Jesus, will find the most loving and personal ministry-focused teams to serve alongside.
We are commissioned to serve God and His people, to bring them to a fountain that will never run dry. That is the beauty of ACS. We have a large group of individuals and families needing our help, and by helping them, by following Christ’s method, we will see “true success in reaching people.” Together as a church we can help to hasten the coming of Jesus by mingling with those we serve, just like Jesus did while He was on this earth.