A call to serve

If you have been looking for a way to show your kids what it means to serve by donating time and their natural abilities right here at home, look no further than LOVE Wichita.

On April 24, 2010, the second annual

LOVE Wichita will take place. It is a huge event made up of a couple hundred small-medium sized service projects that are done throughout the day.

Uniting the city

LOVE Wichita came to be when head pastor Dr. Steven Marsh, of Eastminster

Presbyterian Church in East Wichita, approached Mayor Carl Brewer about serving the city and uniting area churches in the process.

LOVE Wichita’s inaugural event was held on April 25, 2009 when more than 3,000 volunteers from 25 churches across the city took part in more than 180 service projects.

Gail Derreberry a staff member at Eastminster and the LOVE Wichita area coordinator, says the goal for this year’s LOVE Wichita is to see 5,000 people serving across the city. Twelve additional churches have joined the list this year and Derreberry says it is exciting to see the passion that each new church and each new volunteer brings to the effort.

“It’s also an exciting opportunity for inter-generational serving,” says Derreberry. “You see people of all ages serving together, and that creates a lasting bond.”

The City of Wichita is providing all of the waste removal for the projects and Waste Connections is waving fees for dumping the waste, details that Derreberry says make a huge difference.

Changing neighborhoods, changing lives

Stories of the lives changed from the first LOVE Wichita are endless, says Derreberry, and it’s just as often that you hear stories of the volunteers themselves being blessed, right along with those being served.

At the home of an elderly couple, a large tree was creating an unsafe situation. With the assistance of Westar, LOVE Wichita volunteers spent the day clearing the tree.

“The older lady who lived there brought out drinks and cookies to the workers,” says Derreberry. “(The couple) was so appreciative of being able to live in a safe environment.”

At another home, a team of volunteers from a nearby church assisted a developmentally disabled man in caring for his home.

“He didn’t have the money or the resources to take care of it or clean it up,” says Derreberry. “A team went in and scrubbed and cleaned and even went to the grocery store and stocked his shelves.”

But the service didn’t end there. Since the initial service project, the church has continued the relationship with the man by visiting him and assisting him over the past year.

The Eastminster Boy Scout Troop cleared one man’s backyard during LOVE Wichita in 2009. When a volunteer went inside the house to wash his hands, the homeowner was taken aback by the change in his home.

“The homeowner came to the man and told him that something was wrong,” says Derreberry. “He said, ‘I haven’t seen the sunshine in my house in 18 years.’ The backyard had been that overgrown.”

Putting it all together

It isn’t an effort that falls together without a lot of work. Behind the scenes there are church coordinators, team captains, and hundreds of volunteers who are planning, researching, reviewing requests, organizing and, most importantly, praying, says Derreberry.

“The foundation of these projects is prayer,” says Derreberry.

Praying for the people serving, those being served, for the neighborhoods and organizations that will be affected by the projects being completed.

And their prayer extends far beyond the Wichita city limits.

“Our prayer is that this will spread to other cities,” says Derreberry. “That there will be a LOVE St. Louis, and others.”

While it could be easy to get caught up in all the details of planning and organizing, Derreberry says it all comes back to one thing, a reminder she found in the Bible passage John 1:36-37.

It says, “When they saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.”

“LOVE Wichita is about seeing Jesus,” says Derreberry. “It isn’t about the process. It’s about watching for Jesus at work, because that’s where the blessing comes.”

All the details

Visit: www.lovewichita.org to register as a volunteer or sign up through your church if it is a participating church.

You may register as an individual, but churches serve as the network through which the projects are organized, so you must choose a church to sign up with.

“Choose a church that is convenient to you,” says Derreberry. “Any of them will welcome you with open arms.”

Volunteer shifts are from 8 a.m. to noon or from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 24, 2010. Or you may choose to volunteer all day.

To submit projects for consideration:Organizations looking to submit projects should contact Gail Derreberry at 316-634-0337, ext. 242 or at gderreberry@eastminster.org.

Individuals looking to submit projects should contact their City of Wichita Neighborhood Assistant. A list of contact information is available at:

http://wichita.gov/CityOffices/neighborhoodservices/NCH/.

At 7 p.m. on April 25 at Central Community Church, 6100 W. Maple, everyone involved in LOVE Wichita is invited to an all-church worship service.

For a complete listing of churches involved, contact information, project information, registration forms and much more, visit www.lovewichita.org.

In case of rain, LOVE Wichita will be rescheduled for May 1, 2010.

By: Jessica Lindsey

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