Doing what Jesus told His followers to do doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can take a little organizing, sometimes—as a Foursquare response to the needs of the struggling community of Flint, Mich., has recently highlighted.
Offering a bottle of water—rather than the cup Jesus spoke of in Matt. 10:42—to Flint residents not only has provided an opportunity to demonstrate God’s compassion, but also a picture of the body of Christ working together.
In the past two months, members of two Foursquare congregations in the Detroit area have helped distribute around 60,000 bottles of clean water to people in Flint, where a crisis over contaminated water supplies has rocked the city for months.
Residents in Flint are still unable to use their faucets for water, as authorities continue to investigate the high levels of lead in the city’s water supply, which was revealed last year. Some fear health and developmental problems may result from long-term exposure to the contaminated water.
Members of True Worship Church (Ferndale Metro Foursquare Church) in Ferndale, Mich., and True Worship Hamtramck (Hamtramck Foursquare Church) in Warren, Mich.—both pastored by Antonio Sims—gave an offering to pay for pallets of bottled water to be shipped in and helped distribute them to grateful residents. Some recipients were in tears as they were handed supplies.
“The people there have really been suffering,” says Roy Harvey, a member of the Ferndale congregation who helped with both distributions. “It was really meaningful to be able to help in a small way.” Though there was not enough time to spend much time with people, meeting such simple, practical needs was part of “spreading the kingdom,” he adds.
“Though we were not directly affected by it, if there was anything we could do to help, we wanted to do that.”
—Antonio Sims, senior pastor of two Foursquare churches, in Ferndale and Warren, Mich.
The response brought together believers from different parts of Foursquare and beyond. After first organizing a delivery of water through the American Red Cross, True Worship Church then connected with Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR), which in turned linked with crisis relief ministry Convoy of Hope (COH). That organization then provided a second semi-truck load for the True Worship volunteers.
Both shipments were made to a non-Foursquare church in Flint that has offered its property as a distribution point for supplies. True Worship members were on hand to help offload the deliveries and then pass out cases of bottled water to people as they drove up in their vehicles. Some residents without transportation came by foot.
True Worship members gave around $3,500 to fund the effort, with some of that money going to the host church to help repair its parking lot, which has been chewed up by the heavy delivery vehicles.
True Worship Church members were on hand to help offload the deliveries and then pass out cases of bottled water to people.
The True Worship response was initiated by Antonio Sims, who was appalled when he learned of the water problem in Flint, about 50 minutes away. “Not having clean water in America in 2016, that really stirred me,” he states. “Though we were not directly affected by it, if there was anything we could do to help, we wanted to do that.”
Seeing different groups come together to make the project possible has been encouraging, he says. “How cool it has been to work with other churches and denominations, and have a chance to talk to people who are parts of other bodies,” Antonio says. “We were just a small part of it; we don’t want to take any credit other than just being concerned.”
Foursquare’s Heartland District played a key role, Antonio notes, sending an offering, while District Supervisor Dan Mundt “got the ball rolling with FDR. We were kind of doing it on our own prior to that.”
When first aware of the crisis in Flint, FDR looked into the possibility of providing water filters, as it has done in disaster relief responses overseas. But it became clear that was not the best option, says Gary Grubbs, FDR U.S. operations chief.
So the group turned to COH, which had sent semis of water to other groups in Flint for distribution. The two organizations have partnered in a number of disaster relief projects in the past few years, in the U.S. and overseas.
Gary says he has been pleased to see how different denominations and groups have come together. “Everybody has a part, and many parts make one body,” he adds. “That’s kind of where we are.”
“The people there have really been suffering. It was really meaningful to be able to help in a small way.”
—Roy Harvey, member of True Worship Church (Ferndale Metro Foursquare Church) in Ferndale, Mich.
At COH, Nick Wiersma, community engagement director, says the Foursquare connection has been an important link in the chain for the organization, which always looks to work through the local church whenever possible. “That’s where the rubber hits the road,” he states. “It’s about connecting people back to their local church.”
The multi-stranded response is set to continue, with plans underway for another shipment soon. Though there are clean water supplies in Flint currently, “there will be a shortage as it starts to get warmer,” explains Antonio. “We don’t see an end in sight until all the pipes are replaced, and we don’t know when that is going to be.”