By Mike Silva-
The service-oriented Willamette Celebration that our ministry helped organize in 2010 continues to pay dividends. This Saturday, July 14, the inter-denominational organization that arose from the festival will paint two elementary schools in the Albany, Oregon area.
Serve INC (Serve in the Name of Christ) is expecting up to 700 volunteers to help paint an elementary school in neighboring Jefferson and Waverly Elementary, which serves central and northeast Albany.
The non-profit cooperative emerged from the event, which featured numerous service projects across the Willamette Valley. They were held in the weeks leading up to an evangelistic festival in late July. That weekend, nearly 700 people responded to my invitations to follow Christ.
Soon after, Brett Huff, Administrative Pastor at First Assembly of God in Albany, commented, “We are seeing a new and fresh cooperation among the churches.”
Those weren’t just empty words. Last week, Serve INC Board Member Rob Nelke told the Albany Democrat-Herald that the organization of church members is “coming together to show the community that the church cares and shows God’s love through acts of service.”
The newspaper reported that volunteers who will paint the inside of Jefferson Elementary will save the Jefferson School District between $8,000 and $10,000. Doug Pigman, Facilities Director for Greater Albany Public Schools, says that volunteers painting the outside of Waverly Elementary will save the district approximately $40,000.
It appears that the painting party at the Waverly school will replicate the festival atmosphere we observed in Albany in 2010.
To increase excitement for the occasion, Tony Villaneuva, Local Director for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), is heading up a “kids zone” Saturday.
In addition, the first 500 kids who show up will get a backpack filled with school supplies. This will help demonstrate the value of our current Rescate Project, which encourages churches nationwide to provide these supplies to poor Hispanic students. Also on tap for Saturday: bike tune-ups, free haircuts and a display by the Albany Fire Department.
“We want to serve the Waverly community,” Nelke told the Herald-Democrat. “We just invite those families to come and have a fun day and be blessed.”
This is the kind of long-term activity we prayed about and envisioned coming out of Willamette Celebration. It demonstrates the spirit of cooperation we long for.
This is not the first time this has happened. Despite rainy weather, last year nearly 700 volunteers showed up for a mid-July “Day of Service” to paint and landscape two Albany elementary schools.
School district Facilities Foreman, Gary Dahlquist called the donation of materials and time huge. “We appreciate the work that’s been done today,” he said. “With our current budget, there is just no way we could have gotten this quality of work done.”
The Serve INC board estimated the value of the 500-plus gallons of paint, 80 yards of bark dust and volunteer labor at $100,000.
Donations came from such sponsors as Home Depot, The Bark Place and Sherwin-Williams. Various contractors, food suppliers and other businesses also offered help.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before: smiling faces, great attitudes and an awesome job,” said one teacher. “In 15 years (of working here) I’ve never seen it looking this good…and all in one day!”
This is the kind of impact the body of Christ can make when we work together. This is also the primary way evangelism succeeds, when we pull together instead of each insisting on doing our own thing. That is the heartbeat of Mike Silva International.