Wendy Woodward knows first hand better than any one else what it's like to receive help in difficult times. Through our community ministry, she prepares the way for others to change their lives. She is just one result of God's abundant generosity in 2011.
Last year, First Baptist surpassed budget needs by over $27,000 and ended the year over $156,000 over expenses. You gave over $1.9 million to the operating budget. This is the first time in eleven years that this has happened two consecutive years. So what happened as a result of your gifts? People like Wendy Woodward came our way.
Wendy is a social work student at the University of Tennessee's College of Social Work. She's so passionate about her faith, caring in her work, and thoughtful in her studies, she has been at odds with another non profit over the role of faith in her work. She came to First Baptist by her own admission "to gain experience in a Christ centered environment." She spent a semester with us launching a food co-op to assist families with a 45 lb quantity of food for $3 every two weeks. She has met with clients, and assisted with our Christmas Brunch.
She wrote to me a in a recent email: "My experiences as a struggling job loss survivor fueled my ability to help others in my role as the benevolence worker at FBC . Carol McEntyre and I have worked closely in assisting families who are struggling with financial difficulty and have helped individuals and families with food from the fish pantry who are living in their cars and in motels because families are now homeless due to rough economic times. Landlords have been forced to foreclose on rental properties which have resulted in several families being displaced in the area. FBC also assists with numerous energy assistance pledges because of the recent increase in energy costs in the area. In my research project this semester on U.S. public housing policy, I found a devastating lack of investment into low income rental properties in urban areas. This results in higher energy bills for lower income renters. I am seeing this same pattern locally in the majority of clients who call in for assistance from the church. Most have energy costs that are sometimes equal to or exceeding their rent in most of these older units. This is where God uses the benevolence ministry of First Baptist to meet the needs of those around us in our community. I also feel God has truly turned my tragedy into a blessing by giving me the compassion to assist those who are going through similar situations that result when resources are depleted."
Even though Wendy is a volunteer intern, the work is not free. The ministry comes because you invested through the budget in a Buckner partnership years ago, and the fruits of this work continue to flourish.
In 2012, we ask you to give again through the ministry budget of the church. The goal is attainable and virtually the same amount as we gave in 2011. Our priorities are similar to this past year but with greater focus on at-risk children and families, leadership training, small group Bible study, and worship.
If Wendy is any example, the way is already prepared for these priorities and many more to be accomplished right in front of our eyes.