Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2010, click here.

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Not So Different From Me

Written by Joanna Burress

Another mother

“How much longer do you have?” It’s a question I’ve become accustomed to as of late. I’m 32 weeks pregnant and finally showing enough that even strangers will ask. Today was no exception, and I was asked three times before noon.

The last question came from a mother sitting next to her stroller at Shepherd Community Center, waiting her turn at a legal clinic. Jaden Antonio, her 10 month old, was in her lap.

Ten-month-old Jaden holds his dad's hand as he learns to take his first steps.

Jaden was her fourth child. She also has an 18, 14, and 9 year old. She was very generous with advice about birth, baby supplies and child spacing, and was quick to advocate for nursing. I asked if her baby was mobile. “He’s taken 6 steps,” she bragged.

In so many ways, all new mothers have a universal experience that transcends place, culture, and socioeconomic status- whether it’s my first son or her fourth. We all have a similar physical experience growing another person and bringing a baby into the world, then adjusting to life caring for the new life. We have an elemental connection, even though our situations look very different.

When I mentioned I would need to pump at work to continue breastfeeding after the first few months, she let me know that the Women, Infant, and Children program would provide good support, without a second thought, as if everyone she knew qualifies for WIC.

When childcare came up, she confessed the difficulty of finding back-up care when kids get sick, which happens often at daycares with too many kids and too few workers. During her kids’ childhoods, she lost two jobs because she had to pick up a sick child and miss work.

For the first time, Jaden’s mom isn’t working while her baby is young.  Instead, she tries to make ends meet with a disability check.

Cheryl greets clinic patients and makes sure their medical records stay up to date.

Holistic care

Jaden’s family is just one of the 540 families Shepherd Community Center serves on the near east side of Indianapolis. In addition to providing space for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Shepherd has breakfast for neighbors who drop in Saturday morning and hosts a free medical clinic.

During the Saturday clinics, childcare is provided so that parents can attend without worrying about impatient children underfoot. When I visited, the playground was busy with kids. Jaden’s 9-year-old brother was among them.

During the week, social workers work with families to make sure the heat stays on, they provide parenting training, get adults and children signed up for health care programs they qualify for, and make sure patients get the acute care they need at local hospitals and clinics. A food pantry sends families bags of groceries when their pantries are bare. A mom’s club offers women life skills training, computer classes, and bible study opportunities. Women can spend time with each other and support each other while their children are cared for.

All of these activities aim to strengthen the families Shepherd serves and break the generational cycle of poverty.

Cheryl travels from the north side of Indianapolis to volunteer regularly with Shepherd's medical clinic.

Getting Involved

At the entrance to Shepherd Community Center, tables are set up to greet the medical clinic patients who come Saturday mornings. Cheryl works weekly to process clinic patients, keeping medical records as up-to-date as possible with a patient base that comes and goes. All morning, as the hubbub of the clinic and other projects spun around her, she sat behind a laptop and checked patients out of the clinic, making sure all their information was recorded correctly. This data is invaluable if the person needs to be sent to another clinic or hospital, as most of the patients have no primary care provider or insurance.

Cheryl has no medical training, but wanted to do something to help out after coming to Grace Community Church a few years ago, and the Shepherd opportunities were a good fit. Her husband John was leading the breakfast team this morning, feeding the families that came for help at the clinics. She laughs and shares that John won’t be caught in the kitchen at home, so seeing him giving orders directing someone else’s kitchen is fun.

Beth and a fellow nurse take vitals in the Shepherd medical clinic triage area.

Beth came to Shepherd years ago to help serve a meal with a group from her church, and learned about the medical clinic, but was sure she wouldn’t be able to be of much help. She is an obstetric nurse during the week, and she thought they were certainly looking for a different kind of professional with a different skill set.

When a call went out for nurses to staff the clinic, though, she decided to go to a meeting and find out what helping out at Shepherd would entail. As she put it, “The Holy Spirit’s been after me for a while.” Now, every month for the last two years, Beth has served in triage at the clinic, taking patients’ vital signs and listening to their complaints before they have a chance to talk to a doctor.

A Weekend of Service team serves breakfast to Shepherd visitors.

Not So Different

Just as I realized that Jaden’s family didn’t look so different from my own, I saw these women faithfully serving aren’t much different than me, either. God moved Beth and Cheryl’s hearts to serve families whose circumstances are different than their own. These suburban women from suburban churches found that their skills were needed in the urban ministry environment, as unlikely as that seemed.

Thanks to these women, and the other suburban volunteers that step out to babysit or tutor or give food, Shepherd Community Center is making inroads on the east side of Indianapolis, one family at a time.

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About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    November 10th, 2010 at 9:54 am  

    Joanna – My daughter, Sarah, and I spent quite a long time visiting with Jaden and his mother and brother (I THINK his name might have been “Consuelo” – but I could not hear very well in the gym). I, too, was so touched by how open to conversation she was. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing some life stories with her about raising teenaged girls. She has one already thinking of getting a job early and her license early so she can drive to work. We talked of how scary that day is – the first time our child drives away behind the wheel alone. So, yes, you are so very accurate when you speak of how alike we are. At a grass roots level – or a God-root level, we are no different. We do teh best we can with what we have….and there’s the rub so to speak. It’s that blasted “what we have” that begins to set us apart. It is so nice to come together with someone when what we have has nothing to do with our conversation, our “being”, and our love for one another. It was very cool to share how important prayer was when our girls began driving. And to talk to Consuelo about being a big-brother was precious. He shared some funny things.

    thanks for sharing your heart about how you shared your heart last Saturday – and your time and your talent. How cool that God put you there at that time to connect with a mom of a young one. So cool.

    Blessings,
    Jo

  2. joanna said... 

    Reply

    November 10th, 2010 at 12:10 pm  

    Jo- Thank YOU for stopping to talk to this family, too, and for serving at Shepherd! It was so great to hear and see all the amazing things God is doing through the ministries there.

  3. Jim M. said... 

    Reply

    November 12th, 2010 at 1:31 am  

    Joanna,

    “Just as I realized that Jaden’s family didn’t look so different from my own,”

    When a persons eyes are opened to this truth it changes everything. Recognizing that we are all image bearers of God and need and deserve love and desire community, is so powerful in tearing down walls of all types.

    Beautiful snapshot of what goes on at Shepherd!

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