(This is the latest installment of our “Faith in Action” series. If you have a story of how involvement with The Fuller Center has impacted your faith, please let us know at this link.)
The youth of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ of Elkhurst, Illinois, go on a mission trip every summer, but the adult members of the church are not about to let the kids have all the joy and the Greater Blessing that comes with putting faith into action.
According to church member Scott Ahlgrim, the adults have been going on mission trips of their own for at least 12 years. For the past three years, they have worked with The Fuller Center for Housing in Macon, Georgia, turning vacant eyesores of properties into beautiful, like-new homes for families in need.
“It is something that really has been evolving lately with our church” Ahlgrim said on Friday as he and 26 fellow church members were wrapping up a busy week of renovating properties in the Napier Heights neighborhood. “Instead of being a church that just talks about mission or writing a check for a mission project, we really encourage the membership to get involved and do hands-on work. … Instead of just a church that just sits and talks and writes checks, it’s a church that is actually putting faith into action.”
It is no wonder then that members of St. Peter’s chose to put their faith into action with The Fuller Center. After all, that’s what founder Millard Fuller preached — the Theology of the Hammer. As he liked to paraphrase from the Bible, “Faith without works is as dead as a doornail!”
Not only do members take mission trips like the one last week to Macon, but they also help a local food bank and an agency to help support the homeless, among other outreach programs. Their faith-in-action philosophy has gained so much traction that even church members who have left the area still join in mission trips. In fact, last week’s service work in Macon included two former members now living in Tennessee and one from South Carolina.
“On one hand, it’s a privilege to actually do work,” Ahlgrim said. “Not everyone can do work, but for those of us who can and are in a position where we can take a week off of work to serve, it’s what we’re called to do — to serve, in any way that you can.”
Ahlgrim says it is particularly rewarding to look into the faces of those he is helping and seeing their gratitude and hope. This home in Macon will be going to a very appreciative, hard-working mother of four — Demetrice Howard.
“It’s not just that we’re doing some good somewhere,” he said. “You can actually point to a specific family and say, ‘I’m actually helping these people.’ To know that we can help this very specific family is very rewarding. It makes the hard work and whatever sacrifice we make feel very worth it. I don’t think anyone feels like spending a week here is sacrifice at all.”
They did have to go without one thing last week, though — Chicago-area winter weather and chilly temperatures. It was sunny with afternoon highs topping out in the low 80s throughout the week in Macon.
“This has been wonderful,” Ahlgrim said while admiring the blue sky. “That’s been an extra blessing being down here.”