Now that the summer is over, my work responsibilities have changed. I am no longer working with kids at day camp every day, but instead go to the office to answer phone calls, visit families, promote the organization, and brainstorm ideas to make our ministry more effective. My official title is Outreach Coordinator, although I do a lot of everything.
My main role right now is casework and family visits, specifically to help homeowners apply and qualify for grants through the USDA that would help cover the cost of repairing their home. Having worked with these grants for several months, I am now the resident expert and have been given the opportunity to train volunteers from a local United Methodist Church that is interested in assisting the full-time staff with the grant process. It is exciting feeling confident in this area of my work, and to be able to share that knowledge with others to ultimately help more families.
The grant process, like much social work, is not really hard, just tedious and time-consuming. Families often become overwhelmed by the "big packet", so we go and help them make sense of it all. Having a social work background, I feel right at home doing these visits and filling out paperwork. But more than that, I have been personally touched by my interactions with some of the homeowners I have visited. These individuals, many of them elderly, are so kind and welcoming, even to a stranger (myself), who is new to the organization and community. Time after time, I have experienced a joy simply from spending time with these individuals.
Take Ms. Wilson, for example. The first time I went to see her, she answered the door and warily asked who was there. The construction coordinator and I explained to her that we had called about taking a look at her home and starting the grant process to do some repairs. She opened the door and hesitantly led us into the kitchen. The entire visit, Ms. Wilson eyed us carefully, and though she answered our questions, I could see the doubt in her eyes. She was used to not being able to trust people.
Four months later, I visited Ms. Wilson again, this time to help her finish the "big packet" to qualify for the grant. She smiled when I came to the door, and right away offered me a seat at her kitchen table. The whole time we were sitting together, she laughed and made jokes. At the end we prayed together, and she said, "Thank you. That was just what I needed." As I left she commented that next time she would have to make a pie to share with me. What just happened? I thought.
Somehow between these two visits, Ms. Wilson's view of us transformed. Whether it was the persistent phone calls or diligence to quickly complete her paperwork, I don't know. But what I do know is that my job here at ARM as a missionary is not just the forms, the emails, or the phone messages. It's building relationships. Connecting with people. Engaging communities. Inviting them to be a part of the work we do.
When I'm not visiting families or filling out grant paperwork, I'm usually answering phone calls, coordinating upcoming events like Make a Difference Day, or working on our bimonthly e-newsletter (send me your email if you'd like to subscribe). I've also been able to get to know some of our new staff! I have thoroughly enjoyed these past two months. I'm getting into the swing of things here, understanding and taking ownership of what ARM stands for, and actively participating in the discussions of how to better serve with and in our communities in Alabama. Let's extend the love of Christ!