Thank you for your prayers and support this last year; they have been very much felt! We've had some interesting transitions in a few parts of the ministry, so I will do my best to update you about all of them in this newsletter so that you know what you can pray for!
First, Unite is working with the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance and a few churches to start up a food reclamation/distribution program. At this time, there are several good programs in Ellis County, but the distributions are not very frequent. The Community Assistance Center gives out food four times per year, and Saint Joseph's gives out food once per month. There are a few different food pantries, but they tend to have specific clients (one at the high school, one at the university, a few in individual churches). Our program would be for anyone in the community and would be grown in a few different phases. Right now, we are meeting with a state health inspector and a few different church members, pastors, and ECMA individuals every few weeks to discuss progress and work on stage one—getting a deep freeze in the Unite Free Store to add frozen goods donated from local merchants (usually that are near expiration date) to be given out in addition to our current offerings off our free food shelf. Phase two involves improving our coffee house kitchen area slightly to allow for churches to come in and serve occasional free meals to the Hays community. Phase three involves getting a fridge and using roasters to serve food from catering companies' excess (they would get a receipt for a non-profit donation) the day that they have extra. The final phase, phase four, would involve us using state-approved cooling procedures to cool the food from the catering companies, put date/time stamps on it, and serve it for its remaining lifespan (max of 7 day after it was prepared). The vision may change as we proceed, but it is exciting to see phase 1 already happening!
Another change is that the free store itself has grown in terms of how much it is used and in terms of what we offer. Here are some updated photos of our new shelves and some of the different things that people have donated.
A variety of individuals in the community have come in to get free food, free clothing, free cooking ware, microwaves, and other necessities.
Our small groups continue to go well—they are small in number, but I believe that they are going well. Please feel free to keep praying for spiritual growth in them. We have also experienced growth in game night—enough so that we almost have spacial difficulties. We may seek to expand our space slightly by having Aikido of Northwest Kansas rent another room for its changing area and storage to free up space for the game nights and the new deep freeze for the free store. Please keep that in your prayers as it would be an extra few hundred a month to do that, and I wish to make a wise decision.
We have also had some changes in Aikido of Northwest Kansas. We were very blessed to have Professor Moser teaching his 3-in-1 martial arts, with a faith focus, in our dojo. He had to head back to New York for family reasons, though; he and we both felt that it was a great blessing to him and us to have him here for the time that he was here, though. God definitely used the situation for the Kingdom in ways that I wouldn't have foreseen or planned for. It appears that He also used this situation as a blessing for another, too. A local tumbling instructor had been in relationship with a gym owner; when they broke up, she was evicted from his gym and their shared home. Her tumbling classes and personal training were the majority of her livelihood, so it was critical that she find space to continue them. Thankfully, God had left us open to allow for her to use the times that Professor Moser had been using, plus a few more slots, to make space for her and her tumbling kids. We feel very blessed to be able to get to know her better and to support her in this difficult time. I feel that it is also a blessing to have her with us, as she is very well liked by the children and parents due to her caliber of instruction. We will hopefully have her and a few parents join us this week in our early morning prayer meditation on Thursday. She and a few of them are interested in giving it a try, which excites me. We may also be joined by a professor at Fort Hays State University who has begun more heavily supporting the Unite free store in its efforts to reach out to the community.
Beyond that, life continues to be surprisingly busy, with many small projects all across the board in the ministries; Tella and I always appreciate prayers that we stay in God's peace as we work and that we keep focused on Him and His Kingdom. I also have been personally trying to 're-surrender' to Him and His will to experience the freest life possible in this busy ministry time. Thanks again for your prayers and support; also, please send us any prayer requests that you have!