Cutting Wood to Share Christ with Metro Portland
For many people, thoughts of Douglas fir, maple, and pine trees stir images of Christmas, syrup, and furniture. For the men at Good Shepherd Community Church, Portland, Oregon, trees mean outreach.
According to ministry leader Kent Myers, the Wood Ministry sprouted seven years ago from Christmas presents. A group from the church delivered two truckloads of gifts to the Salvation Army, and church members were encouraged to stay to visit with recipients. While they were there, a friend of Kent’s came by to donate a load of firewood.
“As fast as we could unload the firewood, people were loading trunks and back seats of their cars. They were crying and hugging us,” says Kent. Some family members even had to walk home because they had been displaced by wood.
“I still can’t forget that day,” remembers Kent. “The need was huge. Hurting people behind on their bills could turn off their heat for a month.”
A friend of Kent’s had a vision for caring for widows, the poor, and the weak in the community, and his vision included providing firewood. He wasn’t shy about sharing his ideas with Kent, but Kent admits he wasn’t interested. Within a few months, the man fell ill and died. Kent recalls that until the end of his days, his friend “never focused on himself but on serving the Kingdom.”
Kent caught the vision, and took up the Wood Ministry.
Wood Ministry focuses on the Portland metro area, the poorest area of the city, where people have “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” says Kent. At first they didn’t have much for the ministry—some wood they inherited from the deacons and the local Optimists Club and a connection with the Salvation Army. They delivered the wood, visited the people, and prayed with them. Kent says that when asked if they would like a prayer, people usually say, “No, I’m good. Oh, you can pray for my sister.” Then, before the men are finished, the recipient will say, “You can pray for me.”
“The people are so proud,” Kent observes. “They don’t want to admit they have problems. Ninety per cent of the time we pray for every person we deliver to. We already know they are struggling. They just have to be able to accept it.”
Now, in addition to the wood, they leave behind several resources, including: The Jesus Film, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, Growing Faith by Luis Palau, Steps to Peace with God, by Billy Graham, and a comic for kids about Jesus. They also provide information about the Celebrate Recovery program at Good Shepherd Community Church.
“It’s not about the firewood,” Kent says. “It’s about the packet. It’s about being able to share Christ. Before we go out, we pray that God will use the packets.” Only once was a packet refused.
Sometimes, prayer leads to more. Over a period of three years, Wood Ministry provided firewood for a family. On the first delivery, Deanna wanted the wood inside her house. When the team took in the wood, they learned more of her family’s struggles. Deanna’s husband Marty had been hospitalized because of diabetes, her son was living with her, and the men had to stack the wood in a small room where a baby slept.
The second year the team unloaded in the garage, and Deanna and Marty came out to talk. Marty had lost both legs to diabetes. Kent remembers the bold witness of one of the team members. “Someday, you are going to stand before the King. What will you say?”
“We’ve been good people,” Marty replied.
“How good is good enough? Whose standard are you using?”
“Mine, I guess,” Marty admitted.
“You can accept what Jesus has done for you now.”
“Right there on the pile of firewood they accepted Christ,” Kent recalls. When the team member said, “Marty, when you get to Heaven, you will have legs again,” there were no dry eyes in the house.
A week after the second load was delivered, Marty had a heart attack. By the time the third load was delivered he had passed away. Deanna is now receiving support through the grief ministry of Good Shepherd Community.
When they first started the ministry, they thought if they had five or six men volunteer that would have been awesome. “We had on little glasses,” Kent says. “God had a bigger vision.” Now Wood Ministry has 76 involved.
The small amount of wood they had in the beginning is a fraction of what God has provided. Over the years a logger has donated three trucks of wood, and a tree service is partnering with the ministry. In the future, Kent envisions reaching out to another Salvation Army and serving more churches.
“This isn’t my ministry, our ministry, or Good Shepherd’s ministry. It is God’s ministry,” says Kent. “We are just trying to be his faithful servants, serving as his hands and feet so that he may receive all the glory. After all, he put it on our hearts to do this, provided us with all the wood, servant-hearted men, and the other resources it takes to pull it off.
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