Meeting community needs during a crisis

Jun 7, 2021

By Susan K.

When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Arizona, health care workers across the state offered care and support to patients battling the devastating virus. At the same time, Mountain Ridge Church in Glendale was ready to provide care and support to health care workers in their community. How was this church prepared to meet the needs of its community when disaster struck?

Prayer

Cory Bramlett, community pastor at Mountain Ridge, knew members of the church who were part of the medical community. His first thought was to pray for these members on the front lines, fighting the virus. Faced with such heavy and ever-increasing demands, more prayer was needed.

The church created a virtual prayer wall by posting on the church’s social media platforms pictures and requests of members who were part of the COVID health care response. Over time the prayer wall grew to cover health care workers of extended family and connections in other parts of the state and country.

Relationships

Bramlett’s next step was to ask the health care workers from the church how Mountain Ridge could best support them as they worked on the COVID floors. From their responses, volunteers at Mountain Ridge put together thousands of care kits that included energy drinks, masks, hand sanitizer, pens, notepads, hand wipes, protein bars and other food items.

Local businesses, including Walmart, Target and Glendale Office Supply, donated many of the items for these care kits. Monster Energy Drinks provided thousands of drinks for free. Volunteers from the church worked in socially distanced spaces out of concern for one another to put the kits together.

Once the care kits were distributed at the hospitals, health care workers asked their co-workers from Mountain Ridge why the church would provide care kits for them. During a time of distress, exhaustion, and death, spiritual conversations were birthed because of meeting practical needs in a loving, supportive manner.

Going deeper

As the pandemic continued, Mountain Ridge wanted to continue to support the health care community. Out of the respectful relationships that had been formed with the care kits, the hospital administrators responded positively to the church’s request to provide extra help.

Many surviving patients did not have insurance coverage for home oxygen tanks. Others had trouble paying off significant uncovered medical bills. The deep partnership between the church and the hospitals opened the door to allow the church to help meet the financial needs of the community.

Mountain Ridge did not limit their community support to health care workers. They offered support to teachers in schools where they had already been serving. Care kits filled with online teaching aids, such as headphones, cushions, pens, markers and other helpful supplies, were delivered to teachers faced with a challenging online environment. They also made thank-you containers filled with cupcakes to share with first responders, such as police, EMTs and firefighters.

“Part of the vision of Mountain Ridge that we are constantly communicating is that at the end of the day, God is for you, and Mountain Ridge is for you, too. This outreach was an opportunity for us to put action to that message,” said Brett Carlson, lead pastor.

Preparing for the future

Being prepared to meet community needs the next time a crisis hits is not as intimidating as it sounds.

The first step is to identify the community helpers who are a part of the church, whether they are health care workers, teachers or first responders. Bramlett offers this piece of advice, “Ask what is their greatest need. No idea is too small.”

Before jumping to meet the identified need, Bramlett said, “Rally the volunteers. Involve as many church members as possible to be a part of meeting the need, no matter how small.” Involving individuals in the mission of caring for the community creates a deeper sense of commitment to the people in the community.

Finally, prayer is the key to transforming these acts of service from only meeting physical needs to meeting both physical and spiritual needs.

The height of the COVID crisis has passed in our state. When the next crisis hits, how will Southern Baptist churches in Arizona be ready to respond?

Susan K., longtime Arizona Southern Baptist, is a Last Frontier missionary with the International Mission Board.

See the accompanying story: Pandemic nursing: Support comes from faith, family, church

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