Among the defining ministry moments at Vine Street over the past year one stands out: forty-eight of us – children as young as six and adults as old as eighty-two, male and female, individuals and families of five – went to New Orleans for a week after Christmas. We went there to help rebuild a church and to build a parsonage; we went there to see for ourselves the damage caused by broken levees in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina; we went there to help rebuild with our own hands a broken community.

For an entire week, we lived together in a bunkhouse still under construction; we tore things down and cleaned up; we installed shower walls and framed out a sanctuary with steel studs; we shared all our meals in the big kitchen/living room that had just been tiled; we looked for God together, and every night we shared where we had seen God; we prayed, we cried, we were speechless at the amount of destruction in the lower wards; we worshiped with members of West Side Christian Church and their pastor, Brother Vance.

Our work trip to New Orleans after Christmas was an amazing experience, and we have already scheduled a follow-up trip for this winter. On December 30, almost fifty of us will again travel to the gulf coast to help rebuild a broken community – and to return with our own hearts profoundly transformed.

When we say “Community Ministry” we think about our work in the community, we think about going out through these doors and serving Christ in the people we encounter. We also think about Room In The Inn, a ministry of hospitality to men who have no place to sleep safely for the night during the winter months; they come through these doors and find friendly hosts, a good, hot meal, and a warm and safe place to spend the night.

When we say “Community Ministry” we also think about the community grants we give to several local organizations, including Campus for Human Development, Hope Camp, Disciples Village, Interfaith Dental Clinic, and many others (read a detailed report here).

We engage in various forms of community ministry and we are discovering that it is much more than we thought: not only do we offer support and help to others in the community, or help rebuild communities that are hurting; we ourselves as a community of faith are shaped profoundly by those mission experiences. And the greatest gift is this: as we reach out to others, our roles as givers and receivers soon begin to dissolve as God makes of us all one community. Perhaps that’s why we call it “Community Ministry” in the first place.