Photo by Matt Pohle | Story by Columbia Union Visitor Staff
Mary K. Rinehart (pictured), a member of the Winchester (Va.) church, doesn’t turn her head away when she sees people on the roadside with “Homeless. Please Help!” signs. She rolls down her window and hands them a sack full of love.
It’s nothing fancy: just a brown paper bag with a can of ready-to-eat pasta, a small can of peaches or mixed fruit, a bag of chips and a box of juice. But, with so many struggling with hunger and homelessness, it fills a great void, she explains.
“It doesn’t change the total picture of their lives, but it shows that there is hope and there are those who care,” says Rinehart. “We tend to not notice what we’re not looking for. But, when you start making an effort, you start to notice that there is more of a need than you thought.”
Rinehart doesn’t work alone. A team of about 20 in her Potomac Conference congregation, just an hour outside of Washington, D.C., spends Sabbath afternoons making similar nonperishable bag lunches so that everyone in the church can help the homeless during their daily commutes.
“When someone makes a commitment to a ministry, the Lord will provide the people who He wants you to serve,” Rinehart suggests.
Pastor Debbie Eisele, one of a team of three pastors serving eight area congregations, including Winchester, says
Rinehart remains committed even after last year’s death of her husband of nearly 50 years. “Her heart is full of compassion as she ministers, and her head is full of new and creative ways to serve,” Eisele says.
Rinehart, who also heads the Winchester ACS center, says church volunteers have opened the center weekly for more than 10 years, providing financial assistance for rent and utility bills, along with food and clothing. They serve some 250 families per year at the center, countless others on the streets.
“We’re a small church, but we try to do big things,” Rinehart says.