Nothing is ever wasted within the Kingdom of God. The last 39 days have reminded me that even my darkest times have life-altering, God-glorifying purposes. Some of those purposes might still be unseen; you know, there’s no telling where Jesus might ask us to go from here. The lessons learned have affected me, my family, our ministries and practically every decision we’ve made ever since. You can see the changes in the sermons we preach and the songs we write. We treat others differently, we do different jobs and we believe different things… all because our life was so impacted by one crazy summer. We now lead and love better than before. It’s not just because we feel it’s more important than ever (although that’s mostly true), but it’s really because we now feel like we have something to say.
I’m so excited to share this portion of our story because this is what provides perspective. I believe anyone can persevere, but getting to see the outcome helps the years of wilderness make sense. Mom and Dad knew they were called to the ministry when they started the church in the early 1980’s and we were still certain of that calling after both of their illnesses in 2005. Sadly, the other thing we were sure of was that ministry couldn’t look like our recent years. For us, there was more than the expected. We needed to be different and better than we had been. The word “ministry” was definitely the call, but the definition, setting, reasons and players were changing.
We’ve been meeting at one of the oldest buildings in Frisco since we purchased the old Methodist property in 1982. The sanctuary was built in 1915 and still has pews and stained glass windows. Our congregation in this century has always been small, so we constantly entertain offers to rent our facilities. Saying that at least 2 people a week ask to rent, lease or purchase our property would not be an understatement. Around Spring Break 2009, we met up with one of the newer churches in town; they were looking for a space to meet and were hoping we could help. It didn’t take long to figure out that we wouldn’t be a good fit to share the same buildings, but that didn’t keep us from building good friendships with the leadership of the church. At one such meeting, the assistant pastor asked, “Did you know there are kids around here that don’t have school supplies?” The short answer was, “Yes;” the longer answer will take a little more time to tell.
I’m the fifth generation of my family to be raised in this town. When I was in elementary school, our city was small yet diverse. There were many different socio-economic factors, all much too deep for my young brain to understand. All I knew is that my soccer team had girls with huge homes because they hosted the pool parties, but my team also had some lovely girls that needed a ride from the trailer park to each practice. For me, we weren’t yet the suburbs and we all knew how to get along. As Frisco has grown, neither of those facts remain true.
With a population of now over 160,000, Frisco feels like its own metropolis. We have the traffic and taxes and tourism that makes much larger cities such great places. Nothing against all the growth, it’s just not exactly what I had signed up for. As the city’s borders expanded, the economic diversity didn’t grow proportionately. The majority of residents are doing great, but there always has been and always will be those with less, those that struggle and those in need.
Another idea that confronts us daily is that just because we look alright doesn’t mean that we are. People who are struggling in the suburbs need to be served differently than those who live on the streets or those experiencing the deeper poverty of third world countries. Here in Frisco, my most vulnerable neighbors share stores, schools and streets with residents of million dollar homes. Kids from both sides are expected to excel in school while balancing activities, fashion and friends. It’s impossible to keep up. Being employed isn’t enough to be happy. Owning the right things will come up short too. With addiction and suicide rates on the rise, the so-called “perfect life” isn’t even attainable here. The American dream is a great goal, but it’s one that feels so out of reach for the majority.
When the local ministry leaders asked if I was aware of the people in need, I said yes and began to quote some of the perspectives I just shared with you. At the time, I didn’t know more than that. We dreamed to helping them meet their school supply needs. Some of my evangelist friends knew how to make pancakes by the hundreds, so on a random Saturday in August 2009, we met at our church (because of location) and served breakfast to anyone who wanted to come. That year, we put out over 400 fliers and served almost 300 people pancakes. We had no clue what we were doing when we started collecting supplies and we ran out long before everyone was seen. If anyone wanted to come back the next Thursday, we would collect more items and we would be able to provide more at that time. Surprisingly, many came back to finish their shopping and we felt as if we had accomplished that which we set out to do.
The next month, our leadership team met for coffee with a few people that had volunteered at the giveaway. What I believed to be a one-time thing quickly turned into a vision for more. If local families needed help with school supplies, what in the world were they going to do about all the extra expenditures for Christmas? I don’t even recall anyone saying an answer out loud. It was almost unstated yet understood. We would collect toys and do another event in December 2009 to meet our neighbors needs again.
As we were prepping for that event, we needed to open a checking account in order to more easily receive donations. In the middle of a work time, our volunteers started brainstorming what we should call ourselves. We are from Frisco and we strive to reach out to our local community and serve them with the Gospel and love of Christ. Our idea was that simple, so why shouldn’t our name work that way too? One lady said to call ourselves Frisco Reach Out. No one had a better idea and it was frankly too late to change my mind, so I went the next day to fill out all the appropriate paperwork. Had I known this would be my thing – the one calling I would fight for, the reason I believe I was born – I might’ve put more effort into this step of the process.
Our first Christmas event was successful. Our recap meeting was great. Year 2, year 3, year 4… even into year 5, leaders, volunteers and families came and went. Every single event proved that our very existence was meeting a need that had been overlooked until now. I was (and still am) honored and humbled to be called here.
It would be a waste of time for me to detail everything we have done for the last 9 years. Let’s just say that we still do school supply events every August and Christmas events every December. We serve approximately 400 kids in less than 5 hours with 100 or so volunteers. By building relationships with the people we serve, we hope to break the bonds of poverty on their lives and to help them see that something better exists. They are worth so much more than they have been told. The contacts we make at our open events turn into relationships we build over time. We host Easter egg hunts and fall festivals just to spend more time with the families that need us most. In 2015, we partnered with another local church to provide a free Vacation Bible Camp to the whole community. A few times each year, we gather as leaders and volunteers to collect Build-a-Bears, to make Black Friday Blessing bags and to talk through what we would like to plan for the upcoming months. However, I purposely keep the bureaucracy low; our whole organization is quite simple and transparent.
Our qualification system and marketing plan are both very much word of mouth. When someone in need receives the help they’ve been missing, you can’t keep it quiet. We exist to minister hope and dignity to families that see so little of either. We look people in the eye. We help carry their bags. We call them by name. Small gestures will change the world when they are shared in love.
After nine years, I’ve seen and heard a lot of crazy things. Every relationship I’ve built and every friendship I’ve lost has helped me see myself and my calling better. When we’ve run out of supplies or when we’ve had crowd control issues, all of those experiences have led me to better understand and appreciate those I serve and those I serve with.
In January 2017, I asked a dozen people I trust to gather for a meeting. When they arrived, I gave each a stack of 3×5 index cards. Their task while others were arriving would be to write the top 3 things Frisco Reach Out does best. I was too short-sighted to see where God had brought me and where He needed to take me, but the trusting and loving people God had placed around me saw it clearly.
After a few minutes, it was easy to see that I had done a pitiful job of communicating our mission. I had more than 70 cards surrounding me and no one said the same thing. With great wisdom, one of the newest team members said that she believed all the cards actually pointed to one thing. So while I had failed at being concise, I had actually led well. Our new defining characteristic would be teaching people how to serve like Jesus.
We exist to show people how to live and love like the Lord. We do this in a few special ways, but this idea alone is what I will measure all future success by. I may plan events, but that’s just the way I’ve been called to create opportunities for ministry. I have just as much of an obligation to my volunteers and partners as I do to the families and community we serve. Even if the particulars change, I know that leading people closer to Christ and being an example they desire to follow will always be my goal.
We promise to:
Show Grace to Ourselves and Others
Needing a safe place to land is not something I alone am entitled to. We are happy to err on the side of grace in every interaction, hoping that those watching are willing to show grace to us too. When people are hurting, it’s easy to hurt others. We believe the world operates by a system of lies and manipulation. When we encounter such attitudes in the ministry, we seek out the deeper reasonings are hope to bring deeper healing to the circumstance.
Acknowledge Everyone with Dignity and Respect
Being seen or appreciated is not too much to ask. This offer requires vulnerability on our part, but where it is given, we believe it will be found. Sharing our names and stories with strangers is key to drawing close to them in their time of need. If we believe that Jesus loved us in our most miserable state, then we too can show His love to those whom others have said are too far gone.
Meet Needs In Ways Big and Small
We are 100% ministry. To us, that means “being what someone needs, when and where they need it.” We’ve become much less concerned about all of the answers, but we’re consumed by the why. When we extend an offer of assistance, it’s no secret that we are meeting the need because of the grace and glory of God. No need is too large, and we know for sure that God cares about the tiniest detail. We can show up, no matter the circumstance, and be used by Him.
Frisco Reach Out will over deliver at every turn! We love to redefine the standards and bend the rules of culture. For those that are too accustomed to being forgotten, we want to see and serve them well. When they are used to lies and limitations, we want to overwhelm them with love and truth. Our donated items are great quality. We don’t mind picking up or delivering if it would be best. Knowing we serve the exceedingly abundant God, we’re willing to go above and beyond too.