I found an email from January 2020 in which Outreach’s CEO, Jason Chenoweth, shared with the board how richly and lavishly God chose to bless Outreach at the end of 2019. In my response, I signed out with a jaunty “Here’s to a ridiculous 2020.” Little did I know just how multifaceted those words have proved to be!
None of us got the year we thought we would, but if we think about it, none of us ever do. No matter the year, plot twists and unexpected roller coaster rides seem to dot any year’s landscape. But THIS year seemed to wrap its arms around all of us in an epic plot twist we’re experiencing together, en masse. Individually and corporately, we’ve all faced our own mini pandemics which ultimately comprise this “capital P” worldly pandemic.
Within Outreach, we recognize how incredibly generous our God is, and we have observed
firsthand one of the easiest and most potent of Bible memorization verses, “But God” (okay, so it’s not a full Bible verse but it’s packed with meaning and you can memorize it). In February, Jason said to the board, “We are continuing to move the internal culture towards greater clarity, direction, focus, honesty, and accountability.” Outreach then experienced significant staff turnover throughout the first half of the year. “But God” used that pruning season to strengthen and clarify the heart of Outreach.
As with all other ministries and non-profits around our city, state, country, and world, Outreach has been greatly affected by the virus as we have had to significantly alter the ways we can love on and care for the youth and young adults we serve. “But God” blessed us with ingenious and passionate staff and volunteers who flipped the script by creating opportunities of service through:
· A food delivery program where boxes of donated food and essentials are delivered weekly to our youth and their families.
· Frequent touchpoints with our ARCH high school students to encourage them during the uncertainty of virtual learning, often assisting with technology needs.
· Modified yet impactful program center hours where basic needs continue to be met along with deep, relational conversations.
· A second program center that opened in August at Impact Old Southside to serve and love on youth in that area on Tuesday evenings.
· A smile-filled, safe Thanksgiving celebration generating full bellies and bodies warmed by new coats, hats, and gloves donated by our generous donors.
· Thoughtful consideration of our Winter Contingency Plan to include a safe and warm space for lunch and conversation.
We pray for and about provision constantly around Outreach. “But God” keeps showing up in amazing ways in this realm not only financially but spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The staff is beautifully growing and leading in areas they had not before, which reflects directly on the youth and young adults they serve. The board has both stretched its wings and tightened its metaphoric belt in order to healthily undergird the organization more effectively. The volunteers are re-engaging in creative and safe ways to bring joy and fellowship back into the building. And our generous donors continue to amaze us in the ways they bless us abundantly.
We never want to lose track of the fact that God keeps showing up in miraculous ways at Outreach, especially in a “ridiculous” 2020. I encourage you to look back on this year and note the big moments and gentle touches when He lavished His marvelous love and grace on you. Merry Christmas and here’s to a “But God” 2021!