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As one Farmington, Missouri, family delivers basic food and household goods, to thank police officers and firefighters for their service, they know they’re delivering more than just barbecue sauce and toilet paper.
They know from personal experience that God is using them to open doors to share their faith.
Travis and Crystal M. Huggins, and their daughter, Kendra, who attend New Life Church, are volunteers for “Love Farmington,” a Rural Compassion outreach of 10 Farmington churches of varying denominations.
Adherents from each church have “adopted” one or more city departments, schools, or organizations for practical service each month as part of the outreach. Sometimes that involves serving cold drinks to street employees in the summer, making up snack baskets to put in break rooms, or handing out school supplies to local teachers.
As churchgoers drop off goods and contribute their time faithfully each month, they’re strengthening relationships and seeing lives changed.
Before the Huggins family began volunteering for Love Farmington, they had been on the receiving end of the ministry. One night, more than a year ago, Travis, who is a Farmington police officer, brought home some items dropped off by New Life attendees. The generosity and kindness of the donors touched Crystal.
Shortly after, New Life Pastor Kevin L. Kappler, 50, who is also a police chaplain, had the opportunity in a patrol car to talk to Travis about God. The officer ended up rededicating his life to Christ. Crystal and Kendra followed shortly after.
The family decided to attend New Life, and knew right away they wanted to give back through Love Farmington.
“It was such a wonderful thing that they did for us, and it stuck with us,” says Crystal, 40. “And we saw it being something we could do together.”
As the Huggins family volunteer, they wear matching T-shirts with a Farmington area map, Love Farmington open heart logo, and a Bible verse. At the same time people across the city from the varying churches sport similar generic shirts, rather than listing the name of individual congregations. Leaders and laypeople have put aside competitiveness and territorial thinking in an effort to reach out in compassionate ways.
“We’re 10 different churches represented here, but with the T-shirts we’re just one big family,” says Pastor Kevin C. Davis, 48, of Open Heart Assembly, which launched the outreach.
Each month, members of the various churches take turns driving a truck to Convoy of Hope’s Springfield headquarters to gather Rural Compassion supplies. The team divides up the commodities among the 10 churches for distribution upon returning to Farmington, a city of 18,000 located 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Open Heart Assembly staff and adherents began the ministry after adopting Jefferson Elementary School for outreach efforts. They served the school by painting hallways, writing notes of encouragement to teachers, and donating school supplies.
Davis, and his wife, Melissa, challenged other local congregations to adopt parts of the community as a way to focus ministry service beyond the church walls.
Love Farmington has helped churches serve the community more strategically, according to Kappler.
“It gave a name to what churches were already doing and it made it so we’re more intentional and not duplicating efforts,” Kappler says.