By Brianne Loritz
My name is Brianne Loritz and I have been regularly attending epikos church for around three years now. I add the word regularly because prior to this, church was something I did when it was convenient and comfortable for me. It was not until I was encouraged by my wonderful small group that I learned the importance of putting aside my own interests and having Christ at the forefront of my life. Once I began to live a life focused on Christ, it was not long before my heart was changed and I became more and more involved with the church. I loved serving on the Connections Team and attending small group on Tuesday nights, but something was still missing. As I became more comfortable in my Christian community, Christ quickly called me to step out of my comfort zone and search for ways to serve the poor in my city.
Initially, my thoughts went to what organization would be the best fit for me, when would serving fit in my busy schedule, and how would this benefit my relationship with the Lord. While these were areas to consider, I was still missing the bigger picture. Conveniently, at this time I was attending an Equip-U Class offered at epikos called “Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself” led by Andy Buck. During this class, we focused on common mistakes people make when looking to serve or help the poor. While donating money and resources is helpful, he encouraged us not to feel as though we need to “fix” people or their situation. Instead, we were encouraged to truly get to know those hurting around us and make loving, meaningful relationships with them. Since in the bigger picture we are loved unconditionally by Christ, we, therefore, ought to unconditionally love others. This was exactly what Milwaukee Rescue Mission (MRM) offered: an opportunity to recognize my own dependence on the grace of Christ and in return, love those in need within the community.
At MRM, I began serving in the Joy House which is a shelter for mothers and their children (and also a single women’s shelter is coming this summer!) I was welcomed by the friendly staff and other volunteers. Everyone started as strangers, then soon became close friends as we served closely together more each month.
A typical night of serving consists of a some light cleaning (toys, tables, etc), preparing snacks for the kids, and interaction with the mothers and children ranging in age from infants to 17 year olds. Each night of the week varies in activities but typically the mothers attend class/bible study while the children participate in gym time, arts/crafts, or a bible study organized by staff or volunteers. During this time, we volunteers are able to hang out with the children and hear their stories. At MRM, we are free to discuss Jesus and share His message with the mothers and children, some who have never heard His word before.
As I became more involved, my capacity to serve grew by relying on the strength of Christ’s love over my own abilities to serve others. The fears I had in the beginning, such as how can I relate to these women and children or what do I say to comfort them, soon were gone as God revealed to me that just spending time and showing compassion goes a very long way. Something as small as a listening ear, a hug, or a prayer was exactly what they needed to lighten the burden of their struggles even if it was only for a moment. These humbling experiences have left my heart so full of joy I catch myself walking away on Wednesday nights with a smile on my face praising God for bringing these people into my life.
I am thankful to be a part of a church that values serving the larger community. My hope is that we, the community of epikos, can continue to serve alongside one another and be the hands and feet of Christ in this city. I pray God will soften the hearts of more individuals to take part in our calling of service to those who are in need. “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40