Volunteers Jean Maggard, Catherine Easton, and Katie Nuckles prepare for the drive-thru food pantry, Elk Garden School Community Ministries, Virginia. PHOTO: BROOKE ATCHLEY
By Brooke Atchley
December 14, 2020 | ATLANTA
This year has had its challenges but through it all, God has been faithful. God’s people have been faithful. God has called us into mission, and our work has been difficult, but God has been present in the midst of it all.
I have the distinct honor of seeing God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of God’s people every single day as a Church and Community Worker missionary in Rosedale, Virginia, where I manage the Elk Garden School Community Ministries. People come to see us when they are broken and hurting, needing a helping hand with groceries, utility bills, or school supplies for their children, and when they have lost all of their earthly possessions from a fire or a flood. There are days when I leave with a heavy heart because of the pain I have seen in the eyes of my neighbors – neighbors who often go unseen by those around them.
I know that God grieves when the brokenness of this world causes pain in God’s most prized creations – us! I see brokenness each and every day, and my heart grieves for that which breaks God’s heart.
Maci Whited tie-dyes a t-shirt with “Camp is Where the Heart Is Box” (a partner ministry with Elk Garden School Community Ministries), summer 2020. PHOTO: MELISSA ABSHER
But I know something! I know that God is with us! I celebrate that God is with us this Advent season. I long for the time when this world is healed from sin and all is made right again. I long for a time where there is no hunger and no sickness and no pain.
But I have hope! I have seen glimpses of God’s kingdom here on earth because God is faithful, and God’s people are faithful to the call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
There is hope when a carload of food gets delivered for the food pantry and when a widow brings by her monthly donation of two jars of peanut butter. There is hope when a farmer offers a cow to help feed his neighbors. There is hope when young people come to plant seeds in the community garden. There is hope when the members of the community work program come and help our men stack wood for the wood ministry so that our neighbors will be warm this winter.
There is hope when volunteers come to sweep and wash windows and teach Bible study. There is hope when folks drive hours to bring us sewing machines for our quilting groups. There is hope when our ragtag group of volunteers, staff and community friends work together to provide a meal for a grieving family.
Elk Garden School Community Building on a fall day. Church and Community Worker site for Brooke Atchley, Rosedale, Virginia. PHOTO: MELISSA ABSHER
There is HOPE because God’s people are faithful to the call to be in mission with one another. There is HOPE because God’s people call out to God in prayer on behalf of the hurting, the hopeless and the lost. There is HOPE because God changes our hearts and lives.
Throughout this global pandemic, every need that has presented itself has been met because of the faithfulness of God’s people. I know that God is with us because I see it in the faces of those that love God.
The Rev. Brooke Atchley is an ordained deacon in full connection in the Holston Annual Conference. She is the director of Clinch Mountain District Community Ministry and Elk Garden School Community Ministries in Rosedale, Virginia. Atchley was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, and has served as a Church and Community Worker since October 2013.