July 7, 2015: The temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) as a bus with 33 Impact San Antonio delegates emptied at the Redeemers Praise Church, at the corner of S. Pine Street and E. Commerce Street, an area of San Antonio with abandoned homes, stray dogs, overgrown yards, and people to care about.
The first words of advice from community service project coordinator Isaac Ayana: “Just love them. Show them the love of Christ.”
With that, delegates divided into three groups. One group was assigned to partnering with Life Health Network’s expo for children in a neighborhood park.
Young registrants at the health expo completed interactive activities at eight stations (NewStart principles reworked under the acronym BE STRONG)—15-minute stops where the children, assisted by Impact delegates, participated in a fun activity and learned a health principle.
The other two groups were assigned a community service project that involved significant landscaping for several homes in the southeast neighborhood. Ayana, an Adventist who works with the nonprofit Dream Center San Antonio, wasted no time giving quick instructions about tools, bags, gloves, water bottles, and what to expect at each house. After the briefing and prayer, Ayana led the reloaded bus to two different neighborhood blocks in his white Silverado laden with lawn mowers, ladders, scythes, rakes, and gas powered weed trimmers. Impact delegates got to work immediately in the residents’ yards.
A few hours later, front, back, and side yards of six houses were immaculately groomed, more than 100 water bottles were emptied, and sweaty delegates returned to their yellow bus sharing stories—about elderly resident Virginia; about single, working mom Pam; and others.
While a few picked up new skills in landscaping, all came back with the realization that caring for people in their communities goes a long way. And that by caring for others and loving them, they themselves would be drawn closer to God.
Marah Irving, a delegate from Fort Worth, Texas, said, “I wanted to do something that would keep me energized the whole week. But I didn’t realize the impact this experience would have on my spiritual life. . . . I’ve been praying more, and I’ve gotten closer to Christ through this experience.”