One of many quotes Martin Luther King Jr. is known for goes like this: “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
The members of the Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ashton, Maryland, United States, answer that question each month with major community service projects that have caught the notice of local and state government leaders.
The congregation recently received a citation from the Maryland General Assembly (MGA) for its “Brinklow Cares” initiative. Presented by Pamela Queen, member of the Maryland House of Delegates, during a Saturday (Sabbath) morning service, the document read, “Sincerest congratulations are offered to Emmanuel-Brinklow Seventh-day Adventist Church in recognition of your outstanding community support and assistance to those less fortunate, poor and disadvantaged in Montgomery County, Maryland.”
“Brinklow Cares” Local Partnerships
Brinklow Cares includes a comprehensive array of service opportunities for church members, including volunteering at clothing and food distribution centers, visiting nursing homes and sick church members, or sending greeting card messages. The church has designated the second Saturday (Sabbath) of the month as an outreach day. Worship services are shortened, and church members are expected to go out and serve.
The church has also entered into a significant partnership with the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) of Montgomery County to provide wholistic assistance to low-income families in five communities. The help includes classes in healthy cooking, financial seminars, computer classes, and after-school tutoring. The county also assigned 60 food-insecure families to the church, which provides short-term help as well as assistance in accessing county resources, while also giving holiday baskets and back-to-school supplies for children.
In an effort to extend its ministry, each spring the church offers garden plots to community residents so they can grow their own vegetables. And in the fall, the church stages a free “yard giveaway” for the general public.
The Hope Clinic
Through the past five years the church has staged health expos in various neighborhoods around Montgomery County. In the fall of 2018, Brinklow and HOC partnered with the Adventist Medical Evangelism Network, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and the Adventist Church’s Hope Channel television network to provide medical and dental services for visitors.
Based on the grounds of the Adventist Church’s General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Hope Clinic served more than 1,200 people with free haircuts, flu shots, massage therapy, HIV testing, healthy food demonstrations, and resource information for HOC.
With more than 350 volunteers, including 65 dentists, oral surgeons, hygienists, optometrists, nurses, and medical doctors, the clinic provided dental screenings, cleanings, fillings, extractions, and referrals when necessary. Organizers estimated that nearly $83,000 of free dental care was provided.
The Ministry Continues
While the Brinklow church has been recognized for working in Maryland, its ministry reaches beyond state lines. Through partnerships with other churches, Brinklow also ministers to the homeless in Washington, D.C., which in recent years had the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the U.S., mainly due to the high cost of housing.
For more than 25 years, Brinklow deacons, deaconesses, and other members have joined the Fourth Street Friendship Adventist church in Washington, D.C. to provide a Sunday breakfast for homeless persons, along with messages of encouragement.
This year marks 10 years that Brinklow’s Inner-city Ministries has conducted chapel services at Central Union Mission (CUM) men’s shelter. Founded in 1884, CUM is the oldest private social service agency in the District of Columbia.
In defining the purpose of Brinklow Cares, Emmanuel-Brinklow senior pastor Anthony Medley explained, “Brinklow Cares is a demonstration of Christian love and compassion, reaching people at their point of need. It’s the gospel in action, reaching the whole person, physically, spiritually, socially. And this requires a community focus. We go out of our way to find the wounded man on the side of the road and the wounded person in the executive office.”
“We have made significant footprints in Montgomery County,” he pointed out. “And the county sees us as partners. My goal is to get 100 percent participation from our members. Each one should find a place in reaching the community.”
In response to Brinklow’s commitment, several community leaders have voiced appreciation for the church’s efforts. “We want to thank the church for helping people in need,” Queen said. “We have pockets of poverty in the county. And faith-based organizations share our mission of helping those in need.”
Along with helping the disadvantaged, Queen also stressed the importance of churches advocating for the poor at the state legislature. “It’s important for the legislators to see the faces of advocates in Annapolis. It really makes a difference.”
In the future, Medley wants to position the church to be the signature resource in addressing at least one of three critical needs for the county: opioid addiction, obesity, and diabetes. “I want us to be the resource place that Montgomery County can identify in addressing [at least] one of those issues,” he said.