In 2005, Lisa Jackson and her housemates asked themselves how they can practically serve their neighborhood. Out of this one question, the Halloween outreach was born.
They started out small – making hot dogs on Halloween and passing them out to their neighbors. They didn’t know how the community would respond, Lisa said, “sometimes people are weirded out by taking food.” Fortunately, the neighbors gave it a shot and. Not only was their generosity well-received, it was greatly appreciated. After their success Lisa, and her housemates, looked for ways to develop the outreach.
Lisa appreciated her housemates approach to this outreach, “I’m thankful I lived with a group of girls who were very intentional. And not just that, but even just trying to serve. We’ve had some very challenging, dark neighbors who were hard to deal with at times, and still, trying to take practical steps even to serve them.”
Ten years later, the Halloween outreach is going strong and still has its original intentionality, and the unity of its founders at the core. Over the course of years, it has grown! Now, the typical shopping list for the outreach includes at least 300 hot dogs and buns, 300-400 individual bags of chips, a couple hundred water bottles, and hundreds of cups of hot chocolate.
“It’s been a blessing,” Lisa said. “I lived with those girls for a while, but then being involved in house church, being involved in the Apex community in Belmont has been a huge blessing because people bought into the idea of serving the community. It wasn’t just a house church thing, it was literally people I lived with and then branching out into – years I would contact three or four other house churches in the Belmont area and say ‘hey guys, would anybody like to contribute any of these things. And literally year after year the Lord was so faithful in providing.”
One house church would take all the water, while another would provide the hot dogs and buns. “Every year it has been God’s faithfulness working through the body of Christ. That’s been the premise of making this happen each year.” While the Halloween outreach didn’t start from an Apex house church, Christ-followers in the area and in different house churches have jumped in, including the Beacon house church. “It just kinda morphed over time in recognizing how much help you need to pull off something,” Lisa said. “And each year, getting more people, recognizing ok, we ran out of hot dogs at 7 o’clock and there’s another hour left, we could have so much other stuff. It’s been a process of realizing you need more help and you need more people over the years. Once people [in the community] recognize that we’re doing it and, after a few years, recognize that we’re being consistent with it, then it continues to draw more people.”
And they try to be clear about who they are as Christ-followers during the outreach. It’s easy for the community to assume they’re associated with the Catholic church across the street. But they try to let the community know that they’re a part of Apex. They have a chalk sign up reading “Blessings for you because of God’s love for us (ask us about it!).” And they try to be clear about who they are in their conversations with the community. It’s been hard because there’s a short amount of time Lisa and the others get to interact with the community – possibly only 30 seconds as they’re going through the line and picking up food.
Lisa said they want to cultivate an atmosphere of conversational engagement with those around them. Even if it’s only for a few minutes. They want people to be intentional about reaching out to people they don’t know. Their goal is to play a role in their lives, even if it’s a small one. “The practical side of stuff is important and I want to continue that,” Lisa said. “Some other ways to bless them practically, something that would be even more affiliated with the reason why we’re doing this – that doesn’t necessarily get clearly communicated with all the people. Having a deeper level of developing those relationships and figure out ways that we can practically steer them toward the gospel.”
And while this ministry has blessed the community, it’s also blessed Lisa across the years.
“It has definitely blessed my heart to see the body of Christ serving together and being the practical hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. “I am naturally a person who wants to physically live out some of those practical things as opposed to staying in our own little cocoon. John 17 talks about how the gospel is displayed when there is unity amongst believers. This is just an opportunity for so many different believers, from maybe different house churches, or people who aren’t involved in house churches; but still we’re all unified in that moment in the way we interact with each other, being able to use that as a display to show people who the Lord is. I get super excited about it every year. It’s the biggest blessing to me.”
UPDATE: Since written, we are so happy to see that many of those who were a part of Beacon HC have joyfully been commissioned to be a part of the Veritas Dayton church plant in East Dayton.
Author: Lauren Eissler
Photographer: Sarah Maigur