“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13-14, ESV).
Members of Apex Community Church, Hope Community Church, Cedarville University students, Xenia Christian High School students and many other churches and individuals in the area are serving the students and families of Kiser Elementary through many different capacities.
The main way they are serving this community is through the Family Café. The Family Café is an event that takes place every Tuesday night during the school year where the aforementioned volunteers cook a meal for families that live in the neighborhood around Kiser. The idea behind this event is to not only serve the families a meal, but also to engage in real life-on-life relationships with these families by sitting and eating with them. Randy Chestnut, of Hope Community Church and one of the main coordinators of the Family Café, says that the Family Café has developed a wonderful sense of community at the school. In addition to the Family Café, believers are serving Kiser through ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, connecting with preschoolers and their families to prepare them for school, tutoring, collecting hats and gloves for winter, open gym nights and some health awareness initiatives.
Serving in Dayton Public Schools comes with its own unique challenges and benefits. Randy says that some of the main challenges - poverty in the community and over-enrollment in the school- are the point of connection for ministry with these students and families. These challenges and living conditions give volunteers a chance to really serve the families that come to dinner, because they are able to step into the gaps created by the challenges and fill them with Gods’ love.
Jesse Bowers, a staff member at Apex that also helped to start the Family Café, said, “The benefits of working with the public school is that they have designed their new buildings to be used as a community hub for events such as this, so we have a place to meet consistently that is free and central to the neighborhood.”
When I asked Randy for any special stories he had about serving at Kiser, he really touched my heart and gave me a great glimpse of how God is working in this school: “Six weeks ago we were able to begin hosting an open gym on Thursday nights at Kiser for area youth. After the kids sign in and shoot around for awhile, we blow the whistle and have the kids sit on the bleachers. Then one of the volunteers takes about ten minutes to share a devotional and pray. I wondered how the kids would respond to this and for the most part, they are very respectful and attentive. I believe God is using this time to draw the kids to Himself. This last Sunday night, we had five of these kids join us at Hope Community for our worship gathering.”
This is story that should lead our hearts to praise God and remind us how important it is to serve the community and point others towards Christ. It isn’t our responsibility to bring each person we meet into a relationship with the Lord, God is in charge of each and every person’s salvation, but it is our duty to point them towards the Gospel through acts of love and service.
Jesse summed up this sentiment beautiful and succinctly, “Jesus did not save us to be middle class. Jesus rescued us and is reconciling us so that we can truly love all humans as Christ has loved. Where the Kingdom is being lived out, there is a flourishing of humanity.”
Author: Elain McKinley
Photographer: Matt Geis