By Rev. Allison LeBrun*
Vermilion Grace United Methodist Church (Firelands District) has now participated in two Random Acts of Kindness events, and we hope for many more in the future! Our first Random Acts of Kindness was planned for Lent 2020 as part of our Lent Christian Education program. For an afternoon, we had planned to buy coffee for everyone who came into a local coffee shop. Unfortunately, that event was planned to take place right at the start of the COVID-19 health and lockdown measures, so it needed to be postponed. This spring many of our congregants still weren’t comfortable going into a coffee shop for several hours so we gifted all the workers at our two local grocery stores, plus our local food kitchen and pantry $5 gift cards for the local coffee shop. This was to thank them for being essential workers and for keeping our community fed during a hard time. It also gave us momentum to continue our random acts of kindness.
Our local newspaper ran an article on the Random Acts of Kindness ministry in which we shared our vision of hope that some of those who experienced the kindness would also pass it on! Or better yet, that others in our community would be inspired to undertake their own acts of kindness in our community.
Moving forward, our Mission team wanted to continue the Random Acts campaign in a new way. We teamed up with Shore Thing, a non-profit on Main Street Beach that sells ice cream and other goods, to purchase 100 ice cream bars. For three hours, a team from our church passed out cards to visitors at the beach. One card they could redeem for a free ice cream, and it encouraged them to pass on the kindness. The other card was information for our outside Worship by the Water service.
When I approached people, wearing a clergy collar, some people were visibly a little anxious at a minister walking toward them. I am sure they thought I was going to try and preach at them. To help put people at ease I always started my greeting with “Free ice cream? Compliments of Grace United Methodist!” You could see the tension leave them and they relaxed. After that introduction, many people were happy to chat with me or with our volunteers. We were able to share not only ice cream but little peeks into their life stories and information about our outside worship service.
As we passed out cards, we were able to talk with many people, both long-time Vermilion residents and visitors. Some church members hopped from group to group at the beach, and one church member sat and talked with a man for an hour about Vermilion history. We met at least half a dozen United Methodists from other areas of Ohio. I was asked to pray for someone who had some worries over a family member moving forward with vaccination. The person who requested prayer, a congregant, and I stopped right there on the beach and prayed!
We met two women who were traveling on a road trip. They asked to take pictures with us. A couple of days later they sent us a message on our Facebook page that they had passed on the act of kindness, buying two motorcyclists water at a rest stop. They also shared how much it meant to them to receive a surprise warm welcome and cold ice cream sandwich. These women shared a verse of Scripture with us: “Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25). They then thanked us for making a difference.
This is the goal of our Random Acts of Kindness campaigns: to make a difference. Simply put, there is not enough kindness in our world and as a church we want to spread not only kindness but love. Moreover, we want to be known as a kind, loving, community-centered church by our neighbors. They won’t know this about us until we go to them – at the coffee shop, on the beach, or wherever they are! Being at the beach gave us a chance to meet our community’s year-round residents and summer folk who still shape our community – and many who worship with us by the lake.
We are looking forward to where our acts of kindness will take us next!
The Conference Communications team would like to share other stories that highlight ways that each of us is answering the call of Bishop Tracy S. Malone to reach out to our communities in creative ways. Please e-mail your ministry story to EOC Director of Communications Rick Wolcott at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Rev. Allison LeBrun is the pastor of Vermilion Grace United Methodist Church.