“Dreams for a better life were destroyed for this family. Refugees from the Congo. Five children under eight years old have died as a result from a house fire this weekend. Sadness & loss too large to imagine on this Mother’s Day. Prayers for this family. Embrace them in love.” This was the quote given to the local news crew as LaTosha Walker, operations manager for the North Carolina African Services Coalition (NCASC), made remarks about this tragic event.
In 2016, a family of six relocated to the Greensboro area from the Democratic Republic of the Congo—dad, mom, two girls, and three boys (ages ranging from eighteen months to nine years old). Dad works for Delmonte while mom works at a chicken plant in Sanford, NC. On May 12, their apartment caught on fire in the wee hours of the morning. First responders were able to get the entire family out of the home; however, within seventy-two hours of this event, all five children died at the hospital.
Traditionally, my last few days leading up to serve week had been getting the necessary materials to the necessary serve sites. However, this time was different. It was spent trying to figure out the best way to serve this community and this family during grief and sorrow. There were two groups scheduled to serve on Tuesday and Wednesday, and to be honest, I was a little bit nervous.
Well, after much conversation with some of the executive staff, we decided to proceed with the serve opportunities with slight modifications. For example, we had a pastor present during each opportunity. Both groups engaged with the children of the community—which was about sixty kids! Per conversation with Walker, everyone had been checking in with the parents of the deceased (which is to be expected), but there were a lot of kids who lost five friends.
Renewing Our Minds in True Generosity
As we all have heard it stated before: “Your generosity fuels the mission.” Yet, a simple glance at our current culture reveals grand “self-generosity”—people spend a lot more time trying to figure out how to spend their time, talent, and treasure on themselves. By resisting the patterns of the world and renewing our minds (Rom 12:2), our generosity grows ever more in-line with God’s will, not ours.
It thrills me to know that the mission field is right in our backyard. In certain ways, the community we served felt like a third world country—over fifty Congolese families resettled, seeking a better life for their family. Whether sharing a meal with the homeless, painting a room, or doing some yard work, generosity happens when you envision a different, improved situation for the recipient than when you first encountered them. Romans 5:8 reveals how God demonstrates generous, forward-thinking love: “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!” He understood what was required of himself in the now to produce something beautiful later.
-Will (Ministry Resident/Community Groups)