Guest Blog by Carol Gruber
Ruling Elder and Clerk of Session
First Presbyterian of Union, Missouri
Faithful church attendees, occasional visitors, families, singles, seniors, middle-aged, teenagers, and young children come to worship the creator, sustainer, encourager, forever present, lover of our souls. Many of those who come to our church may not know about the two special rooms on the main floor, or that they were part of the addition to the church in 2007.
They were planned to be Sunday school rooms – a smaller one 13 feet by 14 feet off the nursery, for preschool or kindergarten children and was used as such for a few years. The larger room 21 feet by 14 feet was for older youth. But time goes by and children grow up. And where were the Sunday school children we thought would continue to fill the rooms?
And then, oh joy, we were able to welcome the use of those rooms by a group that provided support for autistic children. They occupied the rooms for a few years – until the number of participants gradually dwindled, and the program was no more.
But everything else continued. We worshiped on Sundays, the session had meetings, we hosted women’s brunches, Presbyterian Women had meetings, we donated the use of the church’s lower level to a flourishing food pantry.
But those two rooms were empty, and nature likes to fill a vacuum. Odds and ends began to appear in those rooms. This and that – an intriguing assortment of stuff. Most of it is quite useable if only the right people were there to use it. Then the dreaded term, “catch-all” became the motif for the rooms.
Until one day a mother of three boys – (she and her husband were also foster parents) inquired, somewhat hesitantly at first: “Would our church consider providing space for a Foster Closet that would give clothes and equipment to children in foster homes, offered at no charge?” Receiving the answer, “Well, maybe, but no trash bags full of moldy or buggy clothes.” “Absolutely not, she replied. “Only clean, like-new clothes on racks all sorted according to boys and girls and age. But, we thought – the rooms would have to cleaned of all that stuff.” This lit a spark in two families who set to work and in a matter of three weeks, the rooms were cleared and ready for a new life, for a new well, a new mission. We provided the space, but use for the space was created by an imaginative person who was passionate about helping foster families and followed strict COVID precautions.
God is good all the time. End of story, right? Not quite. After a couple of years, the Foster Closet had an opportunity to be housed in a much larger space with all kinds of advantages for foster parents and the social workers assigned to the children. We were happy for them and their new 501 (C3) status.
The Foster Closet left, and the rooms were stripped bare, devoid of the colorful clothes and the families with children who came to claim the clothes. What a change, and a bit of a tug on our heartstrings.
But once again a new idea was brought to us. Would we consider providing storage space for The Back to School Fair? Once a year, at the end of July for the past 18 years – at no charge – The Back to School Fair has been providing school supplies, backpacks, and clothing to area families with children about to start a new school year. They were currently renting storage units, and we could save them a lot of money that would be used to purchase more school supplies. This wasn’t an open and shut, Yes or No, because we aren’t storage units with 24/7 access. It took conversations, statements of expectations, and understanding of usage and plans so that their good work didn’t ever collide with a church worship service or other church activity. But we worked it out and now it seems that once again we have been blessed with a use for what was always intended to be of use. We have found that it is a truism that in God’s house there are many dwelling places.
Ruling Elder and Clerk of Session
First Presbyterian of Union MO