Talking about it is easy, but actions speak louder than words. What does it look like to truly serve?
Rachel Spain is a part of Gwinnett Church, and if you live in Gwinnett County or the surrounding area, you’ve likely seen or heard their slogan, “FOR GWINNETT.”
“As a church, we want to be known for being FOR our community. Our hope is that people will see we are for them, because God is for them,” Rachel said.
The ministry structure of Gwinnett Church is atypical in that it focuses not only on churchwide ministries, but also outwardly, on the community and its already-existing forces for good.
“Through Intersect, we strive to build healthy relationships in our community by coming alongside community organizations that are making sustained impact,” she said. “When we saw the excellent work that Home of Hope does, we decided we wanted to have a relationship with them. That was about five years ago.”
Since then, Gwinnett Church volunteers have helped Home of Hope in numerous ways.
“We do an initiative every year called ‘Be Rich,’ and it comes from 1 Timothy 6:18 which talks about being rich in good deeds. During that season, we post all kinds of service opportunities for our attendees – from sponsoring a family for Christmas and purchasing Christmas presents for the mom to dropping off a meal.
“During this season last year, a lady who couldn’t get out because of COVID contacted me and asked what she could do,” Rachel said. “She’s a seamstress, so she was able to make masks with fun materials and drop them off for the children at Home of Hope.”
Selflessness is the main theme of Gwinnett Church’s involvement in the community, and as Rachel explained, it’s very much on purpose.
“We don’t ever want to do a volunteer project that creates more work, coming in and telling them what we want to do to help,” she said. “Instead, we want to utilize our people to lean into their needs and help them go further faster; we’ll find out what they’re dreaming about and see how we can help with it.”
For Rachel, serving with Home of Hope through her church has been an experience that she’s benefitted from as well.
“From the moment that I stepped into volunteering, Home of Hope has been so welcoming and so open. I feel so welcome driving onto their campus,” she said, “and I’m always so encouraged by the determination, resilience and perseverance of the women and families who stay at Home of Hope. So much of that, I think, is because of the leadership at Home of Hope and the way they serve and pour into those women, to inspire them to be determined.
“What I love about this model is that you come to this community, this home, but they’re not always there [because they’re working] – they’re encouraged to get a job, and the staff really hold them accountable.
“I love that their heartbeat is doing things with excellence.”
In a place like Home of Hope, many of the families have been through traumatic circumstances, leaving them feeling vulnerable. However, a particular aspect of Home of Hope’s services stands out to Rachel.
“One thing that I absolutely love about Home of Hope is the way they respect the dignity of the families they serve – I think that’s easy to lose sight of,” she said.
“We don’t know what tomorrow holds for any of us. We all have dreams and plans, but any kind of hardship can change it all. Last year brought that to the forefront of so many of our minds: life can change very quickly.
“We need to be aware of what these women have walked through and just how courageous they are. The question we should ask is ‘How do we come alongside them and cheer them on and truly be a neighbor to them?’”
Between the efforts of Home of Hope and Gwinnett Church, Rachel hopes to see a shift in the perspective on homelessness in the community.
“One of my hopes is that we at Gwinnett Church continue to learn more about individuals who are experiencing homelessness. So many times, it can feel like different societal issues – homelessness, human trafficking, poverty, food insecurity – are very distant. But we need to be aware that it is right here, not even in our backyard, but in our front yard. It’s right here,” she said.
“I’m excited as we grow in our relationship with Home of Hope and continue to bring awareness of and put the spotlight on the incredible work that they do.”