About three weeks ago, our church helped sponsor a “Sorta Missions” day with our sister church, The Hope and Healing Center. I was looking forward to participating because my part-time job had recently conflicted with this unique program.
“Sorta Missions” offers the opportunity to select from a number of activities in which small groups become activists to have a positive impact on our community. Activities included sorting donated clothes, writing encouragement cards and giving presents to teachers, cleaning up property, babysitting for other workers, etc.
I chose to give out free quarters at a nearby laundromat on Summer. I was part of a team of four. When a new person entered, one of us would approach him, identify that we were from Second Baptist, and declare we wanted to share our time and quarters as they washed and dried clothes. Only one man refused to take our money and seemed anxious to escape us.
Each person on the team was provided with four big rolls of quarters to distribute. As we counted out the correct number of quarters or inserted them into the machines, we would explain to the recipient the motivation that brought us there.
Connections with People
The first person I connected with was a young Hispanic woman with two small children. The mother haltingly showed me with her fingers that she spoke little English, and her children were too shy to attempt much translation until I gave them each a quarter for the candy machine. Despite having studied Spanish, languages are not my strong point. With the children’s help I think I conveyed that our church wanted them to know that Jesus loves them. And, for those who believe, He will clean their sins like they were cleaning their clothes. I did remind Maria as she worked through her mountain of clothes to signal me for more coins as I moved around the room. Near the end we would say “por Christos” together as we entered coins and smiled at each other.
The second lady with whom I spoke was a recent release from jail. I did not comment on this information. I did notice she was trying to cram far too many clothes into one giant washer. I offered to pay for her washing and drying and told her our purpose for being there. Tears trickled down her checks bringing tears to my eyes as she explained that she did not have much money and was trying to get as many clothes clean as she could with little funds. I helped her divide her clothes into three machines and put in the correct number of coins. She told me how awful being in jail was and that she “did it for her kids.” Not sure of her meaning, I began to talk of how nice it is to have clean clothes and how important cleanliness is. Slowly I shifted to talking about the cleanliness that only Jesus could give and how He loves everyone, even those who make mistakes. At the end of our conversation, she allowed me to say a short prayer for her and to give her my phone number. I have not yet heard from her.
Another team member, Bill, said that most of the people he approached either said they went to church or just started the wash cycle and left to move or retrieve their clothes later. However, last year he had a long conversation with a 42-year-old vet whom he later introduced to his Sunday School class and later still to a staff member at Brinkley Heights.
Stephanie made an instant connection with a young mother with two very small boys. Stephanie carried one or both of the boys nearly the whole time she was there. The lady told Stephanie that she was currently living in her car with the boys. The young mother was very appreciative of the suggestions Stephanie shared including information about Family Promise and other aid avenues.
Rogers spent some quality time with a mother with two middle school daughters. When the mother said they did attend church, he invited them to visit the Pumpkin Patch and to come to the Pumpkin Festival in the fall. Rogers also said he enjoyed the receptivity of the people in the laundromat.
Comparisons to God’s Grace
I think some interesting comparisons can be discovered from our work. Everyone feels better dressed in clean clothes, and everyone who has trusted in Christ and has been forgiven of sins has the clean, fresh feeling of connecting with God without our sin barriers. It costs to use a laundromat. Our group covered the cost for those who did nothing to deserve our quarters. The price of the cleaning was paid for them. All that was necessary was to accept the gift. Christ paid the cost of cleansing us from our dark sin. We did not deserve the cost He paid; all we have to do is accept His willingness to pay for us individually.
A difference is that clean clothes do not stay clean for long. Daily wear and dirty conditions will necessitate repeated washing. As we live in this world we encounter situations less than ideal for maintaining a Christian life. Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:3 that they are already clean because of “the word I have spoken to you.” In Jesus, we have the supreme “cleaner,” because we are told that only those with clean hands and a pure heart may stand in God’s holy place. (Ps. 24:4).
Because we love God and want to honor, praise, and thank him, we want to claim God’s cleanliness purchased for us by the sacrificial love of Jesus.
“Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”