Inasmuch Blitzes Virginia

What’s faster than a speeding bullet, more interesting than a Dan Brown novel, and more challenging than an Army drill sergeant?  No, It’s not Superman; just David Crocker zigzagging across Virginia telling the Inasmuch story and training dozens of churches to conduct Inasmuch events later this year.

For two years the Inasmuch ministry has been working with church leaders in Virginia to plan and promote a statewide Inasmuch effort for the fall of 2014.  The training sessions David conducted throughout the state-from Winchester in the north, to Hampton in the east, to Roanoke in the west and South Boston in the south-during the last half of March is the latest and most ambitious aspect of this plan.

David Crocker addresses a full training session in Virginia during the statewide training blitz.

David Crocker addresses a full training session in Virginia during the statewide training blitz.

“Virginia is the third state to undertake a statewide Inasmuch event,” says Crocker.  “North Carolina is doing their fourth this spring!  The South Carolina Synod of Lutheran Churches has held Inasmuch events on a statewide basis for several years.  Before this year, there were about 60 Virginia churches using Inasmuch to impact their community,” he adds.  “By November that number will have tripled or quadrupled!”

Crocker was on the road in Virginia for 12 consecutive days.  “This was a first,” he says.  “I have conducted dozens of training sessions in a number of states, but this is the first time to do so every day for 12 days.”  (See the box below for specifics)

by the numbersEnthusiasm for Inasmuch was strong and participants at these training sessions were excited about mobilizing their congregation into their community.  In more than one of the sessions there were people from churches that have past experience with Inasmuch and spoke favorably about their experiences.

The state of Virginia is just one more place where God is using Operation Inasmuch to help His people become more externally focused and effective at demonstrating His love and grace . . . and He doesn’t have to have Superman’s help to do it!

Collegians Tap Inasmuch to Serve

It’s common knowledge that college students love to “give back,” or serve people in need and more of them are discovering

Virginia students serve in Inasmuch Day.

Virginia students serve in Inasmuch Day.

that the Inasmuch model is useful in achieving that worthy goal.  Last fall 46 members of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, conducted an Inasmuch Day on their campus.  They bused tables in the dining hall, picked up trash around campus and delivered homemade cookies to the campus police.  In a creative way to serve, these Inasmuch volunteers gave away toilet paper to their fellow students and wrote notes of appreciation to the faculty.

“We wanted to show our fellow students and faculty that we care about them and Inasmuch provided the structure for us to do that,” said Cheri Wise, BCM Minister.  “We all wore Inasmuch T-shirts and so were visible as we served throughout the day.”

A second Inasmuch Day is planned for this spring at Longwood, this time with 2 other Christian organizations participating.  Word of Inasmuch at Longwood spread to the Baptist Campus Ministry at Old Dominion University in eastern Virginia.  The ODU group conducted their first Inasmuch Day on February 7 & 8.  With only 25 students participating they conducted more than a dozen projects.

Scott Anderson, BCM Minister at ODU said:  “The feeling I got from the students is that serving people becomes contagious.  They want more and have already asked when we can do this again.  Their eyes were definitely opened to the needs of people around them.”

Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity at the University of Tennessee conducted their first Inasmuch Day on November 2, 2013.  A Christian fraternity, BYX is intentional about incorporating compassion ministry in their fraternity life.  The group mobilized 8 teams of volunteers in November.  They constructed a wheelchair ramp for disabled widow, painted transitional housing for FOCUS Prison Ministries, sorted donated items at the Salvation Army and Angelic Ministries in Knoxville.

University of Tennessee BXY Fraternity students during their Inasmuch event.

University of Tennessee BXY fraternity students sort and organize items for an agency during their Inasmuch event.

Reporting their ministry to a group of Inasmuch supporters the following day, Preston Morris, Chaplain for BYX, said:  “We thoroughly enjoyed working with Operation Inasmuch in organizing our service projects.  It was a big help for them to facilitate our contacts with organizations here in Knoxville who could use our help.”

BYX is planning a second Inasmuch Day this spring.  Meeting with David Crocker, Executive Director of the Inasmuch Ministry, Blake Barton BYX Service Chair said:  “We’re excited about making a difference even while we are students.  Serving people in need is most definitely part of the Christian life and we provide these events as a way of reinforcing that understanding.”

Crocker says:  “Our ultimate goal is to catalyze a compassion revolution.  Working with these college groups does much to encourage us that such a movement is in fact in process.  As many of these students eventually become leaders in congregations across the country, our hope is that they will take their experiences with Inasmuch with them and bring those congregations into the revolution as well.”

Inasmuch Revival Produces 125% Participation

What’s an Inasmuch Revival?  It is an effective, intensive way of motivating church folk to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.  In September, Colosse Baptist Church, West Point, VA, conducted their first Inasmuch Day.  They had 125% of their average Sunday attendance involved!!  They attribute much of that extraordinary success to what they call an Inasmuch Revival—a series of church renewal services the week of their Inasmuch Day.  Phil Peacock, pastor of Broadus Memorial Baptist Church nearby, preached the revival.  Broadus had conducted their first Inasmuch Day in 2012 and Peacock often referenced his church’s experience with Inasmuch as he preached in Colosse.  Steve Smith, Pastor at Colosse says:  “The revival really helped prepare our congregation to participate in Operation Inasmuch.” 

David Crocker, Executive Director of the national Inasmuch Ministry says:  “What’s interesting about Colosse’s experience is that this is precisely the way Inasmuch happened initially in 1995!  Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, Fayetteville, pioneered Operation Inasmuch at the conclusion of a series of renewal services.  We found it to be enormously effective in motivating folks to get involved and apparently Colosse in Virginia has made the same discovery.”

Although Colosse Baptist is located in a rural area and they are not a large church by any measurement, they achieved 125% participation as folk who rarely attend worship and college students came home that weekend to participate.  Holding the revival services with compassion ministry as the focus Sunday through Wednesday prior to their Inasmuch Day on Saturday clearly enhanced their overall experience.

               Mark Townsend, Colosse’s Inasmuch Coordinator says the church conducted 24 projects in their Inasmuch Day—food collection for food pantries, sewing pillowcases for a nearby hospital, assisting customers at a local Laundromat, clothing and money giveaways at a local gas station, visiting a juvenile detention center, and many others.  He adds that one of the keys to their success is the training they received from the Inasmuch ministry several months earlier.  Also, they purchased the Inasmuch Day Training Kit which provided lots of useful resources and instructions as they prepared for their event.

Townsend smiles when he tells about Colosse’s celebration.  He says in his church folk sometimes complain when Sunday worship runs past Noon.  But on the Sunday following Inasmuch, the pastor asked people to share from their experiences with Inasmuch the day before.  THAT day worship ran until 1:00 “and no one complained!” says Townsend.

“Our people are already talking about our Inasmuch for next year,” says Townsend.  “Inasmuch has helped us see some of the needs in our community AND our ability to meet those needs.  We are a different church today because of Inasmuch.”

Inasmuch Spans the Rappahannock

The Rappahannock River runs from about King George, Virginia (east of Interstate 95) to the Chesapeake Bay.  As it gets closer to the Chesapeake, it becomes a substantial river of up to 1.5 miles wide!  Turns out this expansive river is not much of a barrier for Inasmuch!

Essex County, Virginia is on the western shore of the Rappahannock.  In 2008 about 20 churches there conducted their first Inasmuch United Essex and have followed every year since with more churches and more volunteers each year.  In recent years organizers have talked about taking a year off, but the churches have resisted.  They say it is one of the most significant events in their community all year!

Inasmuch United Rappahannock

In 2009 word about Inasmuch “floated” across the Rappahannock to the region known as Northern Neck Virginia which includes the counties on the eastern shore of the Rappahannock.  In 2010 a number of congregations in Richmond and Westmoreland Counties conducted their first Inasmuch United Northern Neck event.  It expanded the following year to include congregations in Northumberland County.

“On Saturday, September 28, hundreds of local Operation Inasmuch volunteers wearing conspicuous red shirts will once again be working throughout the Northern Neck as part of the fourth annual Inasmuch United Northern Neck event,” reads the opening line of the lead article in the Northern Neck News, September 20 issue.  The article continues:  “At 8:00 AM volunteers from three counties representing over twenty churches and several local organizations will begin work on numerous projects in the community to help neighbors in need.”

David Crocker, Executive Director of Operation Inasmuch, Inc., says:  “Needless to say, the expansion of Inasmuch in northeastern Virginia is gratifying.  I just wish everyone associated with Inasmuch, especially our donors, could hear how excited believers on both sides of the Rappahannock are about Inasmuch.  At a workshop I led in Virginia last May, a person involved in the Inasmuch United Northern Neck went on and on about what Inasmuch has meant to that region.”

The Rappahannock is fast becoming a model for the rest of Virginia.  Plans are underway for a statewide Inasmuch in October of 2014.  The goal is to have 80 percent of the Baptist churches in the state conduct Inasmuch events across the state during a period of 4 weeks.  The Inasmuch ministry is working with the Steering Committee of Operation Inasmuch – Virginia to accomplish these lofty goals.  Already 3 Inasmuch training sessions have been conducted in the state with 2 more set for this October and as many as half a dozen next March.

Says David Crocker:  “No river is too wide and no mountain is too high for Inasmuch to get across it with the message that God’s mercy is best shown, then talked.  Without a doubt, Inasmuch is changing the way people in Virginia think about church!”

SRO for Inasmuch in Milwaukee

It was SRO (standing room only) for the Inasmuch workshops at the Greater Milwaukee Lutheran Synod at the end of May.  At the invitation of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Slinger, Wisconsin—the only Inasmuch church in all of Wisconsin at this time—David Crocker exhibited and led two workshops about Inasmuch at the Synod General Assembly.  About 90 people representing 70+ congregations attended the workshops.

It literally was standing room only during David Crocker’s workshops sharing the Inasmuch Day and Inasmuch United concepts with the Synod in Milwaukee.

“As they say on the evening news, ‘this is a developing story’,” says Crocker.  “A year and half ago, we learned that St. Luke had conducted their first Inasmuch Day.  Karen Berg, the widow of a Lutheran pastor, wanted to fulfill her husband’s desire to see a Lutheran church do Inasmuch. She led the St. Luke congregation to do just that in October of 2011.  When we heard about it, we established contact with that church and asked if they would be willing to share the Inasmuch model of community ministry with other Lutheran churches in Wisconsin.”

“In the spring of 2012, I traveled to Milwaukee and met with Bishop Jeff Barrow of the Greater Milwaukee Synod and Pastor Matt Short of St. Luke and Karen Berg,” says Crocker.  “We were encouraged by Bishop Barrow to pursue our plans to see Inasmuch go Synod wide.  As part of this strategy, I was invited to return to Milwaukee this May.”

Meanwhile, the St. Luke congregation conducted their second Inasmuch last Fall with similar results as the first only fueling their desire to see other Lutheran churches have the same experience.  Based on the interest shown at these workshops, there is good reason to believe the dream of a Synod wide Inasmuch is not far away.

Pastor Short says:  “So often, good-hearted Christians know they should reach out and serve; they want to reach out and serve, but they don’t know where to start.  The members of St. Luke are some of the most compassionate people I know, but they needed a rallying point; they needed a model that would help them put action to their intentions.  Operation Inasmuch has blessed us by showing us how to do the work we knew we were called to do.  Our church, and more importantly, our community will never be the same.”

“One of the things that makes this such a God-thing is how Inasmuch got started in Wisconsin in the first place,” says David Crocker.  “Rev. Terry Berg, Karen’s husband, read a footnote about Inasmuch in the best-selling 40 Days of Purpose, and did the research to find the book Operation Inasmuch: Mobilizing Believers Beyond the Walls of the Church.  He told his wife, ‘This is the 41st day!’  Unfortunately, Rev. Berg succumbed to cancer before he could lead his church to conduct an Inasmuch Day, but Karen has kept that dream alive at St. Luke!  As a result, it now appears dozens of other Lutheran churches and thousands of other Lutherans in Wisconsin will soon become part of the larger Inasmuch family.  Who else could do such a thing but God?!”

This story does not have an ending, . . . not yet anyhow!  God is at work in Wisconsin and many other places using ordinary believers, whether Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist or whatever, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  And His Church is changing in the process.

 

Inasmuch Adds New Ministry

First Question:  What is essential, inexpensive, nutritious, fun to make, comes in a cardboard box and feeds 216 hungry people?  Answer:  One box of 36 bags of Kids Against Hunger meals packed by volunteers and sent to a third world country.

Second Question:  What is the latest compassion ministry offered by the national office of Operation Inasmuch?  Answer:  Packing low-cost, nutritious meals through the Kids Against Hunger program, thousands at a time.

Fun Food Packing

Kids Against Hunger food packing events are perfect for almost all ages and bring people together working, across generational lines.

Operation Inasmuch, Inc. became an official satellite of Kids Against Hunger (KAH) in March.  As such the Inasmuch ministry is now able to offer congregations, church groups and businesses the opportunity to pack a large number of dehydrated meals that are sent to Haiti and other third world countries.  “We applied to become a KAH satellite because we see this ministry, feeding hungry people, as aligning perfectly with our mission of mobilizing believers to minister to people at their point of need,” says David Crocker, Executive Director of the Inasmuch ministry.  “Also, we see it as an opportunity to offer a new way to serve for those churches already using the Inasmuch model.  Finally, we see the food packing project as a simple and effective way of bringing congregations together as part of a larger Inasmuch United event.”  Kids Against Hunger (www.kidsagainsthunger.com) is an international food-aid organization founded in 1999 “to reduce the number of hungry children in the USA and to feed starving children throughout the world.”  The Inasmuch ministry is one of about 100 satellites across the nation affiliated with KAH based on New Hope, Minnesota, outside Minneapolis.  Last year alone, KAH satellites packed forty million meals for hungry people around the world!

Food packing events are fun and build a community spirit for the group working together.

The Inasmuch ministry has already conducted two KAH packing events:  Central Baptist Church of Bearden, Knoxville, TN on March 17—53,118 meals packed—and Faith Promise Church, Knoxville, TN on April 13—50,000 meals packed.  More than 300 volunteers were involved at Central Baptist and about 170 at Faith Promise.

Crocker says, “The food packing endeavor will never become the primary aspect of the Inasmuch ministry, merely an ‘add-on’ for those churches that either want to introduce a new ‘wrinkle’ into their ongoing Inasmuch events or want to use the packing as a sort of stack pole project for an Inasmuch United event.”

“Because of the logistics of staging a KAH packing event, far and away most of them will be within a short radius of Knoxville,” adds Crocker.  “Occasionally, when the event is large enough to merit the efforts required to move the packing equipment a long distance, we will undertake packing projects at some distance from our home office in Knoxville.”

Churches interested in staging a food packing event should contact the Inasmuch ministry at 865-951-2511 or david@operationinasmuch.org.

God Winks at Fort Myers

Inasmuch United Fort Myers…HUGE Success!!

Have you seen God wink?  Silly question, you say.  No one sees God, much less His wink!  Some compassionate souls at Fort Myers, Florida, would beg to differ.  They were part of the first Inasmuch United Fort Myers on February 2 and some of them saw God wink.

God winks when our plans go wrong and where they put us is just the place God wants us to be.  We make a wrong turn on a journey only to discover an opportunity we would have missed if we had stayed “on course” and God winks. We fail to get the job of our dreams only to learn later that the company was on shaky ground and soon folded and God winks.

Ready to work...

Ready for a painting project … wonder where he saw God wink during his Inasmuch United Fort Myers experience.

Nine congregations of various denominations and races united in Fort Myers to mobilize right at 1000 people to minister to thousands of their neighbors in need in 75 compassion ministry projects and God was winking the entire day.  One wink was when a volunteer named John went to a Laundromat to “feed the machines,” e.g. pay for up to 3 loads of laundry for customers on the day of the Inasmuch United.  But John went to the wrong Laundromat, but instead of correcting his error, he stayed and served the people there.  One woman was suspicious of his offer to pay for her laundry, so John explained that he was helping out with his community’s Inasmuch because God had been good to him and he wanted to share some of the blessing.  The woman not only accepted his help but also shared that she had recently lost her husband.  As a way of dealing with her grief she had started a blog for other grieving people.  She had just received a response from a woman in another Florida city who had just lost her son to suicide.   Well, . . . John and his wife lost their son to suicide 30 years ago.  So, John and his wife are now communicating with that mother in the other city.  And God winked.

Another volunteer was disappointed to discover on the day of the Inasmuch United Fort Myers that the project she had signed up to do had fallen through at the last minute.  She asked to be reassigned and didn’t really care to which project.  She was sent to a house that was to be pressure washed and painted—with stucco exterior.  Until she arrived no one realized that the project leader had purchased the wrong kind of paint.  Since this volunteer and her husband own a paint store, she went to her store and got the correct paint and donated it to the project.  And God winked.  Next year, she and her husband will donate all the paint to be used on all the painting projects!  So, God may be winking for a long time in Fort Myers.

David Crocker, who went to Fort Myers to train church leaders there to plan and conduct their Inasmuch United event, says:  “These stories illustrate a truth we often hear from folk who participate in an Inasmuch event, namely whenever we do what God tells us to do, He always has more in mind.  When we are obedient to his calling to serve people in need in Jesus’ name, He takes our sometimes simple acts of obedience and does far more with them than we could ever expect.”

Being the Hands and Feet of Jesus by helping to feed the hungry … another Inasmuch United Fort Myers project.

 

When has God winked during your Inasmuch experience?  “God has winked at Inasmuch so many times in recent years that we’ve lost count!” says Crocker.

Inasmuch Assembles 11,000 Meals for the Hungry

In October the Inasmuch ministry assembled more than 11,000 meals to feed hungry people in Haiti with the help of people who gathered in Fayetteville, NC, and Knoxville, TN, to consider their support for the ministry for 2013.  That’s right; these annual fundraising events became major service events!


Executive Director, David Crocker (left), and Robert Marks, Sr. (right) Board President, enjoy watching the meals being packed.

Fundraising is the lifeblood of non-profits.  It is all  about obtaining the support necessary to keep the organization going.  So, when a non-profit turns its annual fundraising events into  service projects whereby thousands of hungry people are supplied with nutritious meals, it’s noteworthy.

“Our fundraising events each year are the largest gatherings of people who support the Inasmuch ministry,” said David Crocker, Executive Director.  “This year we wanted these events to be more than simply sharing the latest and greatest news about the ministry and asking people to support us so we can keep on doing the good work of Inasmuch.  So we invited Kids Against Hunger to come direct food packing projects in Fayetteville and Knoxville to feed hungry people in Haiti.”


The food packing fun began in Fayetteville…

Participants remarked how refreshing it was to do something to help others while renewing or beginning their support for a ministry that is based on the idea of believers serving “the least of these.”  While some were treated to a delicious meal, others packed food for Haiti.  After about half an hour, the groups rotated so that everyone had a chance to help out.  5,040 meals were packed in Fayetteville and 6,024 meals in Knoxville.


And the fun continued in Knoxville!

“We had a about a 60 percent increase in attendance at our fundraising events this year and I am convinced it was because we offered folk a chance actually to do something to serve others,” said Crocker.  “Everyone had a blast.  It was fun and productive and will make a huge difference in the lives other lots of people.  We didn’t just feed ourselves; we fed many more who will never have what we ate at those events.”

He added:  “We are already talking about what we will do next year.  We may go for 20,000 meals!  Wouldn’t that be something?!  Of course, I’m hoping people will see that Inasmuch is about serving people in need . . . anytime, anywhere, any way, even when the ministry has needs ourselves.”

“We are very excited about the future of Inasmuch,” he says.  “With continued and some new support, there is no telling what God will do with this ministry!”

Call to Ministry Follows Inasmuch Day

From near death to a ministry calling – that’s the short version of Dr. Frank Smist’s story. In October, his church — Leawood Baptist Church, Leawood, Kansas — conducted their third Inasmuch Day. Frank participated.

And the result was far more than he or anyone else could have expected.
“God used our Inasmuch Day to call me into full-time ministry where I can do more of’what I did on that day,” says Smist. He is currently a seminary student preparing for’professional ministry.

The back-story is what makes Smist’s journey so amazing. A few years ago, Smist was a well-respected college professor and author. But his life took an abrupt turn…

… when he was struck by a vehicle traveling 53 mph.

Smist lay in a coma for months.  He was told he would never be able to function normally again because his physical and mental faculties were devastated by the accident. But three years ago, Smist began to improve slowly. Today, he has recovered almost 100% of his mental function while still dealing with some lingering physical problems.

Despite these challenges, Frank signed up for Leawood Baptist’s Inasmuch Day.

He was assigned to go with the Pastor, Rev. Mike McKinney and Inasmuch Coordinator, Brock Rowatt, to visit the sick and shut-ins that day. Something happened in those visits that neither McKinney nor Rowatt recognized.

“I felt God tugging at my heart,” says Smist, “telling me I am supposed to use the rest of my life serving people as I did during the Inasmuch Day.” Since that day, Smist has been licensed to the gospel ministry and he is a student at Central Baptist Seminary in Kansas City.

Reflecting on that experience, Frank says

I can never say enough what Operation Inasmuch means to me. It has given me a new direction in life.

“What an amazing story this is,” says David Crocker, Executive Director of Operation Inasmuch, Inc. “It is one more of what is becoming a very long list of stories confirming one of Operation Inasmuch’s core values: when we do what God tells us to do, He always has more in mind!”

Pastors Say What’s Important

Do you ever wonder what pastors worry about? What they think is important?

The Columbia Partnership (TCP, an Inasmuch ministry partner – visit www.thecolumbiapartnership.org) hopes to help us learn what pastors are concerned about. TCP is conducting a series of surveys of pastors and church staff to identify the most important issues they face. The first of these surveys asks the leaders to rate each of 10 issues:

  • Building,
  • Technology/Social Media/Marketing,
  • Community Context,
  • Discipleship,
  • Financial,
  • Worship and Music,
  • Conflict and Communication,
  • Governance,
  • Leadership Development,
  • Growth and/or Missional issues.

The runaway “most important issues” were:

  • Growth and/or Missional Issues (92% Significantly or Highly Important) and
  • Discipleship Issues (86% Significantly or Highly Important).

This tells us is that ministry leaders on the front lines are most concerned about how the church is equipping their people to be authentic followers of Jesus in a post-church culture.

It’s encouraging to know that Operation Inasmuch’s ministry “scratches where ministers itch.” That is to say, we provide motivation, education, and structure to help believers do what Jesus did and what He commanded his followers to do.

Increasingly, authenticity is measured not in theological terms or denominational affiliation, but in hands-on demonstrations of  Jesus’ heart in local communities.  Operation Inasmuch has helped hundreds of congregations to be the hands and feet of Jesus for their neighbors in need.

In fact, the best explanation of the astounding growth of the Inasmuch ministry is that it provides proven ways for churches to walk the game they talk.

Based on the TCP survey, it appears that the need addressed by Operation Inasmuch is on the rise: to get church people out of the sanctuary seats and into the streets! Perhaps God put Operation Inasmuch in place to help His people do what He called them to do.

Perhaps A Compassion Revolution really is underway! To God be the glory!!

David Crocker, Executive Director