Hollie Higgins and her friends from Little Forest Hills can be found most Sundays inside Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church. Yesterday, they picked up trash on the eastern shoreline of White Rock Lake as part of the congregation’s Mission:Possible! project.
“It’s reactionary,” Hollie answered when I asked why she was spending the day in community service. “This is the neighborhood where we live, work, play and grow.
We’re called not just to receive but to give.”
Parishioners divided up tasks at a variety of venues, including handing out free water to joggers and bikers at the lake, giving homemade cookies to on-duty firefighters and scrubbing clean the northeast substation of the Dallas Police Department.
“It’s a privilege to have them here,” Officer Reed Barry told me while church members mopped the floor and shined surfaces. “It feels good to be appreciated.”
“Some of our members thought it was a little radical,” admitted Peyton Strouth, Director of Worship and Music, “their reaction was all over the place. It is kind of odd to change up the Sunday schedule and not have normal worship, but it’s a growing age.”
Participants began with a prayer at the church, asking for the “ability to change our neighbors, our neighborhood and ourselves.”
Genevieve Kpelly and her team then fanned out to Laundromats, passing out free coins to surprised strangers. “Some screamed at us, but most were very happy,” she said. “One man had just moved to the area and was looking for a church. He says he plans to come join us.”
Chuck Ramsey took a group to visit the elderly. “Some of these people have families in other parts of the country and some have none at all,” he said as he guided me from one room in the Alzheimer’s unit of the Villages at Lake Highlands to the next, chatting with patients. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have no one to visit.”
Reverend Anne Cameron was one of several members writing letters of encouragement to prisoners in the Polunsky Unit, which houses Texas’ Death Row and Supermax prisons. “Jesus told us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and visit the prisoners,” she said. “Anytime we do that, we encounter God.”
If it’s possible to be both exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time, members arrived back at the church at mid-day feeling good about their work. Waiting for them, hot off the grill, were chicken breasts and hamburgers courtesy of Dallas Police officers wanting to express their appreciation.