By Rev. Paula Napier, Pastor, Canaan UMC (Midland South District)
Rueben P. Job wrote a little book called “Three Simple Rules” in which he summarized the Wesleyan way of life. The third rule is, “Stay in love with God.” We at Canaan UMC on Charleston’s West Side believe that’s what Jesus means when he says, “abide in me.”
One of the persons whom Jesus called at our church was David Stalnaker. David came to Canaan UMC because of physical needs which the church was able to meet, but then he stayed because his spiritual needs were also met. After David was here for a while and had worked on his spiritual disciplines, he was called to assist other people in the community with their physical needs by working in our outreach efforts.
Dick Hunt, another of Jesus’ called had had the idea of holding job fairs here at Canaan. Eighteen people came to the two job fairs, but only one qualified for the jobs that were available. Dick worked diligently with that one person to help him become gainfully employed.
In the meantime, we discovered that many of the people who came to the job fairs did not have legal identification. You can’t do many things in today’s world without an ID, so David started helping people get their IDs. This was the beginning of a snowball effect which continues to grow and grow.
Through the first four months of this year, David has worked with 52 on 128 different issues for which they needed help. As of this date, he has helped 21 people get IDs, 13 people get birth certificates, three people fill out job applications, and 12 people get housing. He has signed up 15 people for social security benefits, helped five people get new glasses, found help with utilities for six people, helped four people sign up for disability, and one for Medicaid. He has helped four people get their driver’s licenses, three people get furniture, and three people sign up for food stamps.
Another person whom Jesus called to Canaan is Dorian Baker. She has a background in working with non-profit service organizations and is currently volunteering with the Red Cross. She has only been at Canaan for a few weeks but has already networked with other nonprofits and businesses to get food donations for our various feeding ministries and grant applications. She is also reaching out to government agencies like the West Virginia Department of Culture and History in charge of the state historic preservation office to see if the church, which was built in 1893, might be placed on the historic registry to get grant money for repairs.
Either David or Dorian, (or both) are here for the food pantry, clothes closet, Saturday suppers, and neighborhood watch…because that is where they get to meet the folks in the community who need our help. For years, Canaan UMC has faithfully given people help with food and clothes. But now, with David and Dorian’s help, we are helping people with things that we hope will sustain them on more of a permanent basis. You might say we are moving from giving them a handout to a leg up.
Remember Jesus has chosen each and every one of us in the Church. He chose us and is also calling us to help others come to know him. Love and prayer are the most powerful forces in the world, and we each have the power to yield them for the greater good. Please pray for discernment for what Jesus is calling you to do.
In the Emmaus tradition there is a line from one of the talks that says, “God does not call the equipped, but equips the called.” We believe God is equipping the called at Canaan UMC!