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A community of compassion

According to compassion.com, “Compassion alludes to kindness and sympathy, but there is something deeper, something even more profoundly powerful, in its meaning. … In Latin, ‘compati’ means ‘suffer with.’ Compassion means someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Another’s suffering becomes your suffering.”
This is a powerful and extremely accurate view of biblical compassion. The Bible teaches us that Jesus moved with compassion and He commands each of us to do the same. In fact, he says in Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Whatever we do to those suffering around us is what we are doing to Jesus Christ! Every year during the annual Back to School Bash, I watch a community filled with compassion go to work to meet the needs of others who may be struggling. It is a beautiful thing to see love in action.
Although this year presented major challenges due to the pandemic, it did not stop a community from doing what they do best: LOVE one another! We knew the activities, games, entertainment, and food could not happen this year, but we also knew that school children should still have what they needed to begin the school year. The 1,200 backpacks and supplies were ordered due to an outpouring of financial support from organizations, businesses, churches, and individuals to cover a cost of $11,500! We are blessed to live and work in Carter County, Tenn. I have not met people with any bigger hearts filled with compassion than in our little community! I am proud and honored to call Carter County my home!
An alternate Back to School Bash format was created and began to take shape for the distribution of the supplies. We had to work with limited volunteers to keep social distance, and even in the July heat, masks were worn, but I never heard a complaint. Volunteers included school employees, community leaders and organizations, individuals from various churches, and some who just came on their own to help. The volunteers’ only concerns were that families received assistance and were shown the love of God. The night before the distribution, I prayed that every child that came through at the six locations would get the backpacks and supplies they needed, but I had a strong apprehension that we may not have enough to meet that need. I knew this pandemic was creating a financial hardship on many families. We gathered early Saturday morning to load the five Carter County school buses with backpacks, and we prayed for each of those communities before each bus departed for their location. After each of the buses left, we prepared the Harmony Fellowship Hall as the sixth distribution location.
The first vehicles arrived at the various sites around 8:30 a.m., although the event was not scheduled to begin until 10 a.m. The lines of vehicles began to form and by 10:45 a.m., four of the six sites were completely out of backpacks. A few moments later, no site had backpacks. All I could think about was disappointed children and families in need that would be turned away empty. I bowed my head and said a silent prayer. We collected the names and phone numbers of the students and decided to order more backpacks and supplies although we had zero dollars in our bank account. It was completely a step of faith to allow God room to work!
Our Back to School Bash director, Shannon Posada, did not hesitate when I called her and asked what she preferred to do. She said, “We must order more because every child needs these supplies!” I then placed a call to our wholesale company and asked if were possible to receive more backpacks and supplies within the week. The company emphatically said they would need the order quickly due to a high demand of supplies across the country. Each site took names and phone numbers until the noon hour, and we added up the amount we were short. 1,020 children needed a backpack filled with supplies! We estimated this would cost another $11,000, and I figured it might take a while to raise that additional amount, especially during this pandemic. Even among pastors, sometimes our faith is weak! Oh me!
This is where a community filled with the compassion of Christ moved once again and made all the difference. The need was placed on social media platforms, and almost immediately calls and texts with financial pledges started happening. People were moved with compassion! Honestly since Saturday, we have a steady flow of individuals, businesses, churches, and organizations donating towards this cause. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and once again I am reminded of the great place that God allows me to live, work, and raise my small family! God, our Father, is so faithful, and He works through each one of you! Praise God the $11,000 amount is paid in full for the 1,020 extra backpacks and supplies, and now we begin to raise money for next year’s Back to School Bash! Love never FAILS!
A simple thank you does not seem sufficient to this amazing community who moved with such great compassion! May God continue to bless each of you! If you would like to donate or volunteer to assist with the 2021 Back to School Bash Ministries, please contact the Harmony Free Will Baptist Church Ministry Assistant, Khristina Cardwell, at (423) 297-4504.
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton, and his associate, David Odom.)