A Michigan church donates itself – every week

A Michigan church donates itself – every week

BRIGHTON, MICHIGAN — a The church meets here every Tuesday afternoon.

Its members – wrapped in faded Michigan sweaters and jackets Wolverine Equipment – Gathered in line outside Brighton church meeting place Christ, about 45 miles west of Detroit. One A woman sits in her car smoking a cigarette.

Patiently waiting for the doors to open.

Guests line up on a rainy Tuesday afternoon for a 2 p.m. ceremony at Christ Church in Brighton near Detroit.

Guests line up on a rainy Tuesday afternoon for a 2 p.m. ceremony at Christ Church in Brighton near Detroit.

Inside the fellowship room, volunteers lift a large pile of clothes onto folding tables, organizing them while gospel music plays from the Bible class’s DVD player. The hymns are stacked in the corner to make room for the children’s dressing tables. Shoes are placed in a side room next to belts and ties. In the back are boxes of Christmas decorations.

It is an organized and efficient process. They do this every week.

“We don’t have much today,” Ken Simmons says, holding his hand over a large pile of leggings, sweatpants and jeans. “It’s usually twice as high.”

The reason this week’s piles are ‘smaller’ He says the church just filled with 2,000 people She shipped shoeboxes containing toys and clothes and sent them to Nashville, Tennessee, where Healing Hands International would ship them to children around the world.

The Brighton Church of Christ donation features tables of donated dishes, clothes, sweaters and Christmas decorations.

The Brighton Church of Christ donation features tables of donated dishes, clothes, sweaters and Christmas decorations.

Simmons has coordinated the giveaway ministry for 14 years. At 88 years old, he moves quickly across the room, greeting each volunteer. He knows everyone’s name.

He looks at the clock and says, “I want to let them in.” Volunteers stand by.

“You know what Black Friday is like? “It’s about to get like this in here,” says a volunteer as Simons opens the doors. Cold spirits stream into the room, moving through piles of clothes with a speed and efficiency that mirrors those of the volunteers.

But it’s hardly chaotic. There is politeness, even a sense of reverence, among congregants as they fill bags with donated clothes.

Simmons says it’s all gone in less than two hours. What the shoppers, as everyone here calls them, don’t take, they get packed up and sent to another gift shop on the other side of town. Ultimately, the unclaimed items will go to Goodwill or another nonprofit organization.

“We’re going to turn this (back) into a church in about an hour and a half,” Simons says.

But it feels like church now, especially when Simmons asks shoppers to stop so he can lead them in a chorus of “Amazing Grace.” They join in, some singing softly, others muttering words they know.

@christianchronicle BRIGHTON, MI – Ken Simmons leads an “Amazing Grace” campaign for shoppers during Brighton Church of Christ’s weekly giveaway. Hundreds of people visited the congregation in suburban Detroit to purchase donated clothing, dishes and baked goods. The church also delivers Bibles to those who request them. #brightonmichigan #churchgiveaway #churchofchrist #detroit ♬ original audio – The Christian Chronicle

“I was once lost but now I am found. I was blind and now I see.”

For Simmons, the sound is like the voices of angels.

“You all look so great this week!” Flowing.

Shop and share

Simmons asks if there are any first-timers. Ali, a delivery driver from Detroit wearing a large headset, steps forward. His family originally came here from Senegal, a Muslim-majority country in West Africa. He brought a large group of his relatives. Among the returning guests are a group of refugees from Somalia, some women wearing hijabs.

A child rests as her family looks at items donated at Brighton Church of Christ's weekly giveaway.

A child rests as her family looks at items donated at Brighton Church of Christ’s weekly giveaway.

Kim, a mother of two, has been coming here for five years. She works three jobs to make ends meet and can’t go to church on Sunday. Her husband also works. He wakes up at 4 a.m. and doesn’t come home until after 6 p.m

Kim’s mother-in-law is also here in a wheelchair. Kim says the volunteers let them in early so she wouldn’t get stuck in the crowd.

They’re not shopping for themselves today. Kim is collecting clothes for her sister-in-law, who can’t come Tuesday afternoon. Her 9-year-old daughter, Savannah, looks through a toy box on the floor and pulls out a plush dog wearing a bow tie. She says her cousin might like this.

Volunteers do not sit idly by. They clear tables with specific people in mind. If a pair of size 14 sneakers came in, they knew a tall guy who could use them.

6026 Rickett Road, Brighton, MI 48116

“Grandma Kathy,” as she is known here, is a shopper and volunteer. She comes early to help set up and Always looking for things that her extended family can use. But she also brings clothes and shoes she no longer needs. Kim and some other shoppers do the same.

Judy Brown and Scott Walker are volunteers but not members of Brighton Church of Christ. They worship with the Baptist Church down the road.

“I was driving by here one day and… well, God actually sent me,” Brown says. “I met the pastor (preacher) here. I told him I was doing a Christmas play at my church. Can I come early and look for props? They met me, got to know me. They approached me, maybe in the third week and said, ‘We’ve been watching you.’ Would you like to serve here?”

“I was driving by here one day and… well, God actually sent me.”

Baked goods and good news

A shopper asks about the Bible. Minister AJ Snively is happy to oblige. He opens God’s Word and points out some specific verses.

AJ Snively, minister of Brighton Church of Christ, points to Bible verses requested by a shopper during the church's weekly giveaway.

AJ Snively, minister of Brighton Church of Christ, points to Bible verses requested by a shopper during the church’s weekly giveaway.

The church, like many across the country, has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Snively says attendance is about 100 people on a good Sunday. This room, the Fellowship Hall, has served as a meeting place since a fire in March destroyed the hall.

This did not slow down the donations or the church’s efforts to provide Magi gifts.

Snaively says the baptisms came about through outreach to the church community, but the church is still struggling to grow numerically.

He adds: But perhaps it is not about numbers. Maybe it’s about answering Jesus’ call “Give to whoever (has) a need.” Just as the church described in Acts 2 did. Maybe it’s about showing generosity to the children of the church, including his own, who often spend Tuesday afternoons running around the fellowship hall to help.

As shoppers shop in the Fellowship Hall, Brighton Church member Janine Buchanan reupholsters a church pew in the hall, which was damaged by a fire in March 2023. Buchanan also volunteers with the giveaway ministry, helping to collect donated items as they are dropped off.  .

As shoppers shop in the Fellowship Hall, Brighton Church member Janine Buchanan reupholsters a church pew in the hall, which was damaged by a fire in March 2023. Buchanan also volunteers with the giveaway ministry, helping to collect donated items as they are dropped off. .

Despite its attendance, the church is little known in Brighton. Everyone seems to be familiar with “the church that gives gifts,” Snively said. That’s why they can clear the building of unused items and still have piles and piles to file next week. People bring donations to the building constantly. Neighboring Panera restaurant is donating baked goods so shoppers can break bread together and take some home for their families.

During the short worship, Simmons takes prayer requests from shoppers. A woman asks for healing for her legs. Another says her daughter, who lost her job during the pandemic, has found a new one. The group applauds. A third says her best friend just lost her mother.

Simmons prays for them all, asking God for healing and blessings for all who gathered on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.

“We know, Father, that without you In our life, that our life will be Empty. They will be empty. “It will be dry.”

“We know, Father, that without you In our life, that our life will be Empty. They will be empty. “It will be dry.”

A gift for the princess

As shoppers pack their bags and head back out into the cold, volunteers collect unclaimed clothes to ship to their next destination. Among them is Simmons’ 67-year-old daughter, Sandy. She lives in a small town near Harrison, Michigan, about 150 miles north of Brighton, but drives whenever she can to help distribute gifts.

As the temperature drops, expect to see more homeless visitors here. Volunteers have a procedure for this too.

“I’ll say, ‘Follow me,’ and I’ll tie them to shoes, socks and underwear,” Sandy Simmons says. “Then we’ll go to bed, get them a pillow if we have one or sleeping bags, hopefully a wheeled bag or some backpacks. …

Sandy Simmons delivers a Christmas snow globe to a shopper's child.  A map of the world behind them details the church's global mission efforts.

Sandy Simmons delivers a Christmas snow globe to a shopper’s child. A map of the world behind them details the church’s global mission efforts.

“Wait,” she says, interrupting herself. She pulls Cinderella’s blue snow globe from the Christmas decorations box before taking it outside. You press the button, and snow flurries swirl around the plastic princess while the music plays.

“I have to find someone to give this to,” she says, walking across the room as the world continues its shimmering rhythm: “Joy of the world, the Lord has come. Let the earth receive its king.”

I handed it to a young Somali girl sitting on a church pew. The girl stares at the gift in confusion, and looks at her mother, who smiles and approaches her.

“Christmas,” her mother whispers.

Filed under: Church Gift for Christmas Churches of Christ Community Development Community Outreach Gift Healing Hands International Ministry National News Partners Top News

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