Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at my church. Each month we have this really creative missional outreach. It may seem kinda unusual, but we have what has now been coined a monthly “Pet Pantry”. I know that sounds a little strange to the normal church ear, but it has really been one of the biggest blessings our church has ever engaged in.
Let me give you a little history. At our church we have a lady named Sue who we have affectionately dubbed “The Cat Lady.” I now believe every church needs a cat lady like Sue. Five years ago, Sue approached my husband and I and told us she could get donations of free pet supplies and was wondering if the church could make use of it. Well to these church planting folks, anything with the word “free” is like gospel salvation! When God provides anything, we believe there is purpose for the gospel behind it! So we immediately went to prayer and began imagining out loud what God may want to do with skids of free pet supplies.
We called Sue back and said let’s do a pet-centered outreach. She thought we were merely being nice, but really we were looking for a creative way to build a bridge for the gospel in our community. If God was providing pet supplies, then this would be our bridge to all the pet lovers out there.
Soon enough, we launched our first Pet Pantry. That was five year ago and it still continues to this day. That first pet pantry we were shocked. People began lining up at 5am for a giveaway that would start at 9am. We had lines outside our church that went further than the eye could see. Hundreds of people would show up simply to get pet supplies for their animals. We immediately began to see that this ministry was bigger than we could have ever imagined! Truly our God is always able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
We formulated a system and arranged a whole program centered around bridging stories of pets and animals to the gospel. We even found a theme verse to tag our efforts, Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous man cares for his animals.”
Month after month more people showed up. What started with a simple pet outreach turned into people asking for prayer for their pets which soon turned into praying for family and eventually led into specific prayers for them. Before we could even catch up, God began moving on hearts and people were coming to know Jesus personally. Cat food in one hand, an animal themed tract in the other. This new gospel ministry was taking place.
What began as a Pet Pantry, has ended in 5 years of relationships being built and thousands of unchurched people being exposed to the hope of the gospel.
Yesterday at our Pet Pantry. I shared a testimony of how my little dog has panic attacks. I know weird, right? I don’t understand, he has four lovable children in the home who snuggle him, hold him and squeeze him all the time! Well maybe at times they squeeze a little too tight. My children holding him typically involves me pleading “ Dear Jesus, don’t drop him!”
As I shared yesterday, my dog, ironically named “Snuggles,” was struggling with loneliness with the kids going back to school. He was breaking down in these weird moments of panic attacks. That was when I was reminded that he isn’t much different then us. When Snuggles struggles the only thing that brings him comfort is for me to hold him gently and rub his belly. It calms him down almost immediately. Isn’t this just like what God does for us in our struggles? Minus the belly rub, of course…
When I’m feeling lonely, rejected, insignificant, or just depressed. I go to my source of “all comfort” and ask God to hold me. He never fails to gently wrap me in His arms and remind me I am loved, always treasured, and profoundly significant. He has promised to never abandon me or forsake me in my struggle. Can I tell you something? He will never leave you in yours either!
So today I pray that you will see your struggle as a bridge to not only the loving arms of a God of all comforts, but a gospel bridge to another that may need to hear your creative words of how God cares for their needs too.