Lisa* paced nervously outside the doors of our church. Although she had been personally invited to attend our Day of Beauty, she seemed unsure of the welcome she would receive. Her demeanor was guarded, tired and devoid of hope. When she finally worked up the courage to step inside, the kind smiles of volunteers and the comfort of a well-planned afternoon seemed to ease her discomfort.
We had transformed a corner of our atrium into a comfortable space complete with couches, magazines, snacks and an espresso bar. Our guests had been offered an array of choices for their visit: haircut and style, manicure, waxing, makeup, even massages were part of the menu. Our amazing (and huge!) team of volunteers did everything they could to let the women know that they were special, they were seen, and they were loved: by us and most importantly, by God.
Who were these 32 ladies? We had first invited single moms from the community, and then expanded to include women who were living at our local shelters. It was apparent that most of them hadn’t had the opportunity to pamper themselves for a long time. And to be pampered by others who didn’t even know them was a totally new experience.
One of the guests was a young mother who had fled an abusive relationship with her young daughter. Following the Day of Beauty, she wrote a heartfelt thank-you to the team she called “the Magicians at Westside Church”:
“Thinking I was calling to request a haircut (which was a gift unto itself), I was amazed when the woman on the phone explained to me that I would have the option of having a manicure, pedicure or even a massage in addition to the cut. I was so moved by her kindness and the generosity of the church’s offer that I cried when I got off the phone. In retrospect, this was the first time I had cried in a very long time.
“The day of the event was lovely. I cried again when a complete stranger offered to wash my car and a woman gave me the first haircut I’d had in nearly a year. I drove out of the Westside parking lot that day with the realization that, by caring for myself, I was showing my daughter how to do the same.
“Thank you for showing me through a series of random acts of kindness how God’s love works.”
As the Day of Beauty wound down, several of us sat in the lounge area, waiting to cheer for the final few ladies as they modeled their new looks and most importantly, their new outlooks. One of the last women to finish was Lisa. As she rounded the corner and we caught a glimpse, it took a moment to realize this was the same person who had stepped timidly through the doors just a couple of hours before. Her hair was cut much shorter and as she walked towards us, she flipped it playfully. Her smile was beautiful as she told us: “I feel like I can do anything!”
If you are looking for a way for your church to reach out effectively into your community, don’t look to a program. Simply find a way to use the gifts and talents of your people to touch someone’s soul. A kind word, a gentle touch, an unexpected gift all send a powerful message of God’s compassionate love to our hurting world.
That’s something to celebrate.
Chris Earwicker is the director of local and global outreach for Westside Church in Bend, Oregon.