“…and you will be my witnesses in JERUSALEM, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Notice the capitalization of Jerusalem in the above scripture reference. Many churches send members or teams on mission trips statewide (our Judea), nationwide (our Samaria) or even overseas (our ends of the earth). Oftentimes we forget there are needs and a mission field right in our own backyards – our Jerusalem.
In December of 2009, Wynn Green, Multi-Housing Missions Coordinator for Colorado Baptists, approached Riverside Baptist Pastor Jim Shaddix about an outreach opportunity in the Overlook Apartments neighborhood. The apartments are just across Colfax from INVESCO Field and only a couple of blocks from the Diamond Hill campus of Riverside Baptist. Its part of the church’s Jerusalem. Estimates for the number of residents in all the apartment units is around 1,500 or more.
Denis Flierl heads up the Community Ministries at Riverside. When asked about the type of ministry undertaken at Overlook he answered, “It’s a combination of outreach, missions and community ministry. Already this year we’ve held an Easter egg hunt and pool party. This past Saturday, we had volunteers handing out backpacks and school supplies to children of families who are Overlook residents.”
Flierl, along with Karen Bransgrove, from the Children’s Ministry and Rick Ackerman from the Youth Ministry have enlisted the support and services of several lay members from Sunday School and youth groups within the church.
The first and third Thursday of every month, from 10:30am to 11:30am, Karen conducts a children’s reading time for pre-schoolers. During the recently completed Vacation Bible School at Riverside a few kids visited from the Overlook Apartments. The church sent a van daily to pick up and drop off. A new family, parents and their children, have begun attending regular services at Riverside.
The apartments management has given Riverside a room similar to a clubhouse or small apartment for use whenever church staff or members are there to minister. Twice a month during the summer, members of the Inside/Out Sunday School group have held outreach activities for the complex. Hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos, games and recently, ice cream, are staples at these events.
Riverside is now beginning to see fruits of various outreach efforts beginning with the Southern Baptist’s Find it Here campaign and committed church members who have volunteered their time to have a presence there a couple of weekends each month throughout the summer.
Every visit and presence at Overlook Apartments by members of Riverside Baptist is a seed planted. God will reward these efforts and make these seeds bear fruit. Early indications are pointing in that direction.