Where do you live?
Please pray with me – Our father in heaven, thank you for bringing me to Bellevue UP today. I pray that the words I speak make a difference and spread your love. Please be with each of us and open our hearts and minds to your word. In your name, we pray. Amen
If I asked you where you live, what would your answer be? How would you describe your home to me? Is your home simply the house you live in or is it the community in which you reside?
One of the first things a child learns is where they live. They know their street name, their house number and possibly directions on how to get there. A child can tell you almost anything about where they live, the color of their house, how many windows they have and even the color of their room. They can tell you who lives with them and what they do at home. They are very specific because this is the place they are proud of and feel comfortable and safe. This is their community.
Let’s try a little experiment…close your eyes, listen and try to imagine the community I’m going to tell you about. In this community there are tree lined streets with children that play until the sun goes down. Neighbors that know each other and are there for you in a drop of a hat. There are people that walk along the main street and stop to chat with the people they meet because everyone seems to know each other. There are a number of shops and restaurants to fulfill your every need. There are beautiful parks that offer space for families to spend time together and where community activities take place. There are churches that open their doors and you can feel the love pour out of them. Do you see it in your mind? It sounds wonderful. Is this a place where you would like to live? Guess what? You already do.
I consider myself very fortunate because I was born and raised here and have never left. My parents and grandparents are from here. I was even baptized in this church. There is something wonderful here in Bellevue and has been here for almost 150 years. Do you know what it is? Its people that care.
Now I have read articles and comments in the paper and on-line about our parks, our school district and even our local government that do not paint our community as that great of a place, but they are wrong. Those articles and comments are written by people who don’t know our secret and who’s lives focus on negativity. They are people who are not involved or invested in our community. Are you invested in our community? Do you know our secret?
Our secret is that this community is filled with people who care and lots of opportunities to make it better. Our secret is that we are blessed by God. I believe that we are the community we read about in Psalm 133. We are God’s people living together in unity and we are the oil that runs down Aaron’s face and beard. We have truly been blessed by our Lord.
The Shepherd’s Door is one of those blessings. The best part about the Shepherd’s Door is that not only is it a blessing to this community, but this community is a blessing to the Shepherd’s Door. We could not flourish without each other. I am amazed each and every day by the blessings and miracles I see. Let me tell you a little bit about the Shepherd’s Door and what I mean. Just about 40 years ago a young lady named Ann Farrell, fresh out of the armed services, was called by God to open a Christian Book store. This was a passion of hers and she knew that Bellevue was where it was needed. She remained open and served our community for about 30 years. Unfortunately there was a time when Ann’s health was failing and she was unable to run the store as she had. Fortunately for Ann, she had three loyal and faithful volunteers that helped her to run the store and to continue to spread God’s love. They were more than volunteers, they were her friends and became her Shepherd’s Door family. As Ann’s health continued to fail, the question became, what would become of the Shepherd’s Door. Well, Bellevue’s secret came to the rescue. Some great people came together and made it possible for the Shepherd’s Door to remain open. Some changes came upon the Shepherd’s Door, but what remained intact was God’s plan and Ann’s dreams. Today, the Shepherd’s Door is a stand-alone non-profit. It is able to operate because the people of this community care. We are not funded or run by any one person or church. We are funded and run by the generosity of this community. The Shepherd’s Door has gone from a tiny Christian book store that was located down the street from here, to a Christian non-profit that engages, empowers and equips the youth and families of our community to help sustain quality in their lives. We are a Christian gift shop that not only offers great products, but we support local Christian artists by promoting their works. Through our Fair Trade department we help villages in other countries sustain a quality to their life.
But wait, there is so much more…The Shepherd’s Door offers an adult resource center where we help to point those in need in the right direction. We have 2 evening Bible studies that are open to the public. Our conference room is used daily for tutoring through the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. We offer an after-school program for kids in grades 4-6. Our program offers a safe alternative to “hanging” on the street and offers a daily bible study which has become the highlight of the program. We also offer a toddler story time on Friday mornings. It’s a time for toddlers to explore the Bible through story, song and art. We offer a backpack buddies program in conjunction with Northgate. Through this program we supply weekend meals and snacks to children that experience food insecurities. Speaking of food, we supply turkeys to families in need for Thanksgiving. We usually give between 150-200 turkeys each year. In the summer we offer a 2 week Christian based performing arts camp for kids in grades 5-8. This is only the beginning for the Shepherd’s Door. There are more programs in the works. Did I mention that every single one of these programs is FREE? That’s right. We don’t charge a cent.
I’m sure you are asking how we are able to do this. Once again we are able to do this because of the secret of Bellevue and the North Boros. We are able to do this only through the grace of God and the generosity of our neighbors. Did you know that the Shepherd’s Door only has one paid employee? The other 20 plus people that make up the Shepherd’s Door family are all volunteers. The proceeds from our store pay for our rent, utilities and salary. All of these other programs are run on the generous donations of the people in and around our community near and far. Not just monetary donations, but donations of talents and supplies.
Let me give you an example: About six months ago I had this great idea to open an after school program for elementary kids. You see I had worked in the schools for about 8 years and I saw the need growing. As more single families came about and more parents had to work, kids had no one to go home to. It was easy to get into trouble. Everyone thought it was a great idea, but where would the money come from to get it started. Where would we hold it? Heads and eyes rolled as they usually do when I come up with the “great” ideas! Then I got a phone call one day out of the blue. The caller said, “I have 4 tickets and a parking pass to a Pirates game, would you like them? Can the Shepherd’s Door use them?” Of course we can! The wheels in my head were spinning, you may have smelled the smoke! We used them as a prize in a raffle. That raffle brought in over $800. We were on our way! Word spread and some donations came in. I was so excited because I had faith that this would happen. Next hurdle…where do we hold this program? Why not down in the basement? There’s tons of room and our insurance covers it, why not? Well let’s see. Our basement had become the catch all for anything you could imagine. When we moved in, we inherited fixtures from every store that had ever been there. Not to mention things that were brought from the old store and people who had great intentions of just storing this or that for a short time, but never seemed to come back for their things. Ok, how are we going to do this? I’m only one person and the volunteers are running the store. Maybe we will have to postpone this for another year because that’s how long it will take us to clean out the basement!!! Then the phone rings again. I just love when my phone rings, most of the time anyways! It was one of our volunteers and her church had been contacted by a mission team from eastern PA and Baltimore and they were looking for projects in the Pittsburgh area!! Did we have anything they could do? Are you kidding…I had just hit the jackpot!! Plans were made and they came. We spent a week together and they worked hard. We worked, broke bread together and learned the different ways our faith affected those around us. It was an amazing week! Oh did I mention that they had turned, what had been known as “the dungeon” into an awesome place for kids to hang out! This is just one example of the blessings I experience on a daily basis. They are not always this big and grand, but they happen! And the small blessing are just as meaningful. All I can say is God is good! It’s a phrase that leaves my mouth on a daily basis!
Where do you fit in? Are you a part of this great community? Are you willing to be? The Shepherd’s Door has opportunities for you. We would love to have you be part of our family and a part of this great community. I want you to come and experience these blessings. I want you to be blessed and see the joy on others faces when they are blessed.
As we read in 1Peter, are you ready to use the gifts God has given you to serve others? I believe the answer is yes. You know it, I know it and God knows it because he has already supplied the strength and love you will need. As 1Peter 5:2 tells us “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.”
All of this is part of the community in which I live. I am proud to be a part of this community. Anytime I am asked, “where do you live?” I do not give my street address, I do not simply say Bellevue, I elaborate and tell them I live and serve in an awesome community. I live in a community that God has blessed with loving, caring and generous people. The next time you are asked, where do you live, what will your answer be?