“They were giving more to me than I was giving to them anytime we went to serve there.”
Five years ago, several women from Grace Polaris Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Westerville, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor), connected with residents in Oakland Park Apartments, a complex in a low-income area of Columbus, Ohio. The church brought a busload of residents to their annual Christmas event, Living Christmas Trees, and served a meal beforehand. Lisa Godorhazy, quoted above, helped with this outreach and connected with the attendees. “They were so sweet and humble,” she said, “and it kind of hooked me and made me want to go back.”
Lisa connected with other women from Grace Polaris, notably Kim Lawson and Lisa Bauman, and joined their efforts to minister to the community. In the summer, they held a VBS program at the apartment complex on Saturdays and served lunch. Ministries from the church held drives to collect school supplies, outerwear, and Christmas presents that were distributed at the apartment complex. During the fall they did a cookout and in the winter they threw a Christmas party. For one event, Lisa Bauman brought some of her farm animals, a horse, and a few rabbits, which many of the kids had never seen in person before.
One particular family the group connected with was Betty and her daughter Brenda. When Brenda moved into the complex, the women from Grace were already involved in the community and she joined them in ministering to her neighbors. Brenda’s mom, who everyone affectionately calls Mama B, moved in with her to help with outreach. “People need to know somebody’s there for them,” she said, “and that’s just a burden the Lord gave me, to be a friend like He was…that’s what I wanted to always do, for the Lord to use to me to love people like He loved them.”
Mama B had been ministering to kids for nearly 50 years in the various places she has lived. She ran an informal after-school program in her home where she provided kids a safe place to be, a nutritious meal, and Bible lessons. “I had to reach out to them physically to get to them spiritually,” she said. “I wanted to be there for people to let them know the Lord loves them.”
The women from Grace served alongside Mama B and Brenda for years until both women moved last year. The combination of losing their main connection and restrictions during the pandemic caused the ministry to stall, and the women are currently praying about where the Lord will lead them to continue to minister to others. Brenda moved to a complex in another low-income area of the city with the hopes of starting a women’s Bible study there, and Mama B moved to Mansfield, Ohio, with dreams of opening a shelter to help women trapped in drug abuse and prostitution to have a safe space and learn basic home skills like cooking, gardening, and sewing.
Despite the transient nature of the community, each of the women involved in the ministry built friendships and meaningful connections with the residents at Oakland Park. When asked what she wanted to say to the church, Mama B replied, “I just love y’all so much and appreciate y’all so much. Thank y’all for being faithful to us.” She went on to say, “Not only did it help the neighborhood out, but it helped me out to see how everyone came together…we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of denomination.”