Growing up, coat drives were something that happened every fall. Winters where I’m from in southeast Idaho are brutally cold, and the wind and snow howl and blow. Winters on the Palouse are not much different. That alone is enough to make anyone want to bundle up as tightly as they can to try and keep the cold out.
Unfortunately, some don’t have access to that warmth. It has always tugged at my heart to see both children and adults facing a sub-zero winter day with hardly anything to fight the weather.
Matthew 6:31-32 says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” When people realize they can’t provide for themselves, God steps in and provides for them.
That’s where I came in.
As soon as the smallest form of an idea for a coat drive popped into my head, I ran with it. I have a heart for people, and especially for children. It was very clear that this was something I was supposed to organize. I knew that it was a need, it was something the community could benefit from, it was a way to interact with people that might not otherwise see the love of Christ on a regular basis, and it was most importantly and simply a way to live out the Gospel. It’s not always easy to find ways to show God’s love to people in need, but this was a very tangible mission and something that I could involve others in as well.
It seemed simple enough. I very quickly contacted someone at Trinity Baptist Church in Moscow, and told them what I wanted to do. They happily told me that I could come to the food bank and give out coats to those who needed them. So I set a date, presented it to my village, and began to get the word out.
In the beginning, I had my doubts about the project. People weren’t responding the way I had hoped they would, and didn’t seem very interested in helping out. I constantly thought, “We won’t get any coats, and I’m going to have to tell Trinity Baptist that we can’t come, that we’ve failed.”
But prayer is a wonderful and mysterious thing, and the Lord provides even when we doubt. After countless hours spent asking God for His provision, things finally started falling into place. The coat drive was announced at all three Resonate services and was put in the bulletin. I started having faith that people were responding, showing interest and getting involved.
The turnout was even greater than I’d expected.
Between Pullman and Moscow, we collected over 200 coats and sweatshirts. People were so excited to give, and I was blown away by all the enthusiasm. I was absolutely astounded by the response from these college students and young families who were so willing to give up their belongings to help others.
In Hebrews 10:24 Paul says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” I think this describes so well what we as a church did to support those who needed help in the community.
On November 6th, we showed up at Trinity Baptist to meet our friend Bev, the woman behind the success of the Trinity Baptist Food Bank, who was there with many thanks for our hard work. People started filing in, and at first very few were interested in coats. Many people asked, “Are these free? Can we take one if we need it?” I was a bit taken back at the fact that no one seemed to understand “free,” and even more so that most of these people had never experienced the love that the Lord so freely gives us.
I was driven to interact with these people, to show them that the love of Christ is always abundant and available, that they don’t even have to ask for it. As we talked to people, we told them we were from a church and wanted to help out the community. Even though some were turned off from us as soon as we mentioned church, many seemed interested, and it was evident in the eyes of a few that they knew deep down that the Lord is always there for them, they just need to embrace Him as He’s embraced us.
One woman walked in and browsed for a while. Upon finding a coat, she came over to us and very quietly thanked us with the most sincerity I’ve ever seen in a person. She said, “I can’t thank you enough for this coat. It’s going to help a lot this winter!” When we asked if she needed another for herself or anyone else, she responded with “Oh no! I won’t take any more than I need, and I’m sorry for those that will be greedy. That’s not what God’s love is about! But regardless, what you’re doing is truly wonderful and I can see the Lord working through you. Happy holidays, and God bless!”
Moments like that give me hope, and show me that the Lord really is working through every situation and shining through people even when things seem bad.
This coat drive was a chance for my village to live missionally. It was a chance for us to love people and show them what the Gospel really is. Out of over 200 coats, we ended up leaving about 60 with Trinity to give out the following week, and they all ended up on someone’s back, keeping them warm from the cold. I truly hope that some of our interactions with those people left them curious, sparked something in them, or re-kindled old fires for Christ in their hearts. But I fully believe that our actions and efforts brought a whole lot of warmth, love and light to the cold winter on the Palouse.