Jan. 25—HENDERSON — Normally at Christmas time, Risen Faith Outreach Ministry Church members draw names among each other and exchange presents. But Pastor John Miles felt moved to change course the last go-around in December, leading his parishioners to sponsor a few families of Carver Elementary School students to ensure those children would experience a customary Christmas.
The helping hand during the holidays led Miles and Risen Faith to "adopt" Carver going forward, committing to various service projects throughout the school year including a book bag giveaway that was held on Tuesday.
"I'm so grateful for what God is doing," Miles said. "I'm grateful."
Miles and Pastor David McShaw of Risen Faith led the distribution efforts Tuesday afternoon and were joined by Henderson Police Chief Marcus Barrow.
Outside the church on Parham Street, they loaded several boxes containing 144 book bags, ordered by John's wife Angela, into a Risen Faith van. The backpacks spanned the color spectrum and were later dropped off at Carver.
For Barrow, events like Tuesday's help show a different side of what it means to be a police officer.
"It's not all about law enforcement," Barrow said. "It's not about enforcing the law all the time. It's about getting out in the community, reaching people, being seen, being known, and giving back to the community."
Initially, Miles approached Carver Elementary Principal Regina Miles (no relation) about the donation, and Regina Miles wanted to make sure that all of her students would receive a book bag, not just a select few.
John Miles credited a few local business owners — Roderick Ragland, Tim Hillard and Guy Mitchell — for stepping up to help fund the project.
"It's just a blessing when you have other people that want to join," John Miles said, "and they don't come to church here but they want to help us do things for Carver school."
Miles encourages other churches to form similar partnerships with local schools. He said he has a heart for God and a heart for his community because he loves his hometown.
Miles asks his congregation, for instance, to bring in 12 nonperishable items each Sunday for Risen Faith's food pantry, which is self-sustained. And he and Angela donate a dozen more items, with inspiration drawn from the Matthew Chapter 25 doctrine including Verse 35: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in."
Last week, a man knocked on the church door in search of food and Miles was able to provide some from the pantry.
"He got to the door," Miles said, "and said to me, 'Sir, thank you because I came close tonight to robbing a store. I was going to rob the store because I'm hungry and I'm homeless.' So that's why it's important to me and our church that we do what God says do in ministry. It's our job to help our community."
In turn, that would ideally mean keeping people out of trouble and making the community safer.
"We seek out resources and Risen Faith is one of those resources," Barrow said of the Police Department's role in fighting hunger. "Gang Free is another resource that we go to often. We try to find these resources within the community that we can tell people, 'Hey go here. They'll provide you with a meal or they'll provide you with help.' We have a plethora of churches and it's nice to know people can get this kind of help here in our community."