Members of First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa, were praying about ways to become more involved in their community when one member, Kelly Dawson, heard about a need at a local school, Monroe Elementary.
Monroe has its share of challenges. Eighty percent of Monroe’s student population of more than 500 students are from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In the 2017-2018 school year, there were six common languages spoken by its students. In the 2018-2019 school year, there were ten. Yet school staff say the biggest challenge with a global student body isn’t teaching English; it’s poverty. Of this population, nearly all the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. Many of the students go to bed hungry on a regular basis. Facing these challenges, some of the teachers had been praying for a church in the neighborhood to come alongside them to help better serve these students. First Church took up the cause.
Kelly Dawson took the lead in meeting with the school’s administration and teachers on a regular basis, developing a great relationship with them. The church stepped up to provide breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for teachers during parent-teacher conferences, in-service days, and teacher appreciation week.
Partnering with other local churches, including Shepherd of the Valley and Lifesong Church of the Open Bible, they hosted a “Backpack Giveaway.” The partnership with Lifesong was a huge blessing since the church’s congregation is mostly Asian and Monroe Elementary has a significant Tai-Dam population. In fact, due to the partnership with the variety of churches, all the students were able to interact with someone who spoke their native language. Church members offered prayer at the event as well.
Teachers were given school supplies for their students. They reported that this giving saved them an average of $500 per teacher, money that did not have to come out of their own pockets.
In November, First Church teamed up with a local dentist to offer a free dental clinic. Many other interactions with the school have occurred as well, such as First Church’s quilting group making duffle bags for local middle school cheerleaders and the church inviting the high school and grade school’s music groups to perform a Christmas program at their location. The church also presented the music department with a significant donation and blessed two needy families with gifts.
Roger Cox, First Church’s missions pastor, said, “Our purpose is to be involved in the community. Working with the school has been a valuable step in fulfilling our desire to touch the lives of those who may not have experienced the love of Jesus in a tangible way. First Church is known for our lighting display at Christmas, but we want to be known for touching the lives of those in the Beaverdale area.”