Dear Friends and Supporters:
After sending our last newsletter, which was in the spring of this year, I received a request from one donor to only send them 2 newsletters a year in order to save the expense of sending more. I took that request to heart, because it does cost quite a bit to send updates, and I decided then that I would not send out any more than 2 updates a year to anyone.
Hopefully, through our other avenues of sending out updates via email, web site, Facebook and You Tube, there will be many other opportunities for you to, not just read about all that is going on in this ministry, but perhaps most importantly, to be able to see the work as well as those who are coming out to volunteer to do the work.
This year we have been able to meet the home repair needs of approximately 78 widows, but the actual number of projects we have completed this year to date is 180. What this means is that multiple projects have been done for most of these 78 widows. Some of these projects were done at the same time and some of them were needs that came up later that we also took care of. The range of needs mostly included roofing, exterior house painting, plumbing, electrical, wheel chair ramps and yard work.
The total number of volunteers we had working on widow’s home repair projects was 1200 which was spread out over 184 days. The following is a list of many of those who either came out by themselves or with a larger group to minister with widows throughout the year:
Ashley Black CCS
Adam Tetzlaff Level 2 Design
Alive in You
Bridges Church, Gerry Warner Small Group
Calvary Chapel Saturday Serve
Chattanooga Christian School
Level 2 Design
Chris Johnston Summer Intern
Covenant College Widows Group
Drain Right, Bill Burt
Fellowship Bible Church, Franklin TN, Cameron Banks
1st Centenary UMC
1st Presbyterian Columbus, GA
GPS Amnesty International Group
GPS Key Club
Hixson Presbyterian Middle School Youth
Hixson High School
Home Instead Senior Care
Hope for Inner City
Hunter Brock, Summer Intern
Karen Smoak, CCS
LMPC Senior High Youth/Aaron Tolson
LMPC Widow’s Food Pantry Susie Courtney Teresa Miller, Judy Pepper, Donna Wharton
McCallie /Missionary Committee/Josh Dietrick
McCallie Summer Camp
Mission 2 Connect
New City Eastlake, Tom Horn
New City Fellowship Deacons, Cody Gaston
New City Fellowship Youth, Mike Hughes
New City Fellowship/Detroit Missions Team
New Life Student Group
Rock Creek Presbyterian Church Food Pantry worker Susan Bosworth
Rock Point Church
RUF Covenant College
Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, Mike Coward
Silverdale Baptist Church Silverdale Baptist Church, Eric Schrader Small Group
St. Elmo Avenue Baptist Church
St. Elmo Presbyterian Church Youth Group
Susie Fowlkes-Summer intern
Tim Morris-Covenant College
UTC Graphic Art Students: Beth Congdon, Laura Flack
Wesleyan School, GA
Wilberforce Class-Covenant College
Beginning the end of May of this year my nephew, Peter Mendonsa, began an internship with us that, initially was for the summer, but has now been extended to a year. Peter is doing a great job and it is obvious that God has given him a heart filled with passion for serving widows. I asked Peter to write out his story for this newsletter that I could share with all of you about the journey that God led him on to bring him here with us. This is what he wanted to share:
A Journey to Thanksgiving
“I heard a voice behind me saying, This is the way, walk in it.”
My Journey to Widows Harvest in Chattanooga began about a year ago outside of an Army recruiting office in Greenville SC. I had just been informed in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to have a job as a medic if I joined the military. As I got into my car and drove back to School the haphazard plans that had been forming over the previous months were evaporating like the morning mist. My future was now very uncertain. I was, at first, discouraged. I had given myself to pursuing this goal and the realization of it had now become impossible. That feeling subsided as it was replaced with something stronger. Hope. The only way I could interpret this turn of events was to see this as the Lord himself shutting that door, and in so doing, telling me that my path was not this way. That uncertain future was now ripe with unexplored possibilities.
I had just begun my second year at the Evangelical Institute (EI) School of Biblical Training and would be graduating in less than a year. I poured myself into life at school with one desire on my heart; to finish well. I knew I would have to do something after I graduated but had no idea what. I made no attempts to make specific plans, but rather thought in terms of localities. My first choice was to stay in Greenville. I liked the city, I was confident I could find work, and there was a strong community of believers centered at the school. I liked my church and felt like I could be useful there. Another possibility that I briefly entertained was that I could go to Chattanooga where I had family, stay with them and find work there. I offered up a few halfhearted prayers in this direction but did not seriously consider it. Chattanooga was unfamiliar to me and I really wanted to stay in Greenville.
I spent Christmas with my immediate family in Virginia and then a few of us drove to Chattanooga to stay over the New Year and spend time with relatives there. One night my Uncle, Andy Mendonsa, pulled me aside and said, “Hey, I’ve got a question for you, why don’t you come and do an internship with us at Widows Harvest over the summer?”
Those silent, halfhearted prayers, I realized could be a dangerous thing. I had never mentioned to anyone that I had even considered going to Chattanooga. It was somewhat unnerving to hear the thoughts whispered in the recesses of my mind spoken back to me from another’s mouth. I expressed definite interest but wanted to take some time to think about it.
As the school year progressed I allowed these possibilities to float in the back of my mind. Being unfamiliar with the world of Chattanooga and Widows Harvest I wasn’t completely ready to commit. Then one evening soon after, at a church event, I happened to mention to a man that I was considering going to Chattanooga and his response surprised me. “We love Chattanooga!” the words burst from a suddenly beaming face.
He and his wife had met there and loved the city. They waxed eloquent about its amazing outdoor opportunities, its multiplicity of coffee shops, and the great church that they had been attending there. That really helped put my mind at ease and I decided to spend the summer there, see how things went, and then, if things didn’t work out, move back to Greenville.
Graduation came and went. I packed two years worth of belongings into my ’94 Honda Accord and headed west to Chattanooga. Six months Later, I am still here with no intention of leaving anytime soon. I have found a home here, with family, a solid church, and meaningful work. I primarily work with Dick Mason, assisting him with projects, organizing materials, taking pictures, and writing Facebook posts about group projects. I help supervise, and interact with volunteers, talk to the widows, and try whenever possible to create opportunities for our volunteers to meet and visit with the widows while on a project site.
Like many others I have fallen in love with this city. There is something special about Chattanooga that is hard to define. Perhaps it is the ideal location, nestled in a valley between two mountains with a river running through its heart. Perhaps, it is the people who are so passionate about the city and community. Perhaps it is the diverse and vibrant Christian community. Somewhere In the long list, however, one might say, perhaps, it is Chattanooga’s Widows. Through discussions with Andy, learning about the theology behind a ministry to Widows, and through my interaction with the women themselves, I have caught something of the vision of Widows Harvest. I have come to see that these silver saints are some of God’s most special and overlooked treasures. These women who have been through so much are powerful spiritual resources in this city. Often pouring themselves into family, churches and communities in whatever ways they can, expecting little in return. These women know well what it means to depend on God and trust him for their daily needs. They faithfully lift up prayers for the city, the church and their loved ones. Many of these women whom I have had the privilege of getting to know personally have welcomed me in, showed me God’s love in a unique way and are praying for me as for their own family. It is in their nature to do so.
God’s mandate to care for the Widows in their distress is clear. There is the beginning of a movement in this city to care for these women as it is awakening to their needs. This movement crosses boundaries and unites people diverse in culture. I have worked alongside men and women of various denominations and what has stood out to me is not our fringe differences, but rather the unity of a common goal and the heart of compassion that flows out of Christ’s own love for these women.
The rhythms of life ebb and flow as one season moves seamlessly into another. It is easy to become engrossed in the details of life but as I step back and look over the last six months I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I know that had I planned my own way I would never have ended up where I am now. Many times in my journey I have made blind attempts to go in one direction or another, and our Lord has faithfully guided me in spite of myself. I can honestly say I am content with the green pastures before me. The “Defender of the Widows and Fatherless” knows me, and leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake and for that, I am sincerely grateful.
“O that men would give thanks to the Lord, For his steadfast love and his wonderful works to the children of men”
Gertrude Gaston, Our Co-Founder, Her Legacy Continues On
As many of you may remember the late Gertrude Gaston became my prayer partner back in 1986 in praying for God’s leading for starting a ministry to widows. In January 1987 Mrs. Gaston hosted the first widow’s prayer luncheon in her home. That prayer luncheon became a monthly event that eventually led to the widow’s prayer ministry that has now been meeting weekly for over 25 years.
Soon after the widows ministry was “officially” begun Mrs. Gaston would send her young teenaged grandsons, Charlie and Cody Gaston, to work with me doing different projects for widows while they were in town visiting with her.
A number of months ago Widows Harvest partnered with the deacons from New City Fellowship to jointly work on a widow’s home. Cody Gaston, a deacon and the contact person for us at his church came out with his whole family to serve. I know that his grandmother was rejoicing in heaven.
“I Will Not Leave You Comfortless”
These are Jesus’s words to his disciples in John 14:18, meant to be words of comfort, knowing that he will not be with them long. In many translations the word in the original Greek translated as the word “comfortless” in the King James version of the Bible, has been more commonly translated as the word “orphans.”
The actual Greek word translated as “comfortless or orphans” is, “orphanos,” and means, according to Strong’s concordance: 1.) “bereft (of a father, of parents), a.) of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian b.) orphaned. Interestingly, this Greek word, “orphanos” is only used one other time in the whole of the New Testament and it is in James 1:27, our founding scripture: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction (and) to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This version, which is from the King James, is about the only one that translates this word as “fatherless.” Almost all the other translations translate it as “orphans.”
There is much that could be said here, but what I have been most struck by recently is the idea of our need for comfort and to be comforted. Jesus, in John 14:18, is trying to speak words of comfort to his disciples, both for that moment as well as for what lies ahead for them when he is no longer walking with them on this earth. James 1:27, speaks to those who, likewise, need to be comforted.
Apart from Jesus there is no possibility for truly being comforted, both in this physical life as well as our eternal one. Even in Jesus, all though we have the same comforter, who is the holy spirit, and who was promised by Jesus, in John 14:16, to his disciples that he would be sent in his absence, much of our lives are spent in the perpetual pursuit of comfort.
Perhaps, it is because of our own neediness for being comforted, that we fail to realize that we who have been given eternal comfort through Jesus, have all essentially been given the task for being comforters as well. Doesn’t everything about our lives really boil down to our own idea of what it means for us to be comforted. Don’t most of the decisions that we make, though, throughout our lives really have more to do with fulfilling our own want of comfort over the actual needs of others that God has intended for us to bring comfort to?
In Luke 12:22 Jesus tells his disciples to “not worry about their life, what they will eat, or their body what they will wear. For life is more than food,” he says, “and the body more than clothes.” Then, in Luke 12:29-31 he says “do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
Confessing Jesus and following Jesus are two entirely different things I have come to realize. One is a reflection of the way we want to be perceived by others and the other is the way that we want Jesus to be reflected by us to others. If Jesus is truly our comfort then it would seem that pursuing God’s kingdom first would mean that our lives are purposed on bringing comfort to others. Perhaps, one of the best examples of this might be the widow at the altar that Jesus points out to his disciple in Mark 12:43. Jesus tells them that she, “out of her poverty gave all that she had (2 mites), as if to say, she is someone who truly seeks the kingdom of God first. By contrast, the others who are there also putting money into the treasury, he points out that even though they are giving large sums of money the amounts they are giving are out of the surplus of their wealth. In other words, they are like the pagans, in that they seek to insure their own comfort first and God’s kingdom is their secondary concern.
To have had the privilege of being around so many widows over the years that truly do seek the kingdom of God first, it is to my shame that all too often I, myself, am guilty of seeking it second.
May Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven,
Andy Mendonsa Director
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