By Travis McCormick
“This is a classic God move. What the enemy intends for harm, God uses for good.” These are the words spoken by Cross Church Springdale’s Children’s Pastor, Heath Bryant when asked to describe a recent ministry opportunity undertaken by the church to serve their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 16, the President/CEO of Washington Memorial, a member of Cross Church, contacted Pastor Nick Floyd to request help for the hospital staff and offer a unique ministry opportunity. Medical personnel were being asked to work longer hours and serve on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus. At the same time, they were struggling to find someone to care for their kids due to the school closings during the pandemic. Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were needed to care for the sick and yet they had no one to look after their own children. Was there anything the church could do?
Dr. Floyd called Heath and the rest of the staff together to pray and discuss what, if anything, could be done. This was a brand-new experience. Nothing like this had been attempted before. The logistics were a significant hurdle and safety had to be a primary concern. They faced the real spectre of putting their own people in harm’s way due to the high-risk factor of the hospital staff’s jobs. Bryant believed, however, that there was a difference between being cautious and smart and operating in fear. In spite of the challenges, the leadership of Cross Church knew that God had presented them with an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Heath served as the coordinator for the project. He said the church really got behind the project as plans were announced for the new ministry. Some agreed to serve as teachers while others helped with games and crafts. Some provided snacks and others fed lunch to the workers. Still others stuffed gift bags, wrote notes, gave donations and/or prayed. Eventually, over 200 volunteers joined in the effort.
On March 23, one week after receiving the request for help, Cross Church launched their first-ever Day Camp for the children of hospital staff. 35 children participated in the 4-week program between both campuses in Springdale and Rogers. This service was provided free of charge for students in kindergarten through 6th grade. Kids were dropped off by 7:30 and picked up at 4:15. Washington Regional provided screening for each of the students before they were allowed into the classrooms and every student was given their own individual bag of school supplies that they used each day.
The program consisted of games, activities, crafts, snacks, time for homework and Bible lessons. At the end of each day, each child received a goody bag filled with treats, coupons, and a handwritten thank-you note to their parents for the sacrifices they were making each day. On the final day, they all received bags filled with notes from church members, scripture verses and special gifts.
The families impacted by this ministry were blessed by the generosity of God’s people. They were amazed that the church would do this and do it for free. Most had no church affiliation at all. Two children committed their lives to Christ during the Day Camp and one has already been baptized. According to Bryant, all of the families indicated they would visit the church once the restrictions were lifted.
Bryant says this experience shows how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to be the Church. He’s quick to point out that it is not about Cross Church, but about “The Church”. He believes that now, more than ever, the world needs to see us working together. “When people look at the Church, they need to see there’s something different there and say, ‘I want to know more.”