12.6 miles outside of the well-known Boston, Massachusetts area lies a town with a population of 24,729 called Dedham. That’s where we went. It’s a dark place. Most kids/teenagers don’t even know who God is because their parents pushed them away from anything religious while raising them. It breaks my heart knowing that teenagers who are graduating high school only know the word God through the Pledge of Allegiance. God is poured out all over the South, so it’s very common for us to see a “Jesus Loves You” sign nailed onto a tree driving down the road. It’s not for them. When they hear the word “Jesus” they immediately change the subject. So, no, we didn’t go up to Dedham to tell people what Jesus did; we went up there to show His love. We went to encounter people.
I walked around in a big circle for about 3 hours, ate donuts with a Veteran, went to the oldest wooden house in America, and listened to a guy talk about how much he loves his church. Okay, well I did do other things. On the first day we went to a church and helped clean up the grounds because they were getting ready for a yard sell. We mowed the lawn, moved some branches, and pulled weeds.
The next day we did the same thing but at a different place. We went to the American Legion, Post 18. We instantly felt very welcomed by being told that there was coffee and donuts in the members lounge up stairs. Who doesn’t like free donuts and coffee? The first face we saw was a guy named Henry who was in charge of us, making sure we stayed hydrated and that we ate all the donuts. With Boston being covered with history, you never know when you’d run into something that was fascinating. Next door to the Legion was the Oldest Wooden House in America. So, Shane was telling him how we were going to walk over to it during our lunch. Henry walked over to the house and got us a free tour. How cool is that?! If you show people love they’ll show it right back to you.
After we left there we went and did a couple hours of prayer walking. We prayed for everything to go well with the lease the church was about to sign to on their new building, prayed for God to open the hearts of the people of Dedham, and also prayed the church’s verse which is Jeremiah 33:9, “This city will bear on behalf a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, who will hear of all the good I will do for them.” It was powerful. God is good.
On our final workday I went to a food pantry. I’ve never helped out at a food pantry, but I knew I was going to be able to interact with people who are from Dedham. I was excited and anxious to share God’s love to these people who don’t have it as well as we do. So, here is where the walking around in a circle for three hours comes into play. I went around picking out groceries with eight different people. You would think this would be the perfect opportunity to be like, “hey, Jesus…” but it wasn’t. On the sheet of paper I had in my hand it had on it how many kids they had, so that would be my conversation starter. I can’t tell you how much it meant to these people that I was asking about their kids. It was so cool and humbling to see how these people reacted to the fact that I genuinely cared about what they have to say and about their life.
On Sunday, we got to attend a service at Encounter Church, and I can truly say I see this church making a difference in the town of Dedham and the surrounding towns as well. They are known in the community. People either know them by the church being attended in the middle school auditorium or the orange shirt people. I think that is awesome. This church and the people of Dedham are on my heart daily and I ask you to join me in prayer as they continue to grow and share God’s love.
– Jessica Ellis