The Story of One Woman’s Call to Start a Clothing Ministry
by Melissa Guinn
There was this lifetime of doing church. Going to church each Sunday, teaching Sunday School, going to Bible study on Wednesday night, sometimes leading a group study of 40 women or more. I have lots of church friends. Our kids have been in church together since birth.
It seemed like I was doing what God would want from me: learning His Word and not really being influenced by the worldly and ungodly things that so easily pull us away. The more I learned about Him, deepened my relationship with Him, listened to Him the more I loved Him. It’s just that there was this empty spot. I knew it wasn’t supposed to be that way because my life was awesome!! Jesus has saved me from my past, He is my current salvation and my future hope.
A New Thought
One day I was cleaning out my daughter’s closet. I had dresses that I just couldn’t take to Goodwill. Mindful of recent Bible studies and lessons on selfishness, giving and living beyond ourselves, I prayed, “Lord, show me someone that can use these. Maybe a little girl that is in need and has never had a pretty dress?”
I went to bed that night with the dresses on my mind and the Lord clearly spoke to me. “There will be a clothing ministry. You will take the dresses, and many other things, to those in need. It will be beautiful and you will use it to share Me with your community.” It felt like He was standing on my head!! I looked at my husband who was sound asleep. “Did you hear that?” I whispered. He didn’t move.
God’s Call Accepted
A Glimpse Inside the Clothing Ministry
Two years ago a man walked into the clothes closet. He stood in line as we tried to register the 5 people in front of him. He spoke in broken English and told me that he was there to get pajamas for his wife.
“Sir, we don’t keep pajamas. I am so sorry. Unless they are new we don’t keep them. Please look around and I’ll see if by chance we have some in the back.”
He walked to the men’s rack.
I walked to the back where 4 ladies were sorting donations.
“We have a man who wants pajamas. I will go see if we have them.” They smiled at me, doubtful.
We did. We had a new set of small women’s pajamas. Tears filled my eyes. “OH God! Let these work for her!” I prayed as I walked back towards the man. I stopped back by the room where the ladies were working to tell them of God’s provision.
“Wait!! Pajamas?” they said with excitement! “Look in this bag. We have pajamas!! New, beautiful pajamas with robes to match! Take them.”
By now my heart was pounding and my eyes were streaming with tears. I walked to where the man was shopping and I held them up. He smiled.
“Yes, I knew they were here. I prayed and asked God to provide and He told me to come here. See, my wife has brain cancer and I’ve been by her side for months as she heals from surgery. My God is bigger than brain cancer and He knows our need.”
I was a bawling MESS! I started praising the Lord and everyone shopping in the store stopped talking. They all started watching me as tears streamed down my face and I said,
“GUYS!! DO YOU KNOW JESUS?? He wants to be your provider!! He loves you and He has a plan for your lives. He died for you and He carries your burdens!”
The Ministry Continues
Yes, the clothing ministry has impacted the lives of many people. Today, at 5 years old, we have seen more than 5,000 families walk through our doors. Some families come one time. Others come repeatedly, every 3 months, allowing us to establish relationships as people go from under-employment or unemployment to being employed. We’ve seen sick and addicted and homeless people come in with nothing, and they have left with a few items to help them make it another day. But perhaps the biggest impact has been in my own life.
Is God concerned by our willingness to obey?
Obedience was really never a theme in my life. I have always been an independent one. That empty spot though. It was a longing. It was a call for deeper obedience to His Word. I called myself a Christ follower and yet my life reflected a measure of self-centered focus on my own growth with little concern for the lost.
We have a daughter with mild special needs. I never saw my family moving to a 3rd world country to be missionaries with her needs, and yet the Lord kept telling me to obey Him in this. He wouldn’t stop pursuing my heart and showing me that my life is meant for more than my own gain. The pursuit has not stopped since that initial prayer about the dresses.
Now, when I read His Word and see things like:
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief…” Psalm 31:9 …
and I am mindful of the needs that stand in front of us week after week I can hand someone a Bible and go to the verse and give them hope! So, the answer is Yes. God is concerned by our willingness to obey. To share what He is doing. He wants us to love others. And to show others Jesus. The clothes are a means of meeting practical, physical needs so that we might somehow meet them, in a small way, spiritually.
Truth be told it’s not easy. People are smelly. People have deeper needs than you could ever imagine. People are not nice and they have expectations and attitudes of “deserving” what’s “theirs”. My flesh gets in the way often when the doors of the clothes closet open. It is a battle within me to remember that Christ died for ALL of us and that my job is to obey His command to give, love and share His gospel with anyone I can.
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