Socially Distant, Still Present - Luke Brownell

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With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing us to pause all on-site ministry, we were left to answer one crucial question: How do we continue to nurture a positive presence while maintaining social distance?

 As a Christ-Centered Organization, the Garland Dream Center builds its ministries and outreaches with one central theme: Demonstrating and sharing God’s love to the community in the most relational way possible. Our methods express our mission: Utilizing highly relational means to connect marginalized people to needed resources and meaningful ministry that can lead to life-changing opportunities. That is why, for example, we have spent endless hours over the last 2 years building on-site and door to door ministries within safe walking distance to local apartment communities right here in Garland: Relationships.  

With almost 500 apartment residences from 4 different complexes having access to weekly ministry that included snacks, fun, and a safe environment to learn about God, the friendships and connections we built were beautiful. 

Then, the Coronavirus. It seems we may all look back for many years to come, possibly for the rest of our lives, and describe ‘how things were’, followed by those words: “then, the coronavirus”. For all of our sakes, I hope that’s not true, but for so many, the impact has been life-altering. For the communities and families we serve, devastating. 

Where face-to-face interactions were once used to build meaningful relationships, social distancing became the new normal. 

The Garland Dream Center had one fundamental challenge: How do we maintain the relationships we’ve built when we can’t gather? How can we be socially distant, yet still present? The answer: by any means available. We returned to the fundamentals:
Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.
The need was/is certainly great. Greater, actually, then we had witnessed as an organization. Moms who cleaned houses could no longer go to work. Dads were laid off. Incomes that were already stretched to the limit were plundered. 

So, we began creating opportunity in any way possible. If a family needed groceries, we went shopping. Diapers? We’re on it. Help paying rent? let’s figure out a way. Easter Baskets full of eggs and prizes! 100 hot lunches in the park twice a week. Snacks delivered door to door. Continued prayer and relationships. Text surveys and phone calls to over 150 families. YouTube videos sent out to encourage the faith of children. 

Some methods worked, and then, cases would spike and they no longer worked. 

We didn’t have a hard and fast strategy, but we did adopt a rally cry: stay connected. 

All in all we delivered more than 1000 boxes of food, served more than 500 fresh lunches, called and prayed and connected with more than 100 families, delivered more than 100 Easter baskets and more. Yes, needs were met, and yes that was the point. However, undergirding that was something more important, being present. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers, generosity of our donors and local non-profit partners, and the wind of God at our backs, we have still been present, though socially distant. And we will continue to do just that. 

As pandemic life settles in (and hopefully backs out), we are able to see a little clearer how we can reconnect in a meaningful way with these 4 apartment communities. But it doesn’t stop  there, we are developing a vision to reach every apartment community in Garland with a Christ-centered, resource-connected, relationship-based ministry that happens right where the needs are. Will you join us?