Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cardboard Box Love

Recently some of you have been enquiring about how I have been spending my time since retirement. This video, produced by Martha O'Bryan Center, is seeking to offer secular assistance to this community. It speaks more than a thousand words. Please do not turn off the music for later it stops, and individuals tell their story. Afterwards, I will tell my story and how we are seeking to give spiritual guidance to the community.

Many of you know Matthew, our son. After graduating, from Vanderbilt University, with his Master’s of Divinity, Matthew found himself sleeping on couches in various friends’ houses and working bi-vocational church staff positions trying to make a living. One house in particular on Shelby Avenue proved to be an eye opening experience that would shape the way he did ministry and thought about God’s Kingdom. Behind his backyard, on Shelby Avenue, is one of the poorest sections of Nashville’s housing, with approximately 12,000 people per square mile. It houses the largest housing unit in the metro Nashville area, Cayce Place, featured in the Martha O’Bryan on Video Clip. God has opened our eyes and touched our hearts and we cannot turn our back on the ministry needs here. Seven months ago, Matthew and Alyson started casting their vision among a small group of individuals, that began to call themselves, East Nashville Community Church, (ENCC). It is at Kirkpatrick Recreation Center that we will plant ENCC to have an intentional time for the community to worship together.

During the past weeks since April, I have had the privilege to work with ENCC to minister in this neighbor"hood." It has been a blessing to work with those who have partnered with us: Casting Crowns, Powerplant 2010, Kirkpatrick Metro Center, Keith Cook: On The Go Ministry, and other individuals to begin connecting with the community/families.  We have been able to connect with the community by cleaning classrooms at Martha O’Bryan Center (a local non-profit for at-risk persons), serving and delivering “Meals on Wheels,” by skating and interacting with groups playing basketball at the Kirkpatrick Center, or just sitting at a picnic table passing our icy-pops. We have not only connected but have been able to share the gospel through picnic table ministry, parking lot ministry, as well as just finding a spot to tell a short Bible Story to children, handing out information about East Nashville Community Church, and/or just telling everyone I meet about the ministry going on here.

One time specifically while taking clothes to the Martha O’Bryan center to hand out…I went about my business, chatting to some individuals as we unloaded clothing from the back of our car. I saw the older man sitting against the wall, appearing not to pay us any attention. As we carried in the last box, he said something that still rings through the crevices of my mind, and touches the deepest part of my heart, “Lady if you want to make a difference in our neighborhood, you gotta” walk” our streets.”  

I overheard one of the community children ask the student minister, “Will you come and have church on Sunday?” The student minister answered, “No, we have to go home.” They (the children) didn’t say it, but you could read their eyes, “You bring us cardboard boxes filled with token’s of love, but then you leave us. We know all about the kind of love that comes and goes. We want you to stay around so we can feel your arms. We want to experience your love.”  

Oh, what good intentions we have when we “drop off” our love in cardboard boxes, hop into our vehicles, and drive away. It is so important to connect with individuals and certainly these are ways to connect. However, connecting is only the beginning of making a difference in someone’s life. An Ethiopian man was reading the book of Isaiah, (or what we would interpret as, the Bible) in Acts 8:31. Phillip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” In other words, can you understand this in a way you can apply it? The Ethiopian answered Phillip’s question saying, “ ‘Well, how can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” In essence, this Ethiopian man was hungry for discipleship.

 We have seen over 100 come to know Jesus as their Savior. The community wants to know more about Jesus. They want hope. They want to continue to experience love. Matthew has shared with the community that we are coming to worship with them on August 1st. A mother, with two young daughters, shared that if they went to church they had to ride a bus and her small oxygen tank would not last long the trip. Others shared that they had to catch a ride for there was not a church in walking distance. With enthusiasm and excitement they would say, “August 1st, Now…You will be here, right here, August 1st?” Two men were playing basketball at the courts. One man said, “You see these children, my nieces and nephews; if you bring a church here, I will see to it that they are there.”

We, ENCC, believe that people matter to God. Whether we all agree on specific doctrines, we can agree on that until we unite together to complete the gospel then we waste a lot of time and resources competing with each other. This community has invited us to come and sit awhile, to love them, and we are responding. This is our attempt to "sit" with them, to share with them a genuine love that gives hope, yet makes a difference in all of our lives.

 The Costner’s, family, and a few friends have been funding this church plant since it’s beginning. Our heart hurts more and more for the restoration and redemption of this great community, but the needs are greater than what we can accomplish on our own. Please pray that God will speak to you and your family as to how you can support/partner with us. We need 24 individuals that will join us in giving $100.00 per month for a minimum of one year. If not a one time check would be appreciated. Thank you for reading our story, and I pray that God will bless you beyond your giving.

I have a video presentation that I would love to share with you, your group, or church. Please do not underestimate the working of the Holy Spirit in lives. Share this with individuals at your church, put it in your newsletter, YOU can talk to your pastor, sometimes he is just waiting for a layperson as yourself to cast vision for the church. Share it with your friends who might not know us. 

For more information: Subject line  Want to partner with ENCC 
Matthew Costner  at or 
Patsy Costner  at