Outreach of the Islamic community to the Islamic community is the third pillar of Islam. For the Muslim, the Zakah, which is the name for their charitable donations, is to fulfill a compulsory act of worship. Each Muslim is expected to pay Zakah, which benefits local Muslims who are poor, needy, slaves, debtors or travelers. The Qur’an requires that the Zakah be given and distributed locally. The Islamic Society of Brevard County oversees the distribution and collection of the funds that are used on the east coast of Central Florida.
Reaching out to every ethnicity, Habitat for Humanity has become one of the world’s leading charitable organizations. Habitat builds houses in partnership with very low-income families through zero interest loans and at no profit. Joe Gassman, President and CEO for Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County, Inc, wrote “Habitat for Humanity is a Christian housing ministry rooted in the local faith community. Over 50 percent of the houses built and rehabilitated by Habitat are accomplished through the faith community.
“The consistent success of our local (Brevard County) affiliate is that we live the core values of our Christian faith as modeled by Jesus who ‘did not come to be served, but to serve’ (Matthew 20:28). With eight homes currently under construction, Habitat “volunteers are garnered from every walk of life and segment of our community. These men and women discover and witness to the power of offering themselves in the service to a family in need.”
It is perhaps the individual congregation’s faith expressions that make the deepest impact on the overall community, however. Churches, temples and mosque provide personal counseling, divorce recovery support groups, parenting lessons and alcohol recovery meetings. As our nation sways under the load of economic uncertainty, the church has leapt forward providing free—but excellent—classes endeavoring to train people in the area of financial management and job skills development.
One such congregation is First United Methodist Church, located in the heart of Melbourne. Rather than vacating to the affluent suburbs, this congregation opted to stay. Their community became their mission field.
During the Annual Melbourne Art Show and the Christmas parade, the members of the congregation of First UMC hand out water to the attendees. Hot dogs and soft drinks are provided free during many of the city’s special events. Everyone is invited to participate in the “Trunk or Treat” Halloween festival. The members decorate their car trunks. Then children from the neighborhood and beyond come to fill their goodies bags with candy and treats. “We want to provide a safe place for the children to come during this fun celebration. Parents should not have to be concerned about the safety of their little ones on this happy night,” John Denmark, recent pastor of congregation said.
Joining hands with many other congregations and ministries, First UMC and many other congregations support Daily Bread, a center located in Melbourne, Florida where men and women can come for a good, nourishing meal. While the Daily Bread ministry has drawn criticism for bringing into the community people who may not be desirable, it is the position of the church bodies who supports the outreach believe they are helping to fulfill the Christian command to feed the hungry. Over the years, the local churches as a body have heard the concerns of the neighborhood and they have endeavored to provide a neutral, safer place for the Daily Bread facility.
The Sharing Center is another faith-based outreach to people needing food and financial assistance. Most local churches in South Brevard County support the Center which provides screening and help for people truly needing support. By bundling and cooperating, the Church community has found they can be more effective in their efforts to obey the mandate of Jesus to feed and cloth the homeless and deprived.
Going beyond the norm, First UMC provides His Place with back packs for distribution. His Place is a ministry to men and women who are more transient–passing through or planning to live only temporarily in Brevard County. His Place distributes the back packs to people in need of temporary shelter. Tents, personal items and food are included in the bundles received. Acting on their own, one Fifth-grade Bible Study class at First UMC makes “Meals to Go” for people needing rations to carry them through the day.
Often it is the small, unnoticed ministries that reach deep into the core of a hurting population living in cities, parishes and community throughout the world. One such ministry is Master’s Workshop in Melbourne, FL. This after-school program is supported by 20 local churches. Their mission is to help build whole children using basic Biblical principles.
Yet they do much with meager funds. Their annual budget is about $20,000 a year. Tutoring, art lessons, fun and games are provided for the 20 to 30 latch-key children and teens who make this their home-away-from-home. Additionally, each child is fed a nourishing meal before she leaves the Workshop in late afternoon.
Janet Marks, founder of the ministry, says they receive no federal or State funds. “The City of Melbourne gives us $900 grant each year. The rest comes from volunteer donations and churches.” Then a smile overtook her voice. “I don’t have to worry about the finances,” she said, “because God provides out of the sunshine of his love.”
While the world rushes around looking for ways to succeed and win, the faith community is not for sale. They are the givers, the providers, the protectors of the needy and the innocent. Still working, still struggling, Muslims, Jews, Christians and others in the faith community join hands to grasp the heart of needs, using God’s love to provide and to change those weak from want and despair.