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Welcome Neighbors

Jul 28 2022

The Root Cellar is an inner city ministry in Lewiston, Maine.  Whilepeople from outside of Maine might not think Lewiston (population36,158) when they think of urban areas, it is.  Lewiston is an old milltown where the mills have shut down for decades. What was once a flourishing town is now impoverished. What was once a predominately French Canadian city is now home to many of Maine's Afrian immigrants and refugees.  The largest Catholic church in the city has been converted into an arts center, while Lewiston now claims the largest Islamic population per capita of any city in the US.  And in the heart of the city is the Root Cellar, a ministry that provides English classes, youth group, after school tutoring, day camps, and so much more to the new Mainers whohave come here from Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, and most recently, Angola.  

My home church in Casco, Maine has provided community dinners at the Root Cellar (both the Lewiston and Portland sites) several times.  When they contacted me to see if we could do a neighborhood barbecue, I knew the church would be all over it!  One lady, Judy, has been askingoften when we could do it again.  She is the head of our food pantry and spearheads the meals when we've served in the past.  Of course she was thrilled.

Then she got covid!  She was heart broken that she had to drop out of the project, but my wife, Sue, was there to take the reins in Judy's place.  I, in turn, reached out to another local church who I knew had carnival-type games.  They agreed to send along a couple members and several games. Another local church sent three helpers,and my daughter, Naomi, and her boyfriend were in town from New York, so we had plenty of help.

When we got there, the grill was set up in the Root Cellar's small yard,and Naomi's boyfriend, Mike, manned the grill, preparing some ofthe best barbecue chicken ever.  Sue and some of the ladies set up the serving tables,complete with pasta salads, watermelon and chips.  In the park adlacent to the Root Cellar, the rest of us set up games.  When 6:00 came, the party began.  We served an estimated 100 people and had a great time in the park doing everything from impromptu juggling lessons to playing two on two basketball.  A lot of new Mainers were made to feel welcome that night.

For me,though, the highlight came early.  For years I've been going to the Lewiston Root Cellar to do shows.  In that time, I've connected with a kid named Abdul who is now 15.  He was there when we arrived, so I asked if he would be staying for the cook out.  He told he couldn't because he had youth group at a church in the neighboring city of Auburn, and he didn't want to miss it.  This is a perfect example of what the Root Cellar is all about;  By serving, assisting and welcoming new neighbors, by becoming friends who sincerely care, they point people gently and lovingly toward the grace and mercy that can be found in Jesus.  No shouting, no politics, no 'altar calls', no nationalism. Simply modeling the grace and acceptance of Jesus, until He becomes irresistable to some.

A Few Testimonies Minimize

 

 

The presentation was fun and encouraging... The gospel message was clear and encouraging. I purchased your book and just finished it. Your scope is broad and again encouraging. May God continue to bless your ministry. I will encourage others to read your book. -Parishioner of a local church

"Hey, I  wanted to say that was a great message in chapel today! It touched something:) thanks for doing it!" -High School Student  

"We are so grateful that you brought your amazing ministry back to our church this year... The Gospel message you bring applies to all!  It is such a positive, valuable work that you do."  -Coordinator of Christian Ed. UCC Church

"There's no questioning it. This is powerful stuff. It's extremely touching at times, never less than entertaining, and I see a lot of sincere love for Jesus in you guys."  -Dwight Lilies, song writer

The Lord has given you a wonderful window through which to present the Gospel!   - Field Director of Alliance Missions to Paraguay

"What a wonderful ministry to both children and adults.  In past years it has been a struggle to arrange programing that would hold the attention of all ages, but also challenge each heart with God's gift of Salvation.  Thank you for sharing your ministry."  -Sunday School Sup't.

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