Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Here They Come, Walking Down The Street
Operation InAsMuch  

When the long, dark days of winter have us pining for spring, thoughts turn to the first crocus peaking through the hard earth, to robins pecking the grounds for worms, and to smiling people in royal blue tee shirts swarming all over Essex County.

You may have noticed by now that there is a new rite of spring to add to the litany of county favorites. For the last two years, one Saturday in April brings the volunteers of Operation Inasmuch (OIAM) out of their churches and onto the streets of Tappahannock and Essex County. Clad in the uniform of the day—a bright blue shirt with the Operation Inasmuch logo emblazoned across the front—groups of Christians serving as the “hands and feet of Jesus” perform community service projects from delivering cookies to the ER and the Sheriff’s Office to yard clean-up.

Made up of an interdenominational team of volunteers from area churches, Operation Inasmuch mobilizes believers in a hands-on local church mission blitz in our community.  It offers a proven model of local ministry for any size congregation in any location.

So what’s with the name? Inasmuch is taken from Mathew 25:40 which says Inasmuch as you have done such things for the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done the same for me.

The brainchild of David Crocker (Executive Director) from Knoxville, TN, the local effort of Operation Inasmuch was brought to Essex County by the local outreach organization known as Essex Churches Together (ECT) in 2007.

ECT was formed after Tappahannock Presbyterian Church hosted a panel of community leaders in an attempt to ascertain the needs of the county and how their small and singular mission efforts could be best used. After some meetings with other churches it was decided that, working together, the churches could accomplish more than the small congregations could on their own.

The idea caught on, and within six months of the first meeting in 2004, the group outgrew its meeting space and moved to the conference room of the Essex Public Library, where it still meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month. Beginning with seven, the organization now includes 25 churches of different races and eight denominations.
ECT has been instrumental in supporting a Red Cross initiative in Essex County, as well as actively supporting the Community Food Bank and many other important and valuable community services.

In May of 2007 the Operation Inasmuch program was introduced to the group and discussion began on the possibility of hosting such an event in Essex County. The 16 participating churches set out to accomplish the daunting task of gathering team leaders, creating lists of projects to assign to their teams, and figuring out the logistics of who could sign up to help and how. It seemed like an impossible goal. But with prayer, faith, and not just a little trepidation, Operation Inasmuch began.

A Planning Committee was formed and hit the ground running. And on April 26, 2008, volunteers gathered in the early morning hours on the lawn at St. Margaret’s School to launch the first countywide effort of Operation Inasmuch. Before it was all over, an amazing 500 people participated in a variety of projects that day.

Some of the household repairs required expertise of volunteers with skills in carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, and roof repair. Smoke alarms were installed where there were none. Gifts were made and delivered to nursing homes and hospice agencies. A gigantic “Free For All” yard sale of donated clothes and items were available at no cost.
People at the laundromat were surprised by being handed quarters for the machines and having visitors help the time go by while waiting for their clothes to be washed and dried.

Thirty pints of blood were donated at the 7th Day Adventist Church. Lap robes and wheel chair bags were made. An ecumenical choir sang for people unable to leave their homes. Landscaping was done at the elementary school, and the playground received a new coat of paint. Stuffed animals were collected and delivered to the police department and to residents in nursing homes.

You couldn’t help but notice the blue-shirted brigade of volunteers all over the streets of Tappahannock if you were anywhere in town on that day. More than one eyebrow was raised as people encountered them. The initial reaction from a lot of folks was “what’s the catch?” They couldn’t believe that the help, the paint, the cookies were free—no strings attached. The community spirit and goodwill radiated among the givers and, eventually, the recipients alike. Volunteers of all ages felt the priceless satisfaction of doing good for goodness sake.

By April of 2009, people were acquainted with the idea, and even more signed up to help. In fact, twenty-five churches participated in last year’s effort. Project suggestions were solicited and offered by ECT churches, individuals, and social service agencies.

After the successful 2009 event, planning has been underway since July for the third Operation Inasmuch event to be held on April 24, 2010. If your church participates in ECT, seek out your congregational representative and find out how you can participate. If your Essex County church is not a member, contact Alice Roye (alicer2@verizon.net) or Kathy Hughes (petbarn@crosslink.net) for more information.

You, your neighbors, and your community, will be glad you did.