There are many ways to say, “I love you.” The members of Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond do it by meeting needs in international arenas, the local community and within their church family.
From 1996 to 2010, volunteers ages 16 to 80, made an annual mission trip to Honduras to work in the clinic of Dr. Reniery Espana. They taught children, painted schools, built shelves — whatever needed to be done.
In 2011, Espana was caught up in the increasing violence and unrest in his home country and the target of an attempted kidnapping. He went into hiding and sought help from the Edmond church who arranged for him to come to Oklahoma City.
Mike and Debbie Bohn served as his host family for almost a year while he secured a visa for work in the U.S. John and Jean Scott Gauldin provided a car and Espana, who has a degree in public health, found employment at the Latino Community Development Agency.
Other international programs in which members participate are World Neighbors; Love Without Boundaries in China, providing surgeries for children with cleft palates; and Caminante in the Dominican Republic, working to keep kids out of the tourist sex trade and in school. They are also big supporters of Edmond's “Crop Walk” to reduce world hunger.
I got a taste of the energy and joy of these church members when I met Marilee Hattendorf. In addition to working abroad, she and other members give time to dozens of community groups, such as Regional Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Edmond Mobile Meals and Whiz Kids tutoring.
When there is a need in the community or the church, someone steps up. Tony Boutte' walks dogs at the pound. Don Wiard helps with the church's 3- and 4-year olds.
Members receive encouragement and support from ministers Gary Byrkit and Rev. Jenny Wynn and a helpful church staff. They nurture themselves through fellowship groups, Bible study and tai chi.
This congregation works together forming friendships and building bridges — quietly going about their daily lives caring about people.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.