In our little corner of the world here in Peoria, we struggle with the same kinds of things that communities do all over the country: foreclosures, unemployment, down-sizing, etc. And lately, I’ve noticed we’ve had another symptom of a struggling economy…local businesses going under and closing their doors. Just this past week, there were two small businesses, a clothing store and a Mexican restaurant, that closed just down the street from us. Seeing those darkened windows made me think of the struggles that many of our local business owners have had to been facing these past few years.
So I started to pray, ‘Lord, I know the people who run these local businesses have needs. I don’t know exactly what those needs are, but please show me where you are at work, and I’ll join you in it’. This lead to today when I felt moved to go to a local strip mall, go into some of the businesses, strike up some conversations with the managers/owners and see what happened.
The first conversation was with the owner of a Water and Ice store. I ordered a snow cone and asked her about her business. Before long, she was sharing all sorts of things with me, and asking about our church! One of the things I told her about was the upcoming ‘Movie Under the Stars’ events in the community over the next several months. She asked if we were going to need ice for these events, and I said, ‘As a matter of fact, yes, we are.’ She said, ‘Well, we would definitely do a major discount for the ice for something like this.’
Then it hit me… here was a way that we could meet some real needs among the local business owners! We already knew that one of our goals with these movie events was to help bring people in the area together. By having these shared experiences, it could help neighbors to get better acquainted, creating a greater sense of connection among the people in our community. And now… what if we reached out and invited local businesses to be a part of this? Some could provide discounted food/beverage items for the event and get recognized for it. Others could set up stands with samples or literature.
The owner of the water and ice store thought this was a great idea, and definitely thought other business managers/owners would be interested as well. By the time I had left, I had the chance to receive a prayer request, and share the gospel with her as well!
As I walked further down the sidewalk, I saw a Kung Fu studio, and I thought about events I’ve been to where they had martial arts groups come to do demonstrations in front of the crowd, and they were pretty cool. I knew that one of our Access families, the Agee’s had a son, Kyle who went to one of the Kung Fu places in the area, and I thought maybe this might be the place.
So I called up Tammy Agee right there and then, and said, ‘Tammy, I’m here in front of this Kung Fu place at so-and-so’, is this where Kyle goes? She said, ‘No, I’m actually with Kyle right now at the Kung Fu studio we go to just down the street.’ And so I said, ‘Oh, O.K.- well let me tell you what I was thinking…’ and I shared my idea with her. She said, ‘That is exactly what I was just thinking about, too! I’ll talk to the manager and see if he would bring a bunch of the students here to the Movie Under the Stars.’ She also knew of a dance studio down the road who might be able to come and do some routines before the movies. Way to go, Tammy!
And way to go, God! Because this is how he works. When he is getting ready to do something, he will often put the same feelings and thoughts into the hearts and minds of his people. And when you start to experience this kind of thing together, you better know that God has something pretty amazing planned!