SPRING North Oaks Baptist Church of Spring in suburban north Houston believes its duty is to serve God in the community, with an aim to take the gospel into every interaction and event.
So on Aug. 10, for the fourth straight year, the church hosted a back-to-school outreach as 22 church members distributed 800 door hangers in two low-income trailer communities a few miles from the church campus and shared the gospel with residents. The hangers announced the upcoming Operation BackPack the following Saturday, Aug. 17, featuring free backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, food and entertainment at the church.
“It is important for our church to go out and serve the community,” said NOBC Pastor Caleb Fleming. “Operation BackPack is a project that offers witnessing opportunities, reaps professions of faith and results in new members.” He said since the project was initiated by the church, attendance has grown steadily.
Leading up to the event, coordinator Beverly Jones organized volunteer collection efforts for supplies and backpacks for 350 students—100 more than the previous year. She said most of the items were donated by church members and a participating store. Volunteers worked the night before and that morning to set up the school supply stations, a food truck, two bounce houses, tables, chairs, and stations for free haircuts, food, cotton candy and snow cones.
About 9:30 a.m., parents and excited children started to arrive at the sign-in station and from there were directed to backpacks and school supplies. After filling those needs, families exited to another room where they were offered New Testaments and gospel tracts, free haircuts from Salvation Stylists, free family pictures, lunch and outdoor attractions, including a fire truck manned by Klein Fire Department volunteers.
Erin Taylor, who brought her daughter, a niece and some neighborhood children to the event, said she recently moved to one of the trailer communities, received a door hanger, and is happy she attended the event. “We would be struggling to provide school supplies for our children without the support of the church,” she said. “My daughter is having a great time, and now we are ready to start the school year.” Prior to leaving, Taylor spoke to Fleming about her faith in Christ, and she promised to visit the church again.
Deacon Venkat Koripalli said the communities served this year for Operation BackPack are mostly Hispanic, move often and are economically challenged, so kids without the assistance of NOBC or other community resources enter the classroom without a backpack, and school supplies, creating the hardship of a negative stigma for the rest of the school year. He said the annual event has become a “labor of love for the church, done in obedience to Christ.”
Gary Schill, another deacon, noted that the church provided about 100 volunteers for the event. “I think the church demonstrated what it means to be Christian,” he said. “More than 200 kids received supplies, had haircuts, ate and played games. It went very well.”
NOBC’s sphere of influence was extended into the community as families departed with needs being met.
“My heart is full this afternoon,” Fleming reflected. “It is such a joy to serve the people of North Oaks Baptist, and the people of our community. Today, people’s physical needs were met and the gospel planted to satisfy eternal needs. God is good.”