Merlene Davis: One church's mission is a blessing for others

Michael Robinson, pastor of Total Grace Baptist Church
Michael Robinson, pastor of Total Grace Baptist Church Photo provided

At Total Grace Baptist Church, members are asked to do something kind for strangers. It could be paying for the next customer in line at a drive-through, or something as simple as giving a compliment.

"That is the culture we try to create in the church," said Pastor Michael Robinson. "It could be anything, anything nice. It perpetuates good deeds."

And church members "love it," he said.

"This is probably one of the biggest things we do throughout the year."

Because this time of year has two big holidays, members are really pushing the concept.

"They are all over the place," Robinson said of the outreach effort being called "B2B," or "Blessed to be a Blessing."

How does it work?

"I love to go to Dairy Queen because the meals are cheap and I can pay for the person behind me," Robinson said. "I'm safe at Dairy Queen. The most I've ever paid is $20."

Some members leave "abnormally large tips," he said. "It is the surprise factor. When we do something, we leave the cards."

The cards read: "Now that you have been blessed, bless someone else and pass this card along with your good deed."

Members of the church at 1313 North Limestone have also knocked on doors in the church's neighborhood and handed out $100 utility vouchers. They have approached drivers at gas pumps and given then $25 gas cards.

They have also passed out vouchers for turkeys, which neighborhood residents picked up the Sunday before Thanksgiving. About 250 turkeys were distributed along with boxes of macaroni and cheese and stuffing.

Why? Because, Robinson said, they are blessed, and it is their mission to be blessings for others. "When you do good deeds, good deeds come back," he said.

One member, Linda Conner, didn't hand out a card or purchase coffee for the driver behind her. Instead, Conner stepped out on faith and opened her home for six months to a woman with a troubled past whom she barely knew.

"It's whatever is in your heart," she said. "Whatever you feel led to do."

The woman had lost her home and her job, and her credit was a mess, Conner said. She only charged the woman $200 for room and board.

Still, "lot of people kept telling me she was bad news," she said. "You cannot imagine the flak I got."

Although adjustments had to be made and leisure time sacrificed, Conner has no regrets.

"I knew what God had put on my heart," she said. "I knew it was a matter of trust and faith in God."

Conner and her husband, Travis, who never hesitated to support the woman, teach a master life course at the church. The woman she helped attended and graduated from that class.

The woman now has a good job, a car and her own apartment. She is also helping other women get their lives together.

"It wasn't easy for her," Conner said. "That is what it is all about."

The blessed to bless concept benefits fellow church members as well, who may not have the financial stability to provide toys for their children at Christmas. They can earn TG (Total Grace) Bucks, which can be used to purchase new toys that other members have donated. Those bucks are earned by caring for children during the service, by working in the community or through other works.

"That is our DNA," Robinson said. "We are a need-meeting church. We handle the spiritual needs and the existential needs of the church."

Considering the church was established in 2009 with 13 members and now has 1,800, its mission seems to be working. Robinson "casts out the vision, and we work out the details," Conner said.

If you are ever blessed to be the recipient of one of those cards, please pay it forward. Our society needs a lot more blessings.