By Carl Stagner
No student should have to go without warm clothes this winter. Yet many students and their families lack a sufficient wardrobe to keep them safe and comfortable when temperatures drop below freezing. This disparity is how one vital ministry of Huber Heights Church of God in Huber Heights, Ohio, got started. When one parent asked about a student wearing shorts to school on a blustery day, she discovered it had nothing to do with personal style, fashion, or bravado. You don’t have to travel across the globe to find families suffering from the cold. It’s right here in our own backyard, and ministries like the Master’s Closet are doing something about it.
Four years ago, Charlene Bruggeman responded to the Spirit’s leading to ensure that students and families in their community would stay warm. Once a quarter, she and her husband Dwight, youth pastor at Huber Heights, would open a free clothing store at the church. The ministry was so popular that the children’s church room could no longer contain it. In a bold move to reach out into the area schools with the ministry, Charlene met with the school superintendent about the critical need. Like many cities, closed schools have marred their landscape and dampened spirits. But today the Master’s Closet has reclaimed unused classroom space for a kingdom purpose! Four classrooms now house the ministry: one for adult clothing, one for teens, one for children, and one to sort donations. Each “shopper” who visits the store may select up to six items each month, plus a pair of shoes and an accessory—all at no cost.
“You never know what to expect each month,” Charlene explains, “and I wait in anticipation to see what God has in store when we open those doors.” God’s fingerprints are often seen all over the ministry, and the stories of blessing and hope are too many to list. Here are two:
A single mother of two children contacted the Master’s Closet to determine if she could receive assistance to provide gifts for her family this Christmas. Two days later, Charlene received word from a group of mothers who were seeking to assist someone for Christmas but didn’t know who might be in need. Today that single mother has Christmas for her children all wrapped up.
Imagine not being able to give their family rides in a vehicle because they cannot afford a booster seat for their child. While in line to check out, one family observed as a church friend walk in the store to donate a booster seat. This family happened to be without. “When we handed the mother the booster seat, her son anxiously embraced it, jumping up and down, and exclaimed, ‘A booster seat! A booster seat!’” Charlene recalls. “Most kids would not be so excited over a booster seat,” she reflects, “but the mother shared that when she takes a taxi, she is not able to take her son because they don’t have a booster seat.”
About 185 people directly benefit each week from the clothing provided by the Master’s Closet. Flyers are distributed at the schools, basketball programs, local food pantries, and other community activities. Customers in need come back each month, and volunteers build relationships with them. Through every article of clothing offered, God’s love is demonstrated. “God’s impact is not only on the community, but on those who volunteer,” Charlene explains. “The ministry is about more than just clothing. You get to know the shoppers and some of them share about what’s going on in their lives, and it’s great to catch up every month and talk.”
More than 2,000 years ago, the newborn King was kept warm in swaddling clothes. This Christmas season and through the winter, a family will be kept warm with clothes from the Master’s Closet. The Master’s Closet gives Huber Heights Church of God and community partners a chance to be the extension of the Master’s hand. How will you be an extension of the Master’s hand this winter?
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.