In the Salem, Oregon, area, members of East Salem Adventist Church have been hard at work serving their community.
“We’ve already completed 57 projects so far this year,” shared Derrick Teague, one of the founding members of the ACTS group. ACTS, which is an acronym standing for Affirming Community Through Service, takes inspiration from the biblical books of Hebrews and Acts.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
“It started in 2019,” said Teague. “One of my good buddies I’d worked and went to church with told me about an older church member who could use some help cutting firewood. He was around 90 and he’d had an area logged near his house out in the country, but the loggers had left extra logs and things behind."
"We got a group of guys together and said, ‘Let’s go take care of it!’” said Teague. What began as a single project quickly became two as the group discovered that the man’s neighbors also needed help cutting wood.
In February 2021, a brutal ice storm came through Oregon, knocking trees down over power lines and major roadways.
"When I drove up the street, the branches from the oak trees were higher than the vehicles from all the trees that had fallen," Teague said. "So the spark for us was just asking, ‘Hey, why don’t we help this person and that person?’”
Soon, the group was serving on a weekly basis disposing of debris, completing small maintenance and construction projects, helping people move and getting to know both their neighbors and each other better.
“I always tell people, ‘We’re going to get more out of this than you are. You’re going to get labor, but I’m going to get fellowship, service, a sense of accomplishment and good exercise,'” said Teague.
"I’ve learned through this process that even if you go to church with someone, you often aren’t going to each other’s homes every week or getting to spend three or four hours together outside of church. Having something like this really brings us together,” said Teague.
“Our focus is out in the community. People really don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Teague. “I can’t speak for everybody, but I’ve been an Adventist for a long time now, and sometimes I think we struggle with that.
Teague continued, "We want people to care about how much we know before we show them how much we care about them — and it’s just not going to work that way. The three most important calls for us are love, give and serve. That’s what we’re going to do out there.”
Through this service, Teague hasn’t just gotten closer with his neighbors, but his church has grown closer, as well. “The funny thing is that I’ve gotten to know my church family way better while doing this. I’m in their homes and yards more," said Teague.
"Sometimes in the church lobby we’ll make eye contact and it’s just so different. It’s like we have a relationship now. We’re connected," Teague said. "I hate to admit it, but there were people I’d been in church with for more than 20 years and never had a conversation with! This has given us a platform to come together and an opportunity to change that, too.”