FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Sarah Bush wrestles with big questions: Why do homelessness, hunger and poverty persist in the United States? Where can people in any of those situations turn for help?
Bush, who serves as minister of congregational development at Fredericksburg Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, takes the answer to that second question personally by seeking to be the answer.
Bush, a 2008 graduate of the Baylor University School of Social Work, says the 2,200-member church is intentional about loving God and loving its neighbors, with more than a dozen active missions.
She participated in the congregational social work track in her degree program at Baylor and did her internship at the Virginia church. She was offered a full-time job before her internship was completed.
Bush moved from Texas to Virginia soon after finishing graduate school and began work as the community church liaison for Micah Ecumenical Ministries, a coalition of downtown churches that provides basic care services and emergency shelter on sub-freezing nights for those who need it. The program had just moved into a much larger facility in downtown Fredericksburg, and it was being inundated with client requests.
“I just jumped in. Micah had big needs immediately,” she said. “At the time, we had two to four volunteers a day, and we needed at least 12.”
When Bush moved into her current position last August, Micah had 150 volunteers. She helped develop a Giving Back program at Micah so those who received assistance could volunteer to clean the facility after closing hours each day and receive vouchers to do laundry on site, get bus passes or receive $5 food gift cards.
“We thought giving our guests a way to serve would allow them to take ownership of the building and begin to establish helpful work skills,” she said. “We have seen so many people empowered by the opportunity.”
Fredericksburg Baptist Church offers a host of its own ministries that include an after-school daycare, immigration resettlement services and ESL programs twice weekly. The church holds a community meal every Thursday night at no cost to guests and usually draws up to 200 people. Bush’s role is to help recruit, train, equip and coordinate members and volunteers to assist in these service ministries. She works closely with Jeanne Anderson, minister of missions, and reports to Pastor Larry Haun.
These days, she wrestles with another big question: “How do we help members see that serving and meeting the needs of our community is part of a calling that we, as a body of Christ, have?”
To help answer that question, she is preparing study guides to orient new members to the church. “I want to help our members think about service as something they might feel called to do, not obligated to do. To begin to think about who they are, who they are in the body of Christ and who they are in service as part of the body of Christ.”
Bush is unwavering in her focus on empowerment, beyond meeting immediate needs.
“We are helping to create this cycle that you assist and empower one person, and that person then can empower others. When we, as the church, extend our arms and are intentional about being a part of people’s lives, they extend that forward.
“It is such a cool sense of community. I am just loving it! I know this is what I’m wired to do.”
And although her questions are always big, sometimes her answers are, too.
“I see so clearly that God is at work in this,” she said. “It’s really exciting for me to see the church take this role and partner with other groups in the community to meet these needs together.”