A woman drives to the laundromat with a car full of clothes and a pocket full of coins, but she does not know if she has enough quarters to wash all her laundry. “Lord,” she prays, “please let there be enough quarters to fully wash and dry my clothes.” What she finds when she arrives at the laundromat amazes her: two members of a church just down the street who are offering to pay for anyone’s laundry that night – no strings attached. Immediately, she knows that this is the answer to the prayer she prayed on the way to the laundromat.
In conversation with one of the church members, she shares about how she grew up in the church but walked away from a close relationship with the Lord. But based on this single interaction with this church community in the laundromat, she could sense that the Lord was corralling her back into the fold.
With the pandemic limiting the outreach opportunities available to our church, we were forced to ask ourselves, “How can we still reach out to the local community? How can we serve the community and know and be known by them when so many of the avenues that would normally be available to us are shut down or severely limited?” The answer became clear: people still needed the essentials. People still needed to eat, to have access to medical care, and to wash their clothes.
Enter Laundry Love.
Laundry Love is a national organization that exists to help provide low-income or no-income families and individuals pay for clean clothes and bedding. The organization was started after an interaction with “a houseless gentleman living in Ventura, CA.” In one particular conversation, a question was asked of him: “How can we come alongside your life in a meaningful way?” His response was honest and practical: “If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me like a human being.” After connecting with the Laundry Love organization and reading through their materials, local groups partner with a nearby laundromat to provide this service to local residents.
Our church participates by volunteering to staff a particular evening and spend the time at the laundromat offering to pay for the laundry of everyone who comes through the doors that evening. Sometimes, people turn down the offer of assistance. Other times, the interaction only goes as far as meeting the material needs of an individual by providing the free laundry service. But often it goes further and paves the way for us to witness and go deeper with people.
“Why are you doing this?” is a common question that we receive, which provides a perfect opportunity to share who we are (“We are members of the church just down the street”) and our motivation (“Jesus has loved us and that motivates us to love other people like this”).
Believers and nonbelievers alike have benefitted from our presence at the laundromat. Members of our church have prayed with believers in the laundromat for many problems from choosing their college to divine provision for other pressing needs. Some have even asked to pray for their return back to the Lord after a period of running from him. Non-believers have said after being blessed by the generosity of the church, “Wow, this is what I have always heard a Christian would do. Yet, this is the first time it has happened to me”. Some even have left with a copy of the Gospel of John to read for the first time. Our own church members have had the opportunity to gain experience in serving the community, evangelizing, and growing in their own faith as a result.
“I was most surprised at how good it feels to give money away to others in the name of Jesus,” said one member after a few evenings at the laundromat. “The first time I came, I was truly surprised at how much joy I received from putting those quarters in someone’s washer or dryer. It seemed like such a major return for so small a cost. Many of the people who accepted the gift were truly appreciative, and on a few occasions, I think I saw some tears of appreciation.”
This church member continues, “If we ever stop this ministry, I may do it on my own. Again, for $20 or $40 dollars, you can impact one’s life, which in my opinion, is superior to almost anything else you could do with that same money.”
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