Five years ago, Jami Summers went to Mexico on her first missions trip. She observed in shock the poverty surrounding her, seeing the devastation and literal dump that some of the cities nearby held. Jami recalled how a team member brought up that this isn’t just in Mexico; it’s in America too.
“Not like this!” Jami said.
When Jami returned to the comforts of her home in Dayton, though, she got to thinking. She realized maybe America didn’t have exactly the same problems, but there was a point to that argument: people in America need Jesus just as much as people in Mexico do.
It was this thought that spurred the beginning ideas of Gifts by Grace.
Gifts by Grace is the name Jami gave to the local missional outreaches she organizes purposefully in the Dayton area. The outreaches focus on building relationships and being an example to God’s people.
What Jami soon found out was that while there certainly is poverty in Dayton, many people have government assistance or help from various organizations. What they lacked was something else: relationships.
“People are too busy for people in America,” she said. Jami described a weekend in which Gifts by Grace visited a group of African Refugees in Downtown Dayton. The children - one girl in particular - just followed Jami around the entire evening, craving her attention. “She was telling me all about her siblings. You could just tell she wanted somebody to talk to,” Jami said. Gifts by Grace is a relatively new outreach, which launched in the summer of 2013. Her original goal was to make weekend trips, reaching out to various schools, retirement homes and families.
The name Gifts by Grace stems from 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Jami wanted the purpose behind the missions trips to be about using your gifts to serve one another. She explained that if we are given gifts by God’s grace, then we need to be using those gifts.
It is evident that Jami believes strongly in this. When people comment that it’s so cool she’s doing Gifts by Grace, she is adamant to respond that anyone could do it. Every person has their individual gifts and God will use those if you boldly step out and just try.
“That’s why we involve our kids in everything. Our kids have a gift different than us. Just smiling and being there is a gift just as being able to pray with someone is,” she said.
This wasn’t an easy lesson for Jami to learn. It took five years for the idea of Gifts by Grace to be put into action. The excuse of having kids was Jami’s go-to response when she was challenged on why she didn’t start something up. She said it wasn't until she talked to a friend that could help her that she finally had the courage to just try it. Jami learned that there would always be an excuse and it was time to just start taking action.
“If God puts you in a place (to reach out), you do it. Don’t wait five years like I did,” she said.
Their latest outreach in July was called “Meet me at the Playground". Although they weren’t big in attendance numbers, the impact has been profound. The mini VBS involved singing songs, doing crafts, playing games and learning the basics about Jesus. In the midst of that, Jami said the kids started asking some great questions. Since then, one of the families has begun attending her house church and another family has started becoming interested in attending Apex. This is exactly what Jami hoped for from the beginning: building relationships with locals in the city of Dayton that lead them toward Jesus.
To keep up with the stories that are happening within Gifts by Grace, you can follow their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MissionTripDaytonOhio.
Author: Jennifer Osterday