Good News Stories!
Amidst the changes and chances of the COVID-19 pandemic, churches and entities throughout the Synod of the Sun have found ways to not only survive but also employ unique and beautiful ways to minister to God's people in need. In these settings, mission and ministry happens in a myriad of ways, from supplying basic necessities to caring for the environment. Connections have been made via video feed and blankets. Love is supplied from teaching inmates how to read to providing diapers via a drive-thru.

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How has your community found ways to continue to minister when "the church has left the building"? Send us your Good News Stories ideas! Contact Thomas Riggs, Communication and Administrative Coordinator or the Rev. Matt Curry, author and story collector.

First Presbyterian Church, Austin, TX
Good Samaritan Fund
by Matt Curry
AUSTIN - Pursuing the mission of Jesus Christ is not about receiving thank-you notes.
Nevertheless, when a church receives feedback from someone who has benefited from an outreach, it can serve as an uplifting confirmation that the work is making a difference. 
A particular note written to First Presbyterian Church of Austin assured the church that its rejuvenated Good Samaritan program is doing what was prayerfully intended. And it motivated the congregation - which has helped raise $100,000 to assist area residents during the pandemic - to keep doing more.
“You didn’t care who I was or what I looked like, but offered help to a family in need without question, and THAT is Christ-like,” the note reads. “Thank you for being a light in this time of struggle and intense transformation.”
The ministry began after pastoral and congregational leaders started looking at ways to answer pressing needs of those affected by job loss, such as paying bills, buying diapers and other necessities. They took a look at the existing Good Samaritan Fund, the pastor’s discretionary fund for providing one-time assistance. First-Austin, a member of Mission Presbytery, had less than $5,000 on hand in the fund during March.
“We wanted to create something bigger,” said Ruth Ann Eledge, a church member who helps publicize the renewed program.Launched at Easter, as the church celebrated new life in Christ, the drive to create a more expansive and broadly scoped fund was launched. It allows households to receive a one-time payment of up to $500 to meet a financial need as long as the funds are available.
“I think one of the ways that this has helped us be the church is to see abundance where others see scarcity. Yes, there are limits to what we can do face to face right now, and we have to think creatively about how we can shine Christ’s light,” said the Rev. Dr. Sarah D. Allen, pastor for children, youth and families.
The requests are approved by a board that reviews them weekly. Almost immediately after it was announced, the fund grew to $75,000 through gifts from church members, fundraising and special offerings, said Eledge, who sits on the review board.
Unlike similar financial assistance programs, the fund helps people facing a wide variety of needs – everything from bus passes to school supplies. With the sudden growth of the fund and word of its existence, the number of requests exploded, as well. Now several requests for help arrive every day.
“It’s been both heartwarming to see the donations come in, but it is hard to see how many requests come in,” said Nicole Kelly, a member of the church mission outreach team who also reviews applications for help.
By early December, aid had been given to 180 families in northwest Austin through the Good Samaritan Fund.
“The congregation rallied around this, it is the hallmark of who we are,” Allen said.
The financial assistance program was designed to recognize that every household has unique needs, Allen said. Church members wanted to respond with mercy and grace to the needs of people around them and to be able to say “yes” as often as possible.
That outlook pays spiritual dividends for both First-Austin and the area it serves.
“I have seen Christ in both the generosity of our community and in the other faith communities in our area, and in the people requesting help when they need it,” Allen said.
The church has extended the call to neighboring churches, who are also giving to the fund. It is now looking at maintaining and expanding the program even after the pandemic is over.
Gifts to the Good Samaritan Fund go directly to households in need in the Greater Austin area. There is no administrative cost or overhead, so the full amount goes directly into the hands of those who need it.
Donors may give by directing checks to First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78731 with the memo line “Good Samaritan Fund.” Contributors may give online by texting FPCATX GOODSAM to 73256 and following the instructions to pay by credit card.
The Rev. Matt Curry is in search of Good News from ministries throughout the Synod of the Sun that are making connections with their congregations and communities. Do you have an idea to share? Send Matt an email at