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Church members pay it forward

Posted: December 5, 2008 10:45 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2008 4:55 a.m.

During a Sunday service, lead pastor Javier Labrador of Frontline Community Church prays over envelopes of money that will end up in the hands of those in need. The pastor recently launched a "Bless Back Project," where members were given anywhere from $5 to $100 with which to bless a complete stranger.

The day before Thanksgiving, Rob Klein of Saugus was picking up Cool Whip from the grocery store when he noticed a woman purchasing frozen TV dinners for her family's Thanksgiving dinner.

Klein suddenly remembered he had $100 in his back pocket.

"I just asked (her), ‘I couldn't help but overhearing your conversation and was wondering if I could help with your groceries?'" Klein said.

"At first she was kind of like, "Who are you?' She thought I was a weird guy ... but after talking to me, she gave me a big hug and a kiss there in the store."

Because Klein is usually not the family member sent to the grocery store, he knew the encounter was an act of God.

"(God) put me there to bless this family," he said.

Klein is one of the many members of Frontline Community Church in Valencia who had an opportunity to bless a complete stranger in the past two weeks.

On Nov. 23, lead pastor Javier Labrador launched the "Bless Back Project."

Twelve hundred dollars was split up and bills from $5 to $100 were placed in envelopes and handed to members as they left the church that day.

They were given a few instructions:

"(The money) is not for you; give it to someone you don't know, and you can't give it back to the church," Klein said.

Labrador and his wife, Shannan, created the project to be a practical lesson in giving back to the community and teaching members about generosity.

"Our desire was that the church focus on our community and how can we can outreach to the community and be a blessing to them," he said.

"People always say the church is asking for money, but what if we can create a heart of generosity (by giving members) money to give out to other people?"

To Labrador, that desire falls in line with part of the two-year old church's mission.

"Our philosophy is let's think differently," he said. "We can't reach today's culture with the same mentality as past. It's a different generation and a different culture. So let's do things differently and think out of the box."

So that Sunday, Labrador encouraged the members to take the money, go out and plant a seed.

"Together if you can bless one individual, you can be able to sow into them, bless into them and it may have a ripple effect, even if you're able to affect just one life," Labrador said.

"Economically, things aren't good; if people would slow down and look at people's lives they would see there's needs out there," he said.

"The person next to you could have a need. It could be the person next to you in a suit. You don't know by what's going on by the exterior."

Members who participated in the Bless Back Project could log on to the church's Web site and post stories.
The idea was to "encourage and to be lifted up" by the stories, Labrador said.

One user, Cecilia, wrote of her opportunity to bless a young mother.

"She was walking into Vallarta market with a baby. I asked her, ‘What will you do with $10 in your hands?' She said, ‘I will buy food for the baby because I do not have a job now.' I shared how much Jesus loves and cares for her and we prayed the prayer of salvation. I know she was blessed, but I was even more for the opportunity to give and share His love."

An anonymous testimonial explains what one member did with only $10.

"I gave my $10 to the owner of Newhall Bicycle Co. He and his daughter lived in Sylmar and only escaped the Sayre Fire with the clothes on their backs. They lost everything and $10 is not much, but when you have nothing it does make a difference."

Labrador said he hopes this project will instill a long-lasting heart of a generosity in people.

"Hopefully it changes them and they do something on a regular basis," he said.

"(I hope) that they would see somebody in need and reach out. In today's economic crises - as a church, we could easily pull back and retreat; it's tough as a church, but this is the greatest opportunity to invest in people's lives in times like this. Don't pull back, retreat, hide because times are tough. We should be on the front lines and moving forward. It's saying, hey, people still care ... and God loves them."


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