Evans church members pay strangers' layaway accounts for Christmas

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An Evans church is paying down the layaway accounts of strangers this Christmas in a program they call “Layaway in a Manger.”

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Cashier Louise NeSmith (left) helps Julie Hendrich, of Evans, as she puts money down to help pay a layaway balance for a stranger at Ruben's Department Store in downtown Augusta.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Cashier Louise NeSmith (left) helps Julie Hendrich, of Evans, as she puts money down to help pay a layaway balance for a stranger at Ruben's Department Store in downtown Augusta.

Nearly 50 members of Wesley United Methodist Church have come to Kmart this week, paying $20 to $200 on layaway accounts of Christmas toys, said Michael Sosby, the manager of the Martinez store.

Another 25 or more have paid layaway accounts at Ruben’s Department Store in downtown Augusta.

“They just keep coming, more and more of them,” said Jeff Gorelick, the owner of the store. “It’s an incredible thing they’re doing.”

Some pay $20 to an account, but others close out the account entirely.

“They paid a lady’s layaway yesterday. It had $115 left for a handbag she had been paying on for four months,” Gorelick said. “She started hugging me and crying. It was the greatest thing.”

Customers are often shocked to hear the news, Sosby said.

“When we call somebody, it’s usually because they’ve missed a payment. They don’t like hearing from us,” he said. “We say, ‘Merry Christmas! Your layaway was just paid off anonymously.’ There’s a real long pause. They can’t believe it and don’t know what to say.”

The Rev. Greg Porterfield, the pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, said he first read about the idea of “layaway angels” in a news story out of Michigan three weeks ago.

“I was touched by it,” he said. “I thought, ‘You know, we could do something like that.’”

The church already had a similar program in place, called Random Acts of Christian Kindness, but better known as RACK. For the past eight years, the program has provided church families with $20 to give to someone in need.

“We realized that this is the end of the season and if people haven’t paid off gifts now, they’re probably not going to be able to,” Porterfield said.

He hopes the gestures encourage both church members and those who receive a little help this Christmas.

“Each one of us can do something significant, particularly when we’re inspired by Christ,” Porterfield said. “It is a fulfilling experience to be a part of something larger than yourself.”

If the church decides to repeat the program, Gorelick said he wants to be the first to donate.

“The owners, we’re Jewish, but we think this a wonderful thing for the holiday season,” he said. “It’s a rough world out there. They’re doing a good thing.”

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stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 12/21/11 - 10:47 am
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While I think it is great

While I think it is great that churches want to help people out especially at this time of year, as I was reading the article, I was thinking that for a person with limited income to even purchase a hat that cost over a hundred dollars and a handbag that cost over a hundred dollars doesn't make since. I work everyday but I am frugal when it comes to things, I would not pay over a hundred dollars for a hat or a handbag. I am not meaning to sound cold or mean but I think I would have put my money toward a family trying to buy toys or clothes, or food even.

BamaMan
2396
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BamaMan 12/21/11 - 10:57 am
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I have to agree with

I have to agree with stillamazed. Paying down layaways at Ruben's? If they can afford to shop at Ruben's, they don't need any help in my opinon. $115 left on a HANDBAG??? Please. I think the church could've made a better decision on who to pay off layaways. Bad choice, bad choice.

mybaskett
229
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mybaskett 12/21/11 - 11:08 am
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Bless the Lay-a-way angels.

Bless the Lay-a-way angels. My family will be contributing today. Stillamazed and Bamaman have you ever purchased something you didn't need, but just wanted? Its ok for people to buy themselves a smile every now and then.

BamaMan
2396
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BamaMan 12/21/11 - 11:19 am
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Benevolence from a church

Benevolence from a church could've been better spent. There are alot of families that need food and clothes, not handbags that are well over $100. If a person chooses to do such, fine, but this is just not the best judgment for a church. I know many at that church, and I doubt they would be happy with the choice made from the benevolence fund that should be reserved for just that...benevolence.

nothin2show4it
120
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nothin2show4it 12/21/11 - 11:37 am
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You guys are kidding me.
Unpublished

You guys are kidding me. Merry Christmas!!!

Way to go Wesley!!!!! At least God is happy with what you are doing.

Matthew 25:40 -- I say to you inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren you did it to Me.

ponytailfnp
21
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ponytailfnp 12/21/11 - 12:07 pm
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This was my good friend Lori

This was my good friend Lori Roger's church and I was always impressed with the Christian Witness of this church and their members. I will always remember her and her love of Christ and how she loved this special season that honored Christ's birth!

Bonk
8
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Bonk 12/21/11 - 12:08 pm
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Didn't Jesus also say "that

Didn't Jesus also say "that shalt give thy alms in private and not publicize it the Augusta chronicle"?

InChristLove
22480
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InChristLove 12/21/11 - 12:22 pm
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Where did it say benevolence

Where did it say benevolence funds were used? I believe it was individuals who paid the layaway. If these individuals were led by Christ to be a Christ-like witness, who are we to question how, who, and what this is to be done. Some sound like one of the disciples who question Jesus concerning Mary wasting expensive perform to wash his feet. Maybe a person who has been paying on a hat or purse for a year will receive a greater blessing than someone else. The lesson is, it is better to give than receive.

HHSgrad
7
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HHSgrad 12/21/11 - 12:23 pm
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I think this is amazing what

I think this is amazing what these people are doing at this church. They may not know what others have on layaway before they chose to pay on it. The article doesn't state that they are using church funds for this, so it maybe that they are paying out of the very own pockets. I have had God speak to me on occassions and tell me to give money to beggars on the street. I gladly did so because God told me too. I don't know what the beggars intend to do with that money, and could care less, but I did my part and I walked away very happy. It doesn't matter what these people have on layaway, the Church members are doing their part in helping someone else out. I applaud you.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 12/21/11 - 02:33 pm
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I am going to agree with

I am going to agree with BamaMan, Stillamazed AND nothin2show4it's comments.

I think the Layaway Angel's hearts are good and God is going to bless their desires and willingness to show love to others.

Could it have been spent on something more valuable like Bama and Stillamazed concluded? Without a doubt.

We don't have to worry about it. Here's another good part of our God, When our hearts are right, He takes what we do and He FIXES IT, He USES it, and HE GROWS it.

There will be so many others who follow suit to this example and much will be accomplished in the name of Christ. Take their idea back to your Church or family and build on it. Request that personal testimonies be attached and invitations to Church activities and groups be given. Find ways to encourage the receivers and add value to the gift. And most of all think about the man with the funny hat and the lady with the purse beyond her means, and ask the Lord to speak directly into each of them..."Come to me!"

debwind
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debwind 12/21/11 - 12:44 pm
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Wesley members were given the

Wesley members were given the opportunity to take envelopes with $20 and asked to pay layaways at Ruben's and KMart. And if they wanted to add a little more they could.

InChristLove
22480
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InChristLove 12/21/11 - 12:46 pm
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But who are we to judge which

But who are we to judge which is more valuable? Because we live in this world, we set worldly value on material things without looking at the spiritual aspect of this act of kindness. Who's to say that the man who received the hat or the woman who received the purse, will now be drawn closer to God because of this act of kindness.

I would believe that just by word of testimony of what he or she has experience, the name of Christ will be spread.

Willow, I agree with you, we need to take this idea and spread it, as well as pray for the receiver. His Name will be glorified.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 12/21/11 - 12:48 pm
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Well, I'm glad to see that

Well, I'm glad to see that many of the donators are supporting a LOCAL business. Good choice my friends.

InChristLove
22480
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InChristLove 12/21/11 - 12:51 pm
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Bonk, studying scriptural

Bonk, studying scriptural context is helpful.

Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Our Lord does not require us never to give alms before people, but only forbids our doing it "to be seen of them," for the purposes of impressing or showing off and to seek their praise. To a person who is led by the Spirit to do good from the right motive, it doesn't matter if in public or private. The only thing that matters is that our good deeds be seen in a way that glorifies God.

emandme
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emandme 12/21/11 - 01:19 pm
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As a member of Wesley, I

As a member of Wesley, I would also like to state that the RACK ministry runs year round and if we see someone in need, we hand them an envelope with money in it. I have done it myself when someone couldn't get a check cashed at a store. The pastord also encouraged people to not just pay down layaways but to also look for people in need and hand them a RACK envelope.

Jake
32770
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Jake 12/21/11 - 01:41 pm
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I am reminded about the story

I am reminded about the story a few weeks ago in the AC about the Baptist church in south Augusta that had $1,200 worth of change, that the kids were collecting for a playground, stolen. Why not help these kids?

Michael Ryan
654
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Michael Ryan 12/21/11 - 01:41 pm
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Who are any of us to say how

Who are any of us to say how someone else should give to God?

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 12/21/11 - 02:32 pm
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Michael, in my ho you are

Michael, in my ho you are correct; but also there is something good going on at all times when God's people dialogue about their beliefs, feelings and ideas. It's relational; it's how we grow.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 12/21/11 - 02:30 pm
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Jake, there will always be

Jake, there will always be many needs and we can't begin to fill them all. What matters is that we go with our calling and leave it to God to cover the needs. If we don't, we become burned out, disillusioned and stop serving at all, because of bitterness and hopelessness.

We don't have to give with money all the time either, a well spoken word in the right moment.. In Peter's words ..."Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I you." We all have something to give.

Thankful-4-My-Life
0
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Thankful-4-My-Life 12/21/11 - 03:14 pm
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Yes, the RACK Ministry goes

Yes, the RACK Ministry goes ALL year round and has been for years. The church provides envelopes, with a message of God's love. There are two baskets of envelopes, one has $20 in each envelope, the other is empty to put your own donation in it. (affectionally called Leaded and Unleaded). You would be amazed how this Ministry has helped others over the years. It's helped folks pay for medicine, groceries, and much much more. I've seen first hand alot of folks either use the empty ones to insert their own donation, or add to the $20 in the envelope. Oh, and the $20 each envelope, it doesn't come from the church budget. Someone is anonymously donating that money every single year. No one knows who it is, not even the Pastors.

allhans
23773
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allhans 12/21/11 - 03:17 pm
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After reading about

After reading about shootings, school kids behaving badly , then I read a story like this and it lifts my spirits. And I say, God Be with you.

bailmeout4
0
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bailmeout4 12/21/11 - 03:23 pm
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Flame me if you want....$115

Flame me if you want....$115 for a handbag that requires more than 4 months of payments? What a waste. The bag will cost more than the money that she will carry.

hope7
0
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hope7 12/21/11 - 04:00 pm
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In my opinion, doing any good

In my opinion, doing any good deed and then telling about it is so sad!
Throwing money at other's needs is not that difficult. Listening to someone's pain from a heartbreaking life is a little more difficult as it requires I live what I preach. Pastor's would do well to stay out of the finances of their flock and simply pastor.

Cynical old woman
1110
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Cynical old woman 12/21/11 - 04:04 pm
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I'm a member of Wesley and am

I'm a member of Wesley and am proud of the many local ministries the folks at Wesley accomplish, meals, medical help, housing, vehicles, and the list goes on. I do agree that $100.+ for a purse sure sounds unreasonable but I know also that my children have overspent on presents for me in years past. Was this someone buying a gift for a loved onebwith a terminal illness? Was this someone buying a gift from what they've saved since kicking a drug habit? I don't know the details but I do know that the Bible teaches us not to judge others!

saltine
281
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saltine 12/21/11 - 04:10 pm
0
0
A blessing is for the

A blessing is for the receiver,not so much the giver.Who out there can say what a blessing is,the giver or receiver or just a lot of hum-bugs?

bailmeout4
0
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bailmeout4 12/21/11 - 04:26 pm
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Cynical, your name is kind of

Cynical, your name is kind of ironic given the reasons you gave for the woman buying the purse.

Willow Bailey
20603
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Willow Bailey 12/21/11 - 04:40 pm
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bailmeout4, you are no doubt,

bailmeout4, you are no doubt, a man. And it's okay, just don't expect to get purse logic. It's sort of like golf clubs, you are not going to hit any better with those high dollar ones, but it sure makes you feel better to carry them around:)

follower
59
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follower 12/21/11 - 04:53 pm
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Jake, how do you know whether

Jake, how do you know whether or not the church you mentioned hasn't been assisted for the kid's sake?

hope7
0
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hope7 12/21/11 - 05:18 pm
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The Bible does not teach to

The Bible does not teach to not judge others. We are to judge a person's inappropriate actions if I have walked in their shoes and overcome the same inappropriate action. Judge the behavior not the person. I can change negative behaviors with God's directions and honesty. Boasting about my good deeds would not be the way to set an example for others to know the loving, merciful, God I have come to know.

justthefacts
22198
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justthefacts 12/21/11 - 05:32 pm
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"It's sort of like golf

"It's sort of like golf clubs, you are not going to hit any better with those high dollar ones, but it sure makes you feel better to carry them around:)". And Willow, you are no doubt a women!! (:

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