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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You guessed it...Frank Stallone
83
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You guessed it...Frank Stallone 12/21/11 - 06:49 pm
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Wow, Christians are

Wow, Christians are criticized even when they help another human being. However subtle the criticism is. I haven't been to church in a decade and have become personally skeptical of organized religion but my god have we marginalized people of this faith. Bottom line, a large section of society has evolved into plain hatred of anything positive or sense of happiness. Can some of you not halt your self-loathing hate-everything attitudes for one second and appreciate these people for serving something other than themselves?

Willow Bailey
20618
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Willow Bailey 12/21/11 - 07:10 pm
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hope7, it's good to see that

hope7, it's good to see that you are an "overcomer", as God has called us all to be. What I have found in my own life, is that we want to be very careful on our personal journeys; as we never lay anything down, that we don't also pick something up.

What I have found to be one of the killers of my spiritual life is to not recognize legalism and allow it to take a stronghold in my life. I am reminded of God's ultimate commandment to us which is LOVE. Love for Him and for ourselves and others, so that we can encourage, edify and build up others in Christ. I think that says our God wants us to be positive with each other.

When I meet with my pastor, which I get to do twice a month, he never says, "Willow, these are the things that you do to disappoint me and that I want you to change about your behavior." He says, "Willow, these are the things that I love about you and I want to encourage you to use your gifts to the glory of God. " Though, either statement would be true, I can't tell you how more affective the words of encouragement and love have spoken into my life.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 12/21/11 - 09:27 pm
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Just some scripture to help

Just some scripture to help hope7. No where in these scriptures do I see you judge them first before you help them out. Personally I believe these people were being responsible. They saw something they really would like to have and put it on a layaway plan, paying a little along without buying foolishly with money they didn't have at the time.

1 John 3:17 But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him--how can God's love be within him ?

James 2:14 Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone?

And for the comment about boasting, I don't believe these church members are boasting. When people do nice things, others take notice and will talk about it. I'm sure they did not do this act of kindness to bring attention to themselves, it just happens when something rare happens. May God be glorified and these acts of kindness continue.

iLove
626
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iLove 12/21/11 - 10:03 pm
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How many "things" did Jesus
Unpublished

How many "things" did Jesus give?

IMO this is feeding into the materialistic nature of Christmas....heck isn't that what it's about anyway.....dang sure AIN'T about Christ...where is Christmas OR a celebration of Jesus I the Bible?

Know anything about Nimrod?

These useless traditions and rituals.....who are you REALLY serving?

A purse or a meal....c'mon now. Just because something is on lay a way doesn't mean the person can't afford it....budgeting.

ashleyb
35
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ashleyb 12/22/11 - 07:24 am
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I need a "like" button for

I need a "like" button for Mike Ryan's comment.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 12/22/11 - 07:28 am
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Amen to that ashleyb!

Amen to that ashleyb!

augusta citizen
10751
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augusta citizen 12/22/11 - 08:20 am
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It's the spirit of your

It's the spirit of your giving that either pleases or displeases God. If we give for the right reason, with love and gladness we are blessed. As Willow was saying earlier, God will take the loving spirit of the gift and allow it to be a blessing to the giver and receiver. I "like" Mike's comment too, ashleyb and InChristLove.

Cynical old woman
1113
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Cynical old woman 12/22/11 - 09:45 am
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Get a grip, people. People

Get a grip, people. People giving to others and yet some want to criticize.

Romans 2:1-3.

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 12/22/11 - 09:51 am
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Cynical old woman, I could

Cynical old woman, I could identify with your earlier post about your children having overspent on you. (They must love and appreciate you very much!). I have also overspent on my parents, they did without to provide for myself and my siblings. It's really not our place to judge what was on layaway, we don't know the story behind the gifts, just that good people wanted to help. They will be blessed.

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 12/22/11 - 09:53 am
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Some sound like Judas

Some sound like Judas Iscariot fussing because Mary washed Jesus' feet with expensive perfume. Judas also though it was a wasted gift and could have been better spent.

hope7
0
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hope7 12/22/11 - 10:21 am
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No where did I say judge them

No where did I say judge them first before giving. I said we are to judge another's actions, not the person, and this has nothing to do with the layaway thing! Read, pause, pray, and try not to put your own spin on other's thoughts, ICL. Motives! It's one thing, to take notice of someone's need, it's another to give an interview to the media. I agree with the scripture ICL and I agree giving is a wonderful thing to do. I do not agree with making it public. I do not agree with the paying off someone's layaway, due to this is a person's personal business and to presume I need to pay it for someone without asking them seems arrogant! Maybe they asked first. I give when God shows me who to give to and I do it with no notice to anyone. Willow, honesty and truth, have set my life free and I don't get to like what I hear every time I meet with someone to confess. I do grow spiritually, however, and become able to listen to people with compassion. There are tons of ways to 'help' folks without throwing money at the person. My observation has been WUMC has built a huge building and the cost is astonomical, so, could be they need to 'grow' their numbers. They do believe in giving the tenth of income and they plan around the money pledged by their members. MOTIVES?
Mind my own business is the way to PEACE. Merry Christmas to all.

Willow Bailey
20618
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Willow Bailey 12/22/11 - 10:28 am
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And Jesus said to Judas,

And Jesus said to Judas, paraphrased:

"Lighten up, your ideas are good, but we will always have the poor among us. You have me for just a short while. Come and lets enjoy our relationships together. What Mary has done, she has done out of her love for me. I want to show her love and encouragement; not guilt, shame and condemnation.

Shortly, I am going to lay down my life for you and hang in torture on a Cross, that you might be spared all of this bondage that has no life.

I have to come to give you life, not only in heaven, but right here, right now. Grab hold and share it with others. I command that of you."

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 12/22/11 - 10:39 am
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hope7, I have read and given

hope7, I have read and given it thought concerning what you wrote. I'm not putting any spin on it, just giving you the impression I got from the words you wrote and you indeed (IMO) were judging the acts of kindness concerning these individuals. We don't know how this story came about. It could be that the workers from the stores called the story in but you are assuming that the members of WUMC ran down to the paper and produced this story. You are also assuming just because they have built themselves a new facility that they must be doing these acts of kindness "to grow there members". Sounds pretty judgemental to me.

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 12/22/11 - 10:42 am
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Thank you Willow. Jesus

Thank you Willow. Jesus didn't seem too concerned about the price of the perfume and knew Mary's heart and her act of kindness was out of love for Him.

Willow Bailey
20618
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Willow Bailey 12/22/11 - 10:49 am
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hope7, I apologize if I

hope7, I apologize if I caused an offense to you; that was never my goal.
I liked that you were open and honest and I was sharing my own experiences with you.
I agree when we meet to make a confession, we are looking for truth. But, I also believe that the response we receive should be loving and encouraging. The Jesus I know doesn't separate truth from mercy and love. It's never either or with Him, always both.

I understand what you are saying regarding indebtedness, programs and expansions. But, I think that is another discussion. This is about finding ways to express Christ to a lost world.

I don't want to get all preachy, but I do want to remind you that Jesus left his world to get into ours and identify with us. No one wants any of our Jesus unless they can first experience some love. The Layaway Angels are trying to speak their love language.

Don't get mad and run away; iron sharpens iron. Stick with us and we will all grow together. You have a lot to share with us, even if we take a different view of this story. Merry Christmas!

LemonJello
19
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LemonJello 12/22/11 - 10:58 am
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Perhaps the lady wanted that

Perhaps the lady wanted that purse for someone very special to her. Regardless of price, she wanted it to make herself or a loved-one happy. We can come up with 'other more worthy programs' all day long, but there are hundreds of churches. This is what ONE church decided to do and it has had a tremendous impact on the holiday spirit of others. What are all the other churches doing? I'm sure many are doing wonderful things, and there are some that just want enough money to keep their lights on. Regardless, this is people anonymously making a difference for people. The members of Wesley that are doing it are doing it voluntarily, out of their own pockets. Don't worry about where people shop. Layaway programs are a very good target for anonymous giving because Greg Porterfield is right...this close to Christmas, many of those items may never have been paid for or gotten...and that is dissapointing to the giver. Merry Christmas everyone....and for the love of God, lighten up.

kmb413
533
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kmb413 12/22/11 - 11:16 am
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did the church call the paper

did the church call the paper to make this public or did the stores call the paper?

toppergem
126
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toppergem 12/22/11 - 01:50 pm
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What a wonderfully moving

What a wonderfully moving this article was to read today. It is always so nice to know there are people in the world who just want to make the world a better place for others.

Willow Bailey
20618
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Willow Bailey 12/22/11 - 03:02 pm
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If Jesus were with us today,

If Jesus were with us today, might he direct us to take our own inventories, before trying to take the inventory of our brothers/sisters?

Whatever we do, whatever we give, as long as we are motivated in rememberance and love of Him, our God is pleased.

What can (I) do or "be" this Christmas Season to show just one person the love of our Savior?

hope7
0
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hope7 12/22/11 - 09:47 pm
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I am sure I said, 'could be'

I am sure I said, 'could be' and 'maybe' and 'seems' for I hold no definitve answers on anything but my own life. My words are food for thought and I know what I know from my own experience, strength, and hope. PEACE is not about who's right, it is about what's right. Black/white thinking and all or nothing thinking does not work for me and the God I serve is not happy with Pharisees and their proud actions, was/is he? He told them off several times, he turned over their money tables. I have been in the UMC for most of my life and can testify to the money issues with the arrogant behavior, had to change my own and did so gladly. I don't plan to argue as I don't care who is right, gets the last word etc.. Carry on if ya'll must, won't change a thing.

Willow Bailey
20618
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Willow Bailey 12/22/11 - 11:10 pm
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Hope7, the onion of recovery

Hope7, the onion of recovery has many layers. You see the splinter in your brother's eye and not the board in your own.

P.S. I meant the "You" collectively, as in all of us, not just referencing it to you, individually. See step 4 for "Christian Recovery for a Pharisee like Me."

Kelly Jasper
86
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Kelly Jasper 12/22/11 - 09:32 pm
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kmb413, We got a call from

kmb413, We got a call from Ruben's, because they were surprised and wanted to share what had been happening at their store. I then followed up with the church.

InChristLove
22487
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InChristLove 12/23/11 - 09:57 pm
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Thank you Kelly. So many

Thank you Kelly. So many just asssumed that the church contacted the AC and wanted to report their "good deeds". It is nice to know that it was actually the store that made it public.

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