Is there a figure whose name and likeness are invoked more than Jesus?
He was on Earth almost 2,000 years before photography, and the Bible never describes his appearance, but almost all of us can picture him in our mind’s eye.
The picture on the refrigerator at my grandmother’s home is of a smiling Jesus, his mouth slightly open in mid-laugh, as though someone’s just said something funny. Grandma said she likes the picture because it is rare to see a smiling, happy Jesus. I like it, too.
Sunday is Easter, the most sacred holiday for the world’s most popular religion, with more than 2 billion followers worldwide. This year, it also coincides with the Jewish festival of Passover, when Jews commemorate Moses’ leading them out of slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.
The Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai are straightforward, befitting something written in stone. Jesus has been gone so long and has so many followers that the interpretations of what he wanted to teach the world have branched out in many directions.
Some people and groups bend Jesus’ teachings to suit their own purposes, be they personal or political. Some contend Jesus himself was a political figure, but that’s not right. Miracle workers don’t lose elections.
For every person who uses religion as sword rather than shield, however, there are many others trying to make a difference to help people, particularly those who are less fortunate. They may not seek attention, but they set the example.
Diapers in DeKalb: One local effort that has taken off since last Easter is at DeKalb Wesleyan Church, where the Moses’ Basket ministry has distributed a truckload of diapers to local families.
Make that more than a truckload. The church received a grant of 3,200 boxes of diapers from Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies brand diapers, in June 2013. Each box contained 100 diapers. The donation of about $88,000 worth of diapers arrived in two trucks, Pastor Dean Pierce said.
“It was like a miracle for us,” Pierce said. “All of our people were here unloading those two trucks all day, and we filled up four rooms in our church.
“We decided it was given to us, and we were going to give them to people that have need.“
It happened because the congregation at DeKalb Wesleyan wanted to find a way to help people in the community. After consulting with leaders at Love INC of DeKalb/Sycamore, Pierce said they were pointed to helping babies in the community whose parents were struggling to provide for them.
They decided to call the effort Moses’ Basket, based on the Biblical story about how Moses’ mother, an Israelite slave in Egypt, put him in a basket of rushes and floated him down the Nile River rather than accede to the Pharaoh’s demand that all male babies of Israelites be killed.
The Pharaoh’s daughter found baby Moses when she went to bathe in the river and rescued him.
“The Egyptian princess was sort of God’s instrument in rescuing Moses, and in turn Moses became a rescuer for the people of Israel,” Pierce said. “Our goal is to be an instrument to provide rescue for these families so that in turn, as their lives are touched, they can be a rescue to their community.”
The program began in 2012. At first, leaders sought all kinds of baby-related items, such as strollers and bouncers and highchairs. Eventually, word about the effort reached the daughter of a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Genoa, who was a manager at Kimberly-Clark. The donation she helped arrange changed everything.
“This is a modern-day feeding the 5,000 miracle,” Pierce said, referring to the Bible story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men, plus women and children, with two fish and five loaves of bread.
“This outreach took off to a whole new level when we went to the diaper area,” he said. “We came to a conclusion that the other parts of what we used to do can be serviced by outreaches like Salvation Army and Goodwill. The diaper part, there was no other place in the community that has that.”
In the months they have been distributing free diapers, the church has built a database of 800 families – most from DeKalb County – who have come seeking help. The church has offered help in other ways, too, offering classes on couponing, hygiene, and women’s issues. They also have been available to pray with people when they come to pick up diapers.
The church hosted a special Christmas diaper distribution and church service, where more than 370 people from churches around the area volunteered to help. Some, from Vida Nueva Church in DeKalb, came to help translate for Spanish-speakers, Pierce said.
“The mission of our church is to build whole people, and the whole point of it all is to help people understand that the key component in their life that would help them to grow and have a turnaround is God himself,” Pierce said.
From July through the end of March, the church had regular diaper distributions. Now they are trying to raise funds – and donated diapers – to keep on helping.
DeKalb Wesleyan members Sandra Davis and Moria Titus were among those who helped organize a recent fundraiser at Culver’s in Sycamore. The event, called “Have a Heart for Babies,” generated close to $1,000 in 2½ hours, Pierce said.
The church will also accept donated diapers at its location, 1115 Malta Road, just west of Annie Glidden Road.
“[Moses’ Basket] has helped our congregation have a sense of ownership together of being able to serve our community,” Pierce said. “It’s elevated our own people by understanding what serving’s about.
“Second of all, we have developed relationships now with these friends. Some come to our church on Sundays because they know that we care about them.”
Who knows what Jesus or Moses, Buddha or Krishna, Mohammed or Confucius might say to the world if they were here today. We can only hope their words would have the same traction on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as they did in antiquity.
But helping families in need care for babies, along with the other service work done in our communities by local faith organizations, would get a thumbs-up from all of them.
• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, email email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.