In the Salem area, members of the East Salem Seventh-day Adventist Church have been hard at work serving their community. “We’ve already completed 57 projects so far this year,” shared Derrick Teague, one of the founding members of the ACTS group. ACTS, which is an acronym standing for “Affirming Community Through Service,” takes inspiration from the biblical books of Hebrews and Acts: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24) and “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
“It started in 2019,” said Derrick. “One of my good buddies I’d worked with, and went to church with, told me about an older church member who could use some help cutting firewood. He was around 90 and he’d had an area logged near his house out in the country, but the loggers had left some of the extra logs and things behind. So we got a group of guys together and said, ‘Okay, let’s go take care of it!’” What began as a single project quickly became two as the group discovered that the man’s neighbors also needed help cutting wood.
In February of 2021, a brutal ice storm came to Oregon, knocking trees down over power lines and major roadways. “Between the lightning and the ice storm, several of the neighborhoods looked like a war zone,” Derrick said. “When I drove up the street the branches from the oak trees were higher than the vehicles from all the trees that had fallen! They had to cut a path through them so people could get out. So the spark for us was just asking, ‘Hey, why don’t we help this person and that person?’” Soon, the group was serving on a weekly basis disposing of debris, completing small maintenance and construction projects, helping people move, and getting to know both their neighbors and each other, on a deeper level.
“I always tell people, ‘We’re going to get more out of this than you are!,” says Derrick. “They look at me like I’m crazy, but it’s so rewarding. I always say, ‘You’re going to get labor, but I’m going to get fellowship, service, a sense of accomplishment, and good exercise! I’ve learned through this process that even if you go to church with someone you often aren’t going to each other’s homes every week or getting to spend three or four hours together outside of church. But having something like this really brings us together.”
“Our focus is out in the community. People really don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Derrick. “I can’t speak for everybody, but I’ve been an Adventist for a long time now, and sometimes I think we struggle with that. We want people to care about how much we know before we show them how much we care about them––and it’s just not going to work that way. The three most important calls for us––the three Everest peaks––are ‘love,’ ‘give,’ and ‘serve.’ That’s what we’re going to do out there.”
Derrick says that through this service he hasn’t just gotten closer with his neighbors, but that his church has grown closer, as well. “The funny thing is that I’ve gotten to know my church family way better while doing this. I’m in their homes and yards more. Sometimes in the church lobby we’ll make eye contact and it’s just so different. It’s like we have a relationship now. We’re connected. I hate to admit it, but there were people I’d been in church with for more than 20 years and never had a conversation with! This has given us a platform to come together and an opportunity to change that, too.”