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Asking the clergy: How does outreach work in today's society?

The Rev. Rose Marie Gaines, Helping Hand Rescue Mission, Huntington Station:

We've been doing community outreach for more than 40 years. You have to have a call to do missionary work. Otherwise, you'd be burned out. We had a calling from God. My husband, the Rev. Jimmie Gaines, is going to be 80, and I'm going to be 74.

I have a passion for what I'm doing. When I see a smile on someone's face because of what we do, that's why I do it.

There are always obstacles. You always have more month than money. I would love to be free from all bills and really work without any bondage or fear connected with how to pay for things. That would be the highlight of my life. The expenses of mission work have gone up unbelievably. We don't get a discount on electric, oil or gas bills. The struggle keeps me on my knees, totally dependent on God and the generosity of people. Praise be to God, the needs are taken care of.

This is a hands-on ministry. You have to get your fingernails dirty. We need everybody and every talent.

Mission work isn't outdated. Everything under the sun has been done; sometimes, it just has to be packaged a little differently.

Pastor Jim Ryan, president, Lighthouse Mission, Patchogue:

Effective outreach yesterday and today follows the simple way of Jesus, the greatest servant of society. While He lived and worked here 2,000 years ago, Jesus didn't rent a shack, hang out a shingle - "Church service: Sunday at 9 a.m.," and then wait for people to come inside. No, He did just the opposite. Jesus went to the people. He met them on dusty roads and healed their sick. He blessed their children. He ate and laughed with them in their homes. One day, he even got down on his knees and washed the dirty feet of his friends. When finished, he told them to go and do the same.

Each day, Lighthouse Mission follows Jesus' simple way. We load our trucks with food, go into communities all over Long Island and meet people where they are: in abandoned parking lots, broken homes and busy street corners. We give them food for their families (more than 3,000 people each week), pray for their sick, help them get off drugs and, best of all, tell them about the good news of Jesus.

God reached out from Heaven to give us his son Jesus so that anyone who believes in Him would have everlasting life. No greater outreach exists.

Rabbi Leslie Schotz, Jewish Center of Bay Shore, and president of the Bay Shore Interfaith Clergy:

As we strive to welcome Jews and their extended family and friends into our community, many important connections are made outside of the synagogue. Visiting sick Jews in hospitals and nursing homes is a way to reach out. It is a mitzvah to perform these gemilut chasadim, which are loving acts of kindness.

Also, people tend to connect to their spiritual roots when a life cycle event occurs. It may be a wedding, baby naming or funeral. I am called by funeral homes to help families who are not affiliated with synagogues.

On a national scale, the National Jewish Outreach Program, NJOP, organizes Shabbat Across America once a year. We participate by serving dinner to more than 80 people on this wonderful night.

On Passover, we offer a congregational Passover seder so that every Jew should have the opportunity to attend a seder. We also collect special funds to enable every Jew, regardless of funds, to be able to attend.

Also, we are one of the very few places who says "You don't have to pay to pray," opening our doors to everyone on the High Holidays. The Jewish Centre of Bay Shore prides itself in being a House of God welcome to all.

Randi Shubin Dresner, certified fundraising executive, president and CEO of Island Harvest, Mineola:

From Island Harvest's perspective, food is a basic necessity, and we have a responsibility to ensure that our neighbors have enough to eat. That duty transcends all faiths.

Rather than become deterred by obstacles, I look at the optimistic side of things. We've seen new avenues open up to us with regard to outreach. For example, we're rolling out a mobile food pantry to bring our services directly to those in need. Outreach is often a challenge because you have to get out to the communities and speak to them about providing solutions to meet their individual needs. It is not just about what I want to say, but rather what I need to hear from them. Each community has different requirements, and we need to tailor the outreach message accordingly.

Listening to what they need is the important first step. I feel strongly about that. I'm on a lifelong journey of learning, and I try to avoid using phrases like "You should do this," or "You need to do that." It is vital to listen to what each community is saying and then respond. The help has to fit them.

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