Every Wednesday morning, the Rev. Steven Evans posts an ad on Craigslist. In it, the rector of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Syracuse, New York, invites the community to participate in a weekly garage sale hosted by the church. He might also list recently acquired items like a couch or a set of bunk beds, and he asks for donations of clothes and home goods, making sure to add, “We pick up and deliver.”
The garage sale is more than a way to make money for charity. It’s a ministry to help people in need, relying on God’s hand of provision. When Steven hears about a need in the community, he writes the request on a list. Then he asks God to provide. Just yesterday, he got an email from a woman giving away a couch and mattresses. Her neighbor wanted to get rid of bunk beds. Steven knew just who needed the beds: a single mom with twin 8-year-olds and a 5-year-old who had all been sleeping on one couch.
“We will have gotten a dozen people off floors or couches and into beds since August,” he says.
Over the past year, St. Andrews has helped women escaping difficult life situations and starting over, families who have lost their homes in fires, people who have been robbed, and average people who just needed friends and a good deal. They have also been able to do house cleanouts for elderly people moving from their homes to a senior care facility. Steven is currently helping a single mom find furniture for her home. But it’s not just the recipients who benefit from the garage sale.
“We are ministering to the donors as much as the people who are in need,” he explains. “For example, I can tell a family, ‘This couch you’re donating is going to the home of a woman who has one kidney that functions at about one percent. She’s very ill and doesn’t have much money at all. Her couch currently has springs coming out of it. This couch will make her life so much better.’ They are usually ecstatic to be able to help.”
The church holds their garage sale for six hours each Thursday in a rented building also occupied by a thrift store. This week, the ever-eclectic assortment of items includes hand-carved wooden ducks, an antique folding table and a futon. Steven finds many of these items online, and he and the owner of the thrift store share customers. He also posts on his Facebook page or pages devoted to garage sales in Central New York, hoping to generate enough revenue to stay open on Friday and Saturday.
“We would love to see this become a legitimate thrift store so some of the people we are helping could work for us and we could pay them,” Steven says. “It becomes a platform for ministry and an entry into people’s lives and for them into the church.”
In November, St. Andrew’s used their platform to pursue deeper relationships—holding a soup dinner on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:30 so customers can eat after they shop. Afterward, Vince Latorre, a St. Andrew’s parishioner and author of The Bible Can Be Proven, led a Bible study. Encouraged by the turnout, the church will continue eating and studying Scripture together in the New Year.
“We’re just trying to incarnate the gospel, build a strong enough bridge to communicate Christ’s love,” Steven says.
Even today, it’s easy to see the love of Christ through Steven as he picks up a bed donated by a Hindu family, making it possible for someone else’s children to sleep better at night. Hard winters in upstate New York may mean closing shop for January and February, but St. Andrew’s plans to reopen the garage sale in March.
“I absolutely love what I do,” says Steven, who owns a Web design company in addition to pastoring and running the garage sale. “I’m an evangelist at heart—not so much the preaching kind, but the ‘leading people one step closer to Christ kind.’ We’re hoping that as a result of our ministry, people will think, ‘I could go to church there.’”