Part 1 explained the whole Free Market concept,and Part 2 covered some of the nuts and bolts needed to create such a large-scale outreach.
We were in so deep, so far beyond anything we'd tried before, it was obvious from the beginning that God was in control every step of the way. We trusted Him for the volunteers, for the donations and for the attendees. We trusted through three days of 90 degree temps and the torrential downpours that lasted into the wee hours of the morning before the event. By the time we arrived on site, there were no puddles of mud or water, the humidity was broken, the skies were blue and the grass was no more damp than if there had been a heavy dew.
Beginning at 6 am, we unloaded the pods and garage and 'pre-sorted' the items into departments in the parking lot.
The tent had been set up and tables put out on Wednesday, so it was necessary to wipe it all down. Still, having set up done ahead of time was very helpful.
Smaller items were placed under the tent, furniture and larger baby items were out in the field.
We thanked God for all He had brought together and for all those in attendance to be blessed.
In Part 2, I mentioned that items were marked with a ticket value between 1-8. Upon entering the welcome tent, each attendee was given 10 tickets to 'spend' as they wished. They could also help themselves to information on the church and an NIV Bible.
Several smaller pop up tents were set up over the stage (our praise team provided live music), a face painting station, and the food area. A number of tables and chairs provided a place for attendees to sit, relax, eat and enjoy the entertainment or wait while the children took advantage of the bounce house and big slide.
Some of our guests were happy to pose for pictures with friends and their finds!
Once everyone had time to shop, the Free Market was open to church members and the general public (many of whom had stopped by out of curiousity!) With about half an hour to go, all ticket values were lifted and people were able to go through a second time to pick up anything else they needed. We donated anything still left to the Vietnam Vets.
The stories that came out of the day were heartwarming and encouraging. One man was excited to pick up a computer for his college-bound daughter. A woman who also picked up a computer said "you can't tell me Jesus isn't real!" A grandfather lovingly spent all his tickets on toys and games so when his grandchildren visited, he could be the "fun grandpa." Tears of joy flowed and laughter filled the air. One person was overheard saying "I didn't know they'd have NICE stuff!" At least one family decided to return on Sunday to attend a service.
When all was said and done, approximately 300 children and adults were served that Saturday in June. Needs were met and the love of Christ was shared. Just as importantly, those who served learned that we don't need nearly as much as we possess. That it is a joy to bless others. And that when we are faithful with what God places in our hands, He is faithful to multiply it and use it for His Glory.
If your church is interested in planning a Free Market or other community outreach event I would be happy to provide you with more information. Contact me through this blog or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.