“How are things going with the Laundry Project, Catherine?”
That’s a question I get from time to time. People aren’t wondering about my home laundry (which is fine), but instead they’re wondering about Laundry Love.
What is Laundry Love?
Last fall the presbytery was offering “evangelism grants.” A church could submit a proposal for an evangelism project and might be granted some money. Our evangelism team talked, and most of our ideas had to do with getting people to Grace. This is not a bad thing at all, but we started to wonder what evangelism in the community might look like. What would it look for us to share the love of Jesus with the community? That’s when we landed on Laundry Love.
Laundry Love is a national grass roots effort. The idea is that a group (maybe a church) takes over a laundromat the same time each month and pays for everyone’s laundry. Laundry Love was born from a conversation with a man who noted that if he had clean clothes people might treat him like a human.
Our evangelism team saw this as an opportunity to offer a blessing to the community, as a chance to help make life a little bit easier for some people, and as a way for us to enact the love we know in Jesus. We applied for and received a grant to fund Laundry Love for one year.
We identified a laundromat that would have us, College Town Laundry on 17th St by Wichita State, and we began in March. We are there each month on the second Sunday from 3-5:30 pm. The first month no one expected us, and it was fun to surprise people and offer to pay for their laundry. The next month was more of the same, and we brought snacks, and a board game to play with the children there. The slow easy rhythm continued until June. In June, things got wild.
In June the word was out, and the place was packed when we arrived. People had claimed machines, and we had no idea where to begin helping people and taking names. It was hot and humid, and not everyone was cheerful. On that day I had to acknowledge the shadow-side of my motivation for this project.
You see, I’d put on a good face about how we were doing this to offer a blessing, how we were doing this to share Jesus’ love, and all of that was true, but deep down I was hoping for some good publicity for our church and an infusion of new members who thought this was a great thing.
That’s the shadow-side, the side I don’t like to talk about. We all have one, and the shadow-side made it harder for me to show Christ’s love that day. Instead I found myself grumpy with the man who claimed too many machines and grumpy with the woman who was impatient about waiting for a dryer. I had to be honest that I was in this as much for myself as I was for those we were serving, and that was painful to acknowledge.
As we prepared for July’s Laundry Love, it was evident that we needed a better plan to deal with high numbers. There are about 20 people who’ve helped with Laundry Love, and some of us got together and came up with a strategy.
We came up with a basic sign-in plan that actually worked, and while the numbers were again high, we were better equipped to serve. Not only that, but I went in with a different approach. I went into July’s Laundry Love aware of my shadow-side, and because of that, I was intentional about the way I treated people -with kindness, and with the love of Christ. I still have plenty of room to grow, and I’m grateful for the chance to serve in this ministry with you.