PHILADELPHIA (BRN) — “I was that person that was judgmental,” confessed Great Commission Church member, Laura Collins.

“I was always a compassionate person, but I was compassionate to what I wanted to be compassionate about.”

Laura Collins
Laura Collins

Collins grew up going to church and identifying as a Christian, but later found out what a relationship with Christ was all about.

“When I was a kid, my mother always sent us to church, and my father. I thought I was a follower of Christ…I thought because you go to church, you’re a Christian.”

It wasn’t until later on down the road, at a funeral in 2002, that she truly became a Christ follower.

“The pastor did the altar call, [and] so, I accepted Jesus Christ. From that point, I never told anybody I accepted Jesus Christ. So, every time I went to a funeral I repeated it again and repeated it again, cause I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” said Collins.

After moving to Montgomery County, near Philadelphia, Collins knew she had to find a church. Turning to her trusty Yellow Pages, she began to search for churches near her new home. Page after page, she looked for a church and, eventually, landed on Abington Presbyterian Church.

“At that time, it was an older church. It was a really amazing, good church, but they were older people…there was only one child there.”

Having a young family, Collins was concerned about meeting the spiritual needs of her kids, as well as her and her husband’s. After discovering that the Presbyterian church was sharing its facilities with another younger church, she decided to come back.

“It was vibrant, and I knew, at that time, I could not have my kids do two services. So, we came back the next week, and we’ve been there since.”

That church is now known as Great Commission Church, where Collins and her family have been attending for nearly 18 years. Witnessing the needs within Philadelphia, the church decided to relocate to West Oak Lane, where leaders and members actively reach out to the community through compassion ministries and prayer.

Since their first visit to Great Commission, Collins and her husband have become active in many of the ministry groups within the church, serving together, side-by-side.

“There’s nothing better than serving side-by-side with your husband, and that God would give me a mate that would honor and love God as much,” expressed Collins.

Keith and Laura Collins

Specifically, God has placed it upon their hearts to serve in compassion ministries. So much so, that Collins retired early from her job of 35 years to pursue sharing the Gospel in this vital way.

“I decided about five years ago that I was going to do missions for the rest of my life…that I was going to serve Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and share with as many people as I can about God,” said Collins, who retired almost two years ago.

Since retiring from her job as a customer service representative at Acme Market, Collins has become the overseer for Great Commission’s food pantry, as well as a deaconess for the church. Since its start, the food pantry has served more than 7,000 meals to the West Oak Lane community.

“Every week, someone from the pantry comes [to church], and we say, ‘That’s family now,’” shared Collins.

“We have seen quite a few people – hearts that were so hardened from Christ – accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And it wasn’t because we were beating down Christ. We learned to love like Christ.”

Collins shared this Christ-like love goes deeper than meeting the physical needs of others.

“Compassion ministries, to me, is meeting people where they’re at. It’s just like Jesus. [He] went among the people and He loved on them [and] He listened to them… He didn’t judge them. He cared about his people.”

Food distribution
Food distribution at Great Commission Church

She continued: “You can bring them [people] in with the physical, but you need the spiritual…so, you need to be able to have a listening ear. People are going through so much right now; they just need someone who shows that they care and shows compassion… and compassion doesn’t cost anything.”

Throughout her years at Great Commission, Collins has also been involved in the church’s women’s ministry and prayer ministry.

“We used to go throughout the neighborhood. We would pray on each corner, and I can’t even tell you how many times people joined in with us…jumped out their cars and said, ‘I need prayer,’ grabbed hands with us, and prayed.”

Collins went on to speak about the importance of prayer and the role it plays into compassion ministries.

“It’s so important to know that that a lot of times we drive by people and say, ‘Oh, that’s such a shame,’ but have you ever took the time to get out the car and just say, ‘Hi, how can I pray for you? How are you doing today?’ Just showing compassion.”

She continued: “We see change in us happen, too…we’re not being as judgmental. Instead of talking about the person walking with their pants down, why not pray for them…why not encourage them…why not find out why they’re doing what they’re doing? Whatever the story is of somebody…when you start walking among the people like Jesus, and having that compassion…it’s hard to hate people you’re praying for.”

Food distribution at Great Commission
Food distribution at Great Commission Church

Two years ago, Collins and her husband were challenged to live out this kind of compassion, as their son was murdered in the Philadelphia area.

“In this, we learned how to love so many different people. I tell everybody, open your eyes and your heart – you never know what God is doing. Even in your valleys, you can still have compassion and love for others,” she shared.

Though it was a devastating time, Collins expressed gratitude to God, for getting her and her family through the valley, and to her church family, for their constant support.

“Even though you can go through those storms and those difficult times, God can still be there for you. He will get you through it.”

Listen to the podcast interview:

The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!