LIFT: Humane Society of Harrisburg Area
Earlier this year, we introduced the Local Impact Fund for Transformation (LIFT). This fund is one way that we are celebrating and encouraging the involvement of our congregation as they serve in various local organizations that seek the flourishing of our communities. Since the church is essentially the people of God, wherever individuals go and serve, there goes the church. As our Hershey Free folks serve in the community, they carry the gospel and light of Christ with them. LIFT allows us to celebrate that and to encourage our congregation and the organizations that they support. One recently awarded LIFT grant was requested by Suzanne Herr for the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, where she volunteers with the shelter cats.
At the end of 2017’s Easter Experience at Hershey Free, the last activity centered around mission. Participants were encouraged to answer questions like these: “How has God uniquely gifted you?” “What passions has God placed in your heart?” “What gets you excited in a truly fulfilling kind of way?” As I worked through the activity, all of my answers pointed to pieces of creation—specifically to animals and nature. I admit that I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a “people” response. It seemed like the “proper” Christian answer should have been to serve the poor or evangelize the world or help people handle some sort of plight. But God’s creation encompasses more than just humanity; and as stewards of the earth, we are called to care for all of God’s creation.
I am currently responding to my mission and gifting through volunteering at the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area. I am a cat socializer, which means that I interact with the cats through playtime, petting, etc. As the cats become more accustomed to human interaction, they become more likely to be adopted. I tend to take particular interest in some of the less social cats (who have generally come from rough circumstances) who need some extra work and extra patience.
Working with the cats has taught me a lot about human-to-human interactions. Patience, persistence, and a gentle spirit go a long way in earning trust from a person (or a cat) who has been through trauma that has led to fear, anger, self-protection, or depression. More than once another volunteer has remarked to me that they can’t believe that I’m able to pet a particular cat, and the answer is usually that it has taken weeks of small steps to get to that place. There’s such a sense of redemption when I watch an animal go from cowering and lashing out to loving, trusting, and finding a new home in which to flourish. It fills me with hope for all of us!