God has been moving at Westwood Wesleyan Church (WWC) in Ashland, Kentucky.
Dealing with the pandemic has been hard, and it can be discouraging not to minister as planned.
However, when we take time to reflect and listen to God speaking to us, we are often able to see ways he has worked even when things didn’t go as we had planned. Regardless of what we are going through, God calls us to be faithful and follow him.
The pandemic brought some discouraging and difficult days at WWC, but as Pastors Nikki and Ben Quinn have reflected on them, they have seen how God has been working in spite of all that 2020 brought.
The Quinns had a dream for 2020 to refresh the outside of the church with a new coat of paint and hopefully begin some remodeling on the inside. While praying, developing a vision and putting together a financial plan for this project, they received a call from a friend in Michigan. That friend wanted to bring a team to help with the exterior painting at the church.
This connection stemmed from the Quinns living and serving in Michigan before moving to Kentucky.
“Although we had moved from Michigan to Kentucky (in January 2019), we still have an amazing group of friends and a great support system in Michigan,” said Nikki. “A key person within that support system is our dear friend, Rev. Terra Penninga. Terra has been faithful to minister and care for our hearts (and grieving of ‘home’) during our transition, since she herself had been a transplant to Michigan (from Illinois) several years ago. The Lord used her tremendously to minister to our hearts. She has also been praying for us and encouraging us as we follow the Lord’s leading in our lives.”
As the Quinns discussed their dreams for the church, Penninga “asked about the possibility of assembling a mission team to come to Kentucky in the summer of 2020 to bless us and our community.”
In July 2020, a 54-person work team from Wesleyan churches in Michigan arrived in Westwood for a week of hands-on ministry. That team and the Westwood congregation not only painted the church’s exterior, but did major interior renovation, too. The Michigan team raised the funds for the project, and WWC members helped cook daily meals for the team.
In addition, with Kentucky-Tennessee District grant funds, a much-needed addition to the fellowship hall was completed — nearly doubling the seating capacity and increasing possibilities for future ministry use. WWC members and the extended Quinn family did that remodeling.
While many things didn’t go as planned last year, the Quinns noted that over $32,000 was raised to update the church. (The amount was a combination of funds raised by the Michigan crew, as well as money provided through the district grant.) The final results well exceeded all they had expected to accomplish in one year.
“Westwood is a revitalization here in the Kentucky-Tennessee District,” said Nikki. “Our body was small at the time and full of a lot of older individuals. God knew that we needed help to do this, because it would have been so difficult on our body (both physically and emotionally) to renovate this space. Finances flowed in from the people coming on the trip and others who knew and loved us and wanted to give towards the dreams God had given us. Many had no idea who we were but wanted to give to see the kingdom built here in Westwood, Kentucky. There was even a precious little girl who hosted a lemonade stand to bless any projects being done here.”
Since the renovations, the congregation is enjoying the newly updated fresh and inviting spaces and the buzz it has started in the community is palpable.
“There have been a number of people who have stopped to tell us that the building looks fantastic or that they appreciate us continuing to enhance Westwood,” said Nikki. Ben accepted a long-term substitute teaching job in the local school system in order to build relationships. He was thrilled when a fellow teacher said, “Westwood Wesleyan is truly ending up to be a staple of the community.” God has used physical and visible facility changes to reveal to the community that he is working and moving in the ZIP code.
WWC’s top focus during this time of COVID has been on relationships. One-on-one discipleship and socially distanced small groups have continued. A meaningful ladies Bible study was recently completed. Many books were given free of charge to women in the church and others who may not have been able to attend but were able to study on their own. This ministry has been a real blessing to those who have participated, including some women who enjoy Sunday afternoon hikes together. New attendees have joined the hikes, and God has used these times as opportunities for meaningful conversations and discipleship.
Last summer, WWC started hosting drive-in Saturday night services, featuring lots of music in an effort to encourage community members. The church sits on a hill overlooking the valley and their hope was that the music from the parking lot would travel throughout the community and be a blessing. After several weeks of ministering this way, only a handful of cars would show up. Nikki admitted that, at times, she felt discouraged, wondering if this ministry was really making a difference.
Recently, the couple was outside changing the church sign and a man riding his bicycle stopped to chat. They had not met him before and during the conversation, he said, “You remember when you had those worship nights this summer? My friend and I would sit out on my porch in the valley each week just so we could hear that music. That was amazing!”
Another young lady shared that she had only come to the drive-in nights a couple times, but it brought her back to the need for worship in her life. After the services, she would continue worshipping on her 30-minute drive home and drew closer to God. She has since become a regular part of the WWC congregation, worshipping in person each week and participating in ministry.
“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination![a] He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.” (Ephesians 3:20, The Passion Translation).
“God reminds us over and over to move our expectations with him and in what he is able to do (in and through us),” said Nikki. “The Lord asked us to dream with him and to write it down. And then he did what he does — more than we could imagine!”
From renovations to relationships, God is moving in this Boyd County, Kentucky, church.
Michigan churches that served at Westwood in the renovations, include Branch Adventures Ministries (Saranac), Pathway (Saranac), Thirteenth Tribe Ministries (Lowell), Impact Church (Lowell) and The Well (Ionia).
Christy Mann serves as district communications director for the Kentucky-Tennessee District of The Wesleyan Church.