Some Great Lakes Region District churches have been serving their local communities in “great” ways in the last few months.
The Wesleyan Church of Fairfield in Fairfield, Illinois, has held an annual Community Coat Drive nine times. More than 250 coats and 120 pairs of shoes were given away in 2019, as well as scarves, hats and gloves. Items are collected and given to infants, children and adults.
The idea surfaced in 2010 at a Bible study when congregants and leaders were looking for ways to serve those in need. Others have joined them. Many in the rural community of 5,000 people give to this much-needed ministry. The Community Coat Drive distribution occurs in the parking lot of a local business located in the central part of town.
“We have been able to put a donation tote in all of our area schools and even recently started putting them in schools up to 15 miles away,” said Rev. Philip Trent, who has pastored The Wesleyan Church of Fairfield since 2002. “Our community can donate there or leave items on our church porch. Other churches, local non-profit groups and the school systems have been great about working with us.”
Since the start of the Community Coat Drive, thousands of coats have been given away. Trent is honored that his church can be a part of blessing the community of Fairfield.
“This ministry is needed because it helps those in need and at the same time gives people all over our community a chance to give and to serve,” said Trent. “God has blessed us over and over again.”
The church community also gives to Operation Christmas Child each year. Last year, 97 boxes were sent. And the congregants also send care packages to U.S. soldiers serving overseas.
“We are not a big church, but the people are selfless and big givers,” said Trent. “They show a lot of faith, and God continues to be faithful.” (Average attendance at The Wesleyan Church of Fairfield is 65-70.)
Hudson Wesleyan Church (HWC) in Hudson, Michigan, ministers in a rural community of approximately 2,000 people. Located just 20 minutes north of Ohio, Hudson is an agricultural and manufacturing town.
HWC is one of nine area churches. Those churches have formed the United Hudson Churches, a joint effort to share God’s love in transforming ways with the community. The group operates a food pantry, community youth group, community kids’ group, holds monthly days of fasting and prayer and sponsors various community church services.
“The most recent service we have started is a once-a-quarter prayer service for our schools and community,” said Rev. Wes Rowan, pastor of HWC. “It is held at one of our local churches and the local ministers lead times of blessing and prayer for various aspects of our community. As part of this effort, our group of churches decided to bless all of the staff of the local schools by distributing lunch to every employee of the district and of our local Catholic school. This totaled 139 lunches to elementary, middle and high school staff, along with administrative offices and technical school staff.”
Last fall, the United Hudson Churches provided significant and unusual support to area children. A bomb threat evacuated elementary, middle and high schools, displacing about 1,000 students. HWC and other churches opened their doors to host the scared and shaken students who had nowhere to go in the 30-degree weather.
“Pastors from a handful of these churches spent most of the day and some of the next day helping our school community,” said Rowan. “As president of our local board of education in Hudson, I was also involved in working closely with administration in assessing and dealing with the threat to our district. Other pastors who help to coach sports teams, lead Bible studies at the schools and have children or grandchildren in the district were able to minister to and encourage students and staff we know very well.”
Rowan, who has been pastoring in Hudson for 13 years, knows the churches can accomplish more together than separately.
“In a small town like ours, we can do more together in some areas that we can do separately,” said Rowan. “The United Hudson Churches effort focuses on the areas of service and ministry that are common in most of our churches and that allow us to work together.”
Bayview Wesleyan Church (BWC) in Traverse City, Michigan, announced last year that it would give away a week’s tithes and offerings in December. On an average Sunday, $8,000-10,000 in tithes and offerings is collected.
As part of the process, church leaders asked congregants to fill out Big Give applications for individuals and families who would be blessed by a gift during the holiday season. When December 15 arrived, the church raised over $27,000 in its “Big Give.”
“Every penny was given away,” said Rev. Chris Emery, pastor of BWC. “We asked the people who had applied for others to be willing to hand deliver the checks. They were asked to convey a simple message, ‘Jesus loves you, we love you, you are not alone.’
A total of 59 families and individuals received gifts of varying amounts. This provided everything from gifts under the tree, to food on the table, to even helping one family get their house out of foreclosure. Church attendees continue to receive notes, letters and stories of how the gifts deeply impacted hearts and lives.
“In the most famous prayer ever prayed, Jesus taught us to say, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’” said Chris Conrad, district superintendent of the Great Lakes Region District. “What does it look like when the kingdom comes to earth? Many times, it looks like a local church meeting the very real, tangible needs of a community, just like these three churches and many others within our district are doing. Some call it restorative justice. Some call it compassion ministries. In simple terms, it’s being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Pictured in lead image: Hudson Wesleyan Church distributed lunches to area school employees.