by Cindy Clark
It began as one person’s dream to reach out to the inner city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Once that dream was shared, God began to do things only He can do.
Sis Link, a member of Pike Grace Brethren Church’s Christian Education Commission, had spent time with the children of the inner city of Johnstown in the past. She knew the needs firsthand and desired to reach these children with the love of Jesus.
When asked what got her thinking about this, she responded, “I saw the effort our church puts into VBS and the excitement that surrounds them. I wondered if we could take that excitement about God into the kids of the inner city. In fear and trembling I finally opened my mouth and the CE Commission listened.”
The CE Commission at Pike grasped her enthusiasm and began looking for ways to reach out to the Flood City. VBS was a fun way to share with the kids. Looking for the best VBS material possible, we chose Group Publishing’s “Fiesta.”
This undertaking was much bigger than our seven members could handle so we decided to approach the Outreach Commission about joining forces. What a blessing it was at our first meeting together. The Outreach Commission’s elder, Irv Meredith, challenged us to look beyond ourselves as a church. He felt this outreach would bring our church closer and cause us to look at the needs around us. What a prophet he was.
We had no idea who would lead such an awesome undertaking. Praise God for Barry Deetscreek, a public school teacher from our church. God knew all along he was the perfect man for the job because, where does Barry teach? He teaches in downtown Johnstown, of course!
Deetscreek said, “God just prodded me to do it from the first meeting. Of course I have a love for that community since I’ve taught here for 25 years. I was excited for our own church because I’ve gone here for 57 years and I don’t ever remember us doing anything like this. I think this is true outreach. I’ve always been impressed how Pike people rise to the occasion. That was displayed by 60 visible volunteers and many prayer warriors.”
One Sunday after church we held a fundraiser to share the dream. Approximately 165 people attended the Fiesta dinner. Authentic Mexican food was served. $1,011 was raised. The whole church was seeing the dream and desiring to see it fulfilled!
The two commissions approached the Johnstown Grace Brethren Church, once a thriving church in the center of the city, but now a smaller congregation, to see if they would consider providing supper for the kids each night before VBS. Pastor Ron Carnevali was enthusiastic and agreed to help.
Pastor Ron said, “This outreach is introducing our church to families we never knew before. It will probably help build our children’s church program. It’s a very good experience and great to work with another Grace Brethren church to spread the gospel of Christ.”
The next challenge was finding a location for the event. We were convinced that God desired a neutral location so more children would come. We checked every lead possible, a run-down community center, an ambulance building, any empty building in that area of Johnstown, but nothing opened up to us. We had our ideas, but God had planned well in advance.
We had contacted the Johnstown church about helping with food. Their building was unused for many years except for storage. How long did it take to get through our heads that this is where God wanted us all along? When all else failed, we finally listened.
The week at Johnstown Grace Brethren Church turned out to be a fantastic outreach. A double blessing was that it encouraged this smaller church. We were able to touch the lives of 130 children, beautiful kids who heard about the love of Jesus in a fun and exciting way. Sixteen children and one adult came to know Christ as Savior.
And Irv’s prediction came true! Our church has grown from this experience and we are not so focused on ourselves but can now see a world, not so far from our own, that is starving for the God we know personally.
Why hasn’t the Pike GBC done something like this for 57 years or longer? I don’t know the answer, but this is a new beginning for us. I pray we continue to see our mission and reach out in new and exciting ways. We have a new commitment to reach the city of Johnstown.
Thanks to Sis Link for sharing her dream that came true the week of July 10-14.