Cindy Clark, the wife of Pastor Rick Clark from the Pike Grace Brethren Church in Johnstown, PA, and the children’s ministry coordinator for the Pike church wrote this encouraging report. This is edited for length—a longer version will appear in the September/October 2006 issue of FGBC World:
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.
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, Sis Link responded, “What started all this was, I saw the effort that our church puts into VBS and the excitement that surrounds them. I really 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 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. We began 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 with the proposal of joining forces. The Outreach Commission’s elder, Irv Meredith, challenged us to look beyond ourselves as a church. He really felt this outreach would bring our church closer and cause us to look at the needs around us.
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 he teaches in downtown Johnstown.
When asked why Barry chose to direct this outreach he 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 remember us doing anything like this. I think this is true outreach.”
One Sunday after church we held a fundraiser and approximately 165 people attended our Fiesta dinner. Authentic Mexican food was served. $1,011 was raised.
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 helping with the outreach by providing supper for the kids each night before VBS. Pastor Ron Carnevali was very enthusiastic and agreed to help.
The week at Johnstown Grace Brethren Church turned out to be a fantastic outreach for that area. A double blessing was that it encouraged this smaller church. We were able to touch the lives of 130 children. Sixteen children and one adult came to know Christ as Savior.
Our church has grown from this experience and we are not so focused on ourselves. Why hasn’t the Pike GBC done something like this for 57 years or longer? I don’t know the answer to that question, 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, the dream that came true the week of July 10-14. We’ve been so blessed we just had to share it with all of you.