When Patty Nevins discovered that missions funding at River City Grace Community Church in Sacramento, Calif., had decreased significantly, she had two responses.
At first, she was disappointed.
“[I was] saddened by this, for our missionaries’ sake of course. It’s easy to get frustrated, thinking everyone should be as excited about supporting our missionaries as you are-but they’re not,” she admits.
But Nevins’ disappointment did not lead to despair. Her second response was action.
“I’d been learning to make sourdough bread,” she explains. She had even begun a small business by occasionally selling her bread, but soon she discovered her newfound skill was meant for more than the casual bread sale. She began to pray with her husband in an effort to decide whether the proceeds should support their missionaries.
“Seed Sowers, Sourdough and More” was the headline when Nevins sent a church-wide e-mail on New Year’s Day 2009. She introduced a new program featuring homemade bread, eggs, recycling, and determination. Advertising done, Nevins got to work.
Over the first few months, Nevins moved beyond sourdough and became a real connois seur, making Ciabatta, Multigrain, Walnut Fig, Garlic Cheddar Sourdough, and others. But all the new varieties came with just as much work.
“Every Friday I send an e-mail announcing what bread I will have available on Sunday,” she says. Interested individuals return an e-mail with their order.
“I bake on Saturday and wrap the loaves that night for delivery on Sunday.”
Each Saturday, from late in the morning until late at night, she makes bread, baking an average of 20 loaves a week.
Nevins is not only a skilled baker, but is also a wife and a mother. Her nine children range in age from six to 24. Eight of them still live at home and she home schools five of them.
Finding a Balance
“While I desire to do as much as possible to generate support for our missionaries, I want to keep a proper balance between that and my responsibilities as a wife and mother,” she stresses. While she is the primary bread baker, she does have the occasional contributor to the ministry.
Nevins’ daughter, Emma, helps care for the chickens that lay one to three dozen eggs per week. Half of the funds from egg sales go to missions, half to Emma’s chicken-raising expenses.
Helen, a college student from the Sacramento community, donates 25- to 50-pound bags of dog food to be sold for missions funding.
Nevins also collects recyclables. She says that people have given generously and more than $400 has been raised from donated glass, plastic, and aluminum.
Many people have seen Nevins’ ministry and have been enthusiastic not only about encouraging it, but adding to it.
Greg Stoever, pastor-teacher at River City Grace, says that Nevins has inspired a movement throughout the congregation.
“The church body has been very responsive to Patty’s ministry,” he notes. “I think it has not only increased people’s awareness of some of the needs and opportunities with missions, but also ‘provoked’ them in good ways to get tangibly involved.”
Nevins’ ministry has become a portal for giving to God’s work, providing funds for eight different missionary families. In the first six months, more than $2,000 was raised through the combined sales of bread, eggs, and dog food, and the recycling program.
An added benefit-giving for the Seed Sowers (missions) program at River City Grace Community Church has increased 20 percent.
“The members of our Missions Commission believe the giving is up because people are receiving weekly reminders to pray for and support our missionaries,” says Nevins who also wants to be sure the missionaries are remembered in prayer. With every loaf of bread, she includes an article about a supported individual as a reminder that financial resources, though helpful, are never sufficient in the absence of prayer.
A Significant Impact
Gary Holman, church administrator at River City Grace, says, concerning Patty Nevins’ ministry, “It’s made a significant impact for our missionaries. [Patty] has a phenomenal heart for the Lord and an unbelievable amount of commitment.”
Nevins has served River City Grace Community Church for more than 30 years. She and her family maintain the church building grounds and were involved with the church’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“She’s fantastic in terms of her ability to manage all of these things, and not only to manage them but to do a good job,” says Holman. “As a church we probably couldn’t survive without people like her.”
Over all, Nevins’ work is grounded in her longing to see the work of God furthered through missions. Her advice to others who may want to start a similar ministry reflects that attitude: “Be sure to continually remind yourself why you’re doing it, for God’s glory and the advancement of His kingdom.” She hopes that her work will encourage other individuals from other churches to use the gifts they have to support missions.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Jones was an editorial intern with the Brethren Missionary Herald Company in the fall of 2009. He is a junior at Grace College where he is majoring in English and Journalism.
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