The Spirit At Work
Last Sunday I celebrated my fifth anniversary as the preaching minister for the Rochester Church. I am supremely thankful that the Lord allowed me this opportunity. This is a remarkable congregation full of people with a real heart for the Lord. That was evidenced by last weekend's flurry of service and sacrifice.
On Saturday, over a hundred volunteers staffed our warehouse of clothes, food, toys, and household items called God's Helping Hands. GHH has garnered national attention with an interview on NPR last year. This year, on this one day, over 330 families were fed, clothed, and supplied with gifts for Christmas. Volunteers were on site before 8AM and didn't leave until the last person was served at 10:45PM.
While this was going on, we also had a funeral and a wedding, two social events at Rochester College... and a concert by Bar12 of Soul Space, our ministry to the corners and shadows of our culture. The tattoo shop will open at the end of this month, Lord willing, but a cash infusion was desperately needed so the boys -- Josh Turner and Lance Handyside -- did a concert at the church building. We heard tunes from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Ben Harper, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all done in Bar 12's unique and powerful style. Our crowd was tiny due to all the other events going on (including the biggest religious event in the area -- the Michigan/Ohio State football game) but so far nearly $4000 has been raised. Praise God!
This was our Harvest Sunday. We have been falling behind on our budget and found ourselves in a deep hole. Some of this is because of the economic climate of Michigan (49th in the nation and falling), some because our people are mainly new and not quite into the giving habits of older Christians, and, to be honest, because we lost some good givers when we decided to be more free and aggressive in reaching the lost. The elders asked the people to double their normal giving on this day. That would have given us around $42,000 but they gave just under $55,000! Wow.
Plus... we have a Family Fund that helps our members in case of emergency (job loss, burial expenses, etc.) that we like to keep at around $5000. It was completely empty so we placed giving baskets on the stage and in the foyer and asked people to also consider giving to that fund. They gave an additional $16,290 on top of the Harvest giving.
These are new Christians, by and large. Many were unchurched before they came to us. A great number are young couples, some with children, who live paycheck to paycheck. The elders and staff were stunned at their faith and committment to Harvest Sunday... but that wasn't the end of it.
We asked people to bring non-perishable food items and coats, hats, scarves and gloves in very good condition so that they could be distributed in downtown Detroit that very day. They filled the stage with them! Cars and vans were crammed full of goods and, on a snowy day in Detroit, our people pulled up outside the worst homeless shelter in the area and spent the afternoon feeding and clothing all there. They also listened to them and learned from them. Take time to visit Josh Graves and Kara Graves' blogs (links on this page) as well as Courtney's blog at www.xanga.com/RingoStarr25 to hear some incredible, heart warming and heart breaking stories that took place on last Sunday afternoon.
What a wonderful congregation, full of the Spirit, dedicated to Christ and willing to lay everything down for Him. It has been an honor to be with them for five years. When people (who know me and know I hate cold, wet weather) ask me why I moved to Rochester when I could have gone anywhere, I admit that the weather is awful (sometimes) and that there isn't much scenery... but everytime I walk into the doors of this building and see what is going on I remember why I am here and why nowhere else looks nearly as warm and sunny as Rochester Church.
Thank you, Jesus. I didn't deserve the gift of coming to this place, but your grace made it happen. THAT'S what I'm thankful for this year.