The young pastor was frustrated. Having received a call to lead a small town church in the heart of Appalachia, he was completing his first three months of ministry and he felt his start was not a good one. Oh, his parishioners were cordial and came to church regularly, but he felt that the church was looking inward when it needed to look outward. After all, didn't he have a mission to expand God's flock as opposed to just maintaining the status quo?
Since most of his church members were successful and had a pretty decent lifestyle at least compared to the broader community, he decided to start visiting those in need and try to put the church in their life. His first attempt was a laid off miner and his family who were having a very tough time. He planned a visit with a particular emphasis on their little boy who he had seen in town in dirty clothes and barefoot.
Arriving at the home on Saturday afternoon, he noticed the little boy sitting on the railing on the front deck. It was a small log cabin style home which looked sturdy but he could see that it needed a few repairs. As he walked toward the house the little boy came running up.
"Hi, Mister, I'm Johnny, who are you?" the little boy said with a smile.
The pastor responded, "Well, hi Johnny, I'm Pastor Willis from the Methodist Church and I've come to see your parents."
Just then, Johnny's mother walked out on the porch and offered her hand. She was a very pretty woman but a little rough around the edges from a tough life and stress. She told the pastor that her husband was out looking for work but she'd be glad to talk with him. She led him to the small kitchen and offered coffee.
Pastor Chuck Willis explained why he was there and invited Joan Markham and her husband and Johnny to church services. She graciously listened, but told him that she spent all day Sunday ironing clothes for others. She explained that ever since her husband John's layoff from the mines, she ironed clothes on Sundays in return for using someone's washing machine since they couldn't afford to fix the one they own. She was also able to make extra money that way to help her family in addition to her part-time duty as a waittress at the Highway Diner. She also said that her husband was a good carpenter and thought he could use that skill after his layoff, yet with so many out of work odd carpentry jobs were few and far between.
Then the young minister asked if he could take Johnny to Sunday School and church. He said that once Johnny visited, he could then arrange for the church bus to pick him up each Sunday and, of course, if she and John ever wanted to attend, they could get a lift also. Joan Markham smiled, opened a drawer on the nearby desk and pulled out her old family Bible explaining that she read it every day but didn't feel comfortable in church under their current circumstances. She just didn't have proper clothes to honor the Lord.
Pastor Willis didn't press further, he would save that for another day, but he did get her to commit to letting Johnny go to church. He thanked her for her time, told Mrs. Markham that he would be there Sunday and if she didn't object, he'd stop by and check on the family from time to time. She seemed to like that offer and said she would look forward to his visits. She also wanted him to meet her husband, John, a man who was active in his belief before losing his job.
As the energetic preacher headed down the road after the visit, his head was spinning from what he learned. He realized that the situation faced by the Markham's was just the tip of the iceberg in the community. He needed to find a way to help these people but at least he had made the first step. The earnest man decided getting the little boy to church was a good start upon which he would build an outreach. Hopefully, once the parishioners saw the little boy and his vibrant personality despite his sad lifestyle, they would be willing to help. And he saw this as the first step of a full scale effort to help the needy in the community and expand Jesus' flock. It would be difficult and costly and it would take God's help, but Pastor Willis knew it's what he needed to do.
Smiling as he entered his church office, he began to mentally start planning for the future. Sometimes big things start with the smallest steps and Chuck Willis would work diligently to make a positive impact on God's children who needed someone like him to help them make the connection with God. Free will doesn't always allow for the result desired, but unless someone brings the Word to the community instead of waiting for the community to come to Him, success would certainly not be the result. He vowed to make this a huge success with God's help.
Next: Johnny Goes to Church