He was nervous driving up as he saw the parking lot full. Usually the meeting only had a handful of attendees who weren't on the council so he figured it was either a very good or bad sign of receptiveness. He had given a bit of advance notice to the council and he knew they passed his view around. Being an upbeat and energetic man of the cloth, Chuck Willis chose the positive and walked in with a big smile on his face.
Chairman John Underwood called the meeting to order and stated that there were only a few items other than a special request from Pastor Willis. John made a motion that they take up the Pastor's item first and all agreed. The floor was quickly turned over to the pastor.
Mr. Willis walked to the front of the group and started his comments relating his oft spoken view of what he saw as the guiding vision of his ministry which was to spread the word of Jesus to those throughout the community and by doing so to expand the local flock.
"I hope you remember my first sermon as your new minister only three months ago", he began. "I stated that I wanted us to serve as missionaries for Christ not just in this facility but in the broader local community. Even though things are a little tougher in our area than in years past, we here in town are certainly much better off than those outside of town. Yet those same people are part of our community, they live and die here, and they are in dire need of help."
Continuing, Pastor Willis explained the part that Johnny played in his plan, saying, "I brought young Johnny Markham to church this past Sunday to put a face on the problem. A bright and inquisitive young boy, he is just one of many in our outlying community who are in need through no fault of their own. And we as neighbors need to give of ourselves to help them and, in doing so, show others what the power of Christian love, prayer, spirit and work can do to strengthen and grow God's flock."
Mr. Underwood quickly interjected, "Pardon the interruption, Pastor, but exactly what is it you want us to do? I've talked to many of our members and I have to give you credit, you woke us all up and all we need is a rundown of what you seek and I'm sure we can do something really positive. I have to admit that I was ashamed of myself when I left church Sunday as were many others. So tell us what you want to do and we can get to work on putting together a program."
Reverend Willis' face brightened even more than its usual countenance with those words and he began going over his vision. He wanted to use Johnny as the first step, bringing him to Sunday school and church and drawing his family back into the fold. Then he wanted to get the old church bus running, so that a regular pick-up of children could be initiated to get them involved in church. By doing that, he knew that it would lead to more adults as well and the only cost would be some sweat equity on the bus, a few parts and a couple of rotating drivers.
At the same time, he wanted to start a collection of slightly used clothes and shoes which could be put into a clothing bank for those who are truly in need of warm clothing items. He told them of Johnny's decrepit shoes and reminded them that with winter coming good shoes and boots were especially critical.
Two members immediately raised their hands, one the owner of a shoe store and the other the maintenance supervisor for the local schools, each indicating that they would serve in a supporting capacity. It was decided that Earl Williams, the shoe store owner, would lead the collection drive for shoes and he even offered to throw in a few pair of new shoes from time to time. And Bob Shankland, the maintenance supervisor said he knew there were some Methodists with a bus license to help the pastor. He also knew that some suppliers would help out by providing some parts at cost
And then he got a laugh from everyone when he said, "And Pastor, weren't you a pretty good motor vehicle mechanic in your Army days?"
Pastor Willis laughed, saying, "Yes, Bob, I was pretty good and I'm prepared to use some elbow grease, I just might need a little assistance from time to time."
Time had flown by and they had spent an hour and a half productively on a worthy project and the Pastor was very pleased. This was a good start; the church would get these efforts up and running and then look at what else they could do.
Beaming at his members, the young minister said, "Wow, folks, I think we have a very ambitious beginning but one that is doable. How about we get this going and then we can look beyond to see what we can do to help some of these good people find work since it doesn't look like the coal industry is coming back? We might be able to get into a joint effort with the other two churches in town and really get things going."
With that, the ladies of the church brought out some refreshments and it was decided to go home and individually evaluate what part each could play and reconvene for a short meeting following next Sunday's services.
With a grin, Pastor Willis said, "And don't worry, we've got the names and assignments of all those who have volunteered so far. Let's see if we can fill the sign up sheet on Sunday".
Last Sunday's young guest, Johnny Markham, had certainly had a great impact on these good parishioners and Pastor Willis knew they were on the road to fulfilling a local mission that he was guided to by God. And he knew that the road would likely have some pitfalls, but he also knew that with God's help, people would be helped, the church would be energized and a better future awaited. Thanks be to God.
Next: The Lasting Impact.