It has been an incredible year of ministry here at Central. We have seen steady growth in our attendance on Sundays, large numbers of people involved in Sunday school and GPS groups, increases in our Wednesday night ministries, large numbers involved in our Tuesday and Thursday afternoon After School @ Central and Thrive! tutoring programs, and many other great ministries. There is certainly a new energy here at Central, and there is great anticipation as we head into the New Year.
But with all the great things we have going at Central, nothing (from my perspective) has been more impressive than the start of our Living Grace Ministry. Through this ministry, we have been able to serve and love women (and now men) who are living in transitional housing as they move from being in prison to re-entering society. Through this ministry, we have been able to walk alongside these individuals, love them, show them the love of Christ, bring them into relationship with the Lord, and meet some of their physical needs.
We have seen several of these women be baptized on Sundays, commit or re-commit themselves to the Lord, and be a weekly attender of both our Sunday worship services and the Living Grace Ministries Bible study. Through the hard work of the clothes closet (now called Grace Boutique), we have given these women new clothes and a new confidence as they re-enter society. And through the generosity of the Fellowship Fund (which is collected the first Sunday of every month), we have been able to provide some funds for these women to ease the burden on their initial move out of transitional housing. Just last weekend, we were able to host an Angel Tree party, so these women (and others) were able to give presents to their children.
We have found great favor with the RS Eden house, located near Fairview and University, and we have become an important presence and influence on that organization. We look forward to continual partnership, and we are reminded that this ministry will continue on. We are now moving on to a partnership with VOA (Volunteers of America, located north and east of Central), and providing clothing for women there.
We have also seen great success working with the men of VOA. Due to the hard work of a handful of men at Central, we have launched a Bible study and have started a men’s clothing closet, which should be up and running soon. We also hosted a re-entry dinner for 3 men that were soon leaving VOA, and giving them a chance to celebrate the conclusion of their prison terms and the entrance back into society. We have had one individual from VOA be baptized, and have also seen re-commitments to the Lord.
None of this happens by accident, it is the work of the Lord. But it is also the faith of people here at Central who listened to the promptings of the Lord and were faithful and obedient to Him and have done the best that they can in response. Those that started this ministry will tell you that when they were conceiving of it last fall, they had no idea what they were doing. They only had faith in the Lord. It took the response of two 80-something year old women to first follow through, contact some people that they knew, and start this ministry rolling. Through their faithfulness, and the many women that have come alongside them and used their own gifts, we have seen the fruits of doing the work that the Lord has planned for us at Central.
If you asked the staff or some of the long-time members of this church last summer (2016), they would not have even considered a ministry like this as something that would be a part of Central. But at that time, we were moving into a time of our church where we wanted to “Ask”. Asking is great, but sometimes the Lord hears our petition and actually responds! It is up to us to be faithful to the calling He lays before us, even if, perhaps especially if, it is not something we would have thought of ourselves.
We are entering a great and exciting time here at Central. There is much that is happening in our congregation and in our neighborhood. The Lord has plans for us that we can’t even conceive of at this time. We will continue to “Ask” but we must also be ready for the Lord to respond. There is no excuse for any of us to avoid this. Two amazing women, and those that have come alongside the, have shown the model of how the rest of us as a congregation can respond ourselves. I assure all of us that if we continue to ask the Lord, He will respond. Let us prayerfully be ready for what it the Lord has in store.