A panel of three grant recipients from the 2022 Equipping the Local Church Grant Cycle spent the morning with the Foundation’s board or trustees and honorary trustee council at their hybrid in-person and online board meeting. During the hour-long panel discussion, grant recipients shared a little about their personal stories as well as the story of their ministry and how the Foundation’s grant – and partnership – have helped their faith communities share the Good News with their neighbors.
Building Community From the Ground UP
Dana Franchetti with Mission210, a Church of the Nazarene church plant, shared about her personal journey to become a church planter. In college, through internships, she saw how people in other parts of the world worshiped and witnessed to their Christian faith. She was particularly inspired while working at a church in Oregon following devastating wildfires that destroyed the homes of many in the community. The church housed families and individuals who lost everything. As she saw the church literally opening their doors to help the people of the area, she felt God calling her to work in church ministry. She was sent to rural Groveland, Fla., where she says there was not even a church building to meet in. She began meeting people at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the few public spaces for people in the town gather. Through the relationships built there with local families and businesses, she has seen how just listening has helped her and her small congregation hear the needs of their community. What has emerged is that there is a need for families and individuals in the community to have shared experiences and build friendships. Dana says that “[We want to ] let them know that Jesus cares about you as a whole person and there is a place for you here.” The grant has allowed for several small introductory gatherings to happen around the town. Now, the congregation is in the process of fitting a storefront for a multi-purpose space to serve as a church-run coffee shop and community gathering space during the week, and a place for worship and discipleship on weekends and evenings.
Overcoming the Stigmas of Addiction
Rev. John Zimmerman shared that in his work with About Face Church Outreach Consultants, he saw how many churches struggled with reaching out to and supporting people with addiction or the loved ones of addicts. He and his wife work and live full-time out of their RV so that they can go to different locations around the country to help churches connect with the needs of their community. Because of the growing addiction crisis in the U.S. he began working on a model that would allow people to connect in a nonthreatening online environment, to be supported and receive the resources they needed. Out of that, Higher Power Church was born. “Higher Power” is a buzzword in 12-step programs, so it seemed an appropriate name for the online church geared toward addiction recovery. The goal is to build a community of faith for all generations that include addicts and family members of addicts. While he admits it has been small to start, he is working to build awareness and to partner with related agencies to connect online attendees with vital resources.
Bringing Hope and Healing to a Broken Community
Pastor Tim Jackson admits that he did not initially feel called to Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church. The church in East Knoxville seemed like a hopeless case. But eventually, God brought him back to this space – with its crumbling building and challenging neighborhood. But as he prayed and listened, and he began building relationships with the neighbors at a run-down motel and on the streets outside the church, he and his small congregation began to see the needs of the this community. The grant, he says, “allowed the breaking of bread to build relationships.” The church is slowly being rebuilt – both the building and the congregation. And the community surrounding the church is rallying behind it, with support from local officials and nearby churches. Invitations from pastor and attendees are helping the people in this neighborhood, who once felt abandoned, get the chance to live a more abundant life, in a church community that cares about them.