Grant Recipients Share Stories of Transformation

Rev. Dr. Heather Lear (left) and President Jane Boatwright Wood (right) with 2023 Equipping the Local Church Grant Recipients - Pastors Mary Beth Eberle, Jerry Lee Christian, and Jeremy Reese.
Rev. Dr. Heather Lear (left) and President Jane Boatwright Wood (right) with 2023 Equipping the Local Church Grant Recipients - Pastors Mary Beth Eberle, Jerry Lee Christian, and Jeremy Reese.
Rev. Dr. Heather Lear (left) and President Jane Boatwright Wood (right) with 2023 Equipping the Local Church Grant Recipients – Pastors Mary Beth Eberle, Jerry Lee Christian, and Jeremy Reese.

Lake Junaluska, NC – The Foundation for Evangelism board of trustees heard from a panel of Equipping the Local Church Grant recipients from diverse contexts and denominations on November 10 during its annual meeting at Lake Junaluska, NC. This panel provided an opportunity for the recipients to share their experiences, challenges, and successes resulting from the Foundation’s grant funding.

The panel, comprised of three grant recipients from different settings – rural, suburban, and urban – and denominations including United Methodist, Church of the Nazarene, and Christian Methodist Episcopal, offered compelling insight into the transformative power of the Equipping the Local Church Grant.

Each grant recipient candidly shared their individual journeys and the significant impacts the funds have had on their respective churches and communities. They spoke of the challenges they faced in their unique settings and how the grant funding enabled them to overcome obstacles and partner in their communities to share the gospel message and help transform lives.

Pastor Jeremy Reese from Aiken Ebenezer Church of the Nazarene in Aiken, S.C., described how the grant funding allowed their congregation to build relationships with the unhoused people in their community, providing food assistance, showers, counseling, and assistance finding permanent housing. Pastor Reese shared that one of the most encouraging things he’s seen is the church take a personal interest in the people they are serving, getting to know their names and their stories. “It’s the personal connection of it. ‘How’s my church getting involved in this – how are they overcoming some of their own stereotypes, and stigmas, and fears…and unknown racism? How are they overcoming those things?’ That’s been exciting to see.”

Rev. Mary Beth Eberle from Grace United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tenn., shared how the grant helped bring energy to their small congregation which is trying to create a welcoming place for those in their community that are not comfortable in a typical Sunday morning church setting. They have created various outreach events with a “low barrier to entry,” allowing new people to connect with God in ever-deepening relationship. “A lot of the work we’re doing is UN-doing church harm that people have experienced. There are people for whom it’s terrifying to come to church, so we look at providing easy ‘on-ramps’ to become part of our community. Our hope is through the less threatening things it will be easier for people to open up spiritually.” said Rev. Eberle.

Rev. Jerry Lee Christian from Russell Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Durham, N.C., expressed his gratitude for the grant funding. That funding helped the church reach out to their community with food and housing assistance, but through the process, realized many of those they serve struggle with mental health. The grant helped them to connect one-on-one with at-risk and vulnerable individuals in their community such as the unhoused, formerly incarcerated, and veterans. “We’ve witnessed, through getting to know people personally and through small groups, people changing their lives and reaching back to others so that no one is left behind. Many of the people in the African American community trust the church…. The grant has allowed God to open doors and show us untapped resources and people – now we’ve seen new people sharing their talents.” Rev. Christian shared.

“We are honored to have had these remarkable grant recipients share their stories at our annual meeting,” said Dr. Heather Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration for The Foundation for Evangelism. “Their accounts of challenges, joys, and transformational outcomes demonstrate the power of the Equipping the Local Church Grant program, allowing local churches to launch an experiment or initiative to share the Gospel, tell their stories, and invite others into a relationship with Jesus alongside a local faith community”

The Foundation for Evangelism’s Equipping the Local Church Grant program aims to provide financial assistance to churches with innovative projects and ideas that align with their mission of nurturing disciples and sharing the message of Jesus Christ. Since its inception, the grant program has supported 81 churches across 8 denominations, various settings, and geographic locations, fostering positive change and enabling them to share God’s love, light, and life in their communities.

For more information about the Equipping the Local Church grant or other grant programs, please visit

Note to editors: Please include the panelists’ names and their respective church names in any coverage of the event.

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