Stories of the Month
The Minitonas Mattress Project
We take many things for granted. One of these is a cozy bed to provide a good night’s sleep. When Sunday school students in the small rural town of Minitonas, Manitoba, heard about children who lacked this necessity, they made an effort to bring their church together in meeting the need. At Minitonas First Baptist Church, where attendance averages about one hundred, missions and generosity are part of the culture. One of the church’s longstanding connections is with CHAIN of Love, a group of children’s homes in Brazil. Members of First Baptist have traveled there on service trips, and the children’s Sunday school classes have supported a girl named Andressa from her young childhood into her early teens.
Because of this relationship, when Christian Education director Lyn Kublick and other leaders were considering a Vacation Bible School missions project last summer, they asked staff at CHAIN of Love if there was a special need their students could help fill. The reply came back: “Mattresses! We desperately need mattresses to replace ones that are badly worn and unusable. The cost for each is $75.” While the timing wasn’t right that summer, the mattress project turned out to be a perfect Christmas gift. Raising money to provide beds for children, while remembering a very special Baby born without a bed to receive Him, seemed like a wonderful idea.
The project was launched in November as teachers explained the need to the children. Several were immediately eager to add their own contributions. To track their progress, the students painted a large picture of a tree that was placed in the hall leading to the classrooms. A box near the tree received the gifts. For every $5.00 donated from church members, a paper banana was attached to the tree. When enough was raised to pay for one mattress, a bunch of bananas was added to celebrate. Next, the Sunday school superintendent, Monica Muller, suggested that money given at the annual Christmas concert should also be donated to the mattress fund. Each year a concert featuring the children typically draws a large crowd and includes a special offering. With the congregation’s generosity $1037 was raised, enough to provide for fourteen comfortable beds.
From this project the students became sensitive to the needs of children less fortunate than themselves. More than that, they realized that they were truly able to make a difference in the lives of others. Lyn Kublick and the other leaders saw firsthand how the Holy Spirit directs, providing the right ideas at the right time for the good of God’s people around the world.
For more information visit their church website: http://www.fbcminitonas.ca/
Growing on Purpose: ElmCreek Community Church
About two years ago the leaders at ElmCreek Community Church in Maple Grove, Minnesota, decided to step back and reevaluate every aspect of their ministry. Levi Matteson, lead pastor for about four years, says they needed to ask, “Are we just ‘doing church,’ or are lives actually being changed?”
Since then, as the church has developed, they’ve seen God provide people, gifts, and opportunities in perfect response to needs. One early change came when the leaders realized their children’s Sunday school program was ineffective and decided to suspend it. They explored alternatives and waited to see if God would raise up someone with a passion in this area. Soon after, a woman joined the church and developed a vision for a Wednesday night children’s program. With additional well connected volunteers, this program has attracted dozens of children from the surrounding community and is now drawing parents into the church.
Another development is a sermon-writing team made up of staff, elders, and volunteers with a deep connection to the church community. Pastor Levi realized there were limits to one pastor’s ability to set the direction for the church each week, as he may not always be aware of the people’s needs. Most recently the team has chosen a series on the story of Christ—especially appropriate for their newest members.
The next step has been a sermon-based small-group curriculum. One man who was called to ElmCreek last year has a gift for writing, and now helps produce a weekly study that members can use to go deeper into the sermon topics (see “Conversations” at http://www.elmcreekchurch.org). New resources help people feed themselves individually and in community so they can better serve others.
Another need Pastor Levi saw was for a stronger leadership pool, especially among members ages twenty-five to thirty. This led to a discipleship program based on John Maxwell’s material provided by the North American Baptist Conference. We hope to have six to twelve leaders paired with trained mentors, and each to be enthusiastic about taking on more studies. The goal is for new leaders to go on to mentor others.
With new gifts coming through new members, and growing in the congregation, other ministries recently started at ElmCreek have included a community block party and a weekly class to explore biblical prayer. Pastor Levi says, “Overall, we have grown slowly in numbers but much in health, and for that we are very thankful.” He is confident that as the church creates processes for discipling, God will bless them with more people. Then they can see even more lives intentionally transformed.
For more information visit their church website: http://www.elmcreekchurch.org/
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