This has been the hardest season I’ve ever pastored through.
In so many ways, it has felt like a wilderness season. Even during moments of rest, the realities of the last year weigh heavy. And we are forced to face the reality that there’s no place called “away.” We can’t get away from the pain of this year. We can’t get away from the feelings of our hearts.
In hard seasons, it’s easy to miss God’s goodness and the ways His mission is still moving forward. This is one of the reasons I believe stories matter. Sharing stories and hearing stories of how God is at work is a powerful way to connect our hearts to God and one another, to be encouraged, and to remember to hold fast to the hope we have in Christ.
Today I want to share with you a few stories of how God is working through Send Relief and Send Network. My prayer is that as you read and hear of God’s work across North America you will be encouraged to press on in the work He has called you to do.
1. Church planting among predominately Hispanic and Navajo residents
Josh Valdez, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter of Navajo and Hispanic descent, finished his seminary degree and went home to Farmington, New Mexico, to do gospel-centered work in his hometown. He pastors in a context where there is intense spiritual and emotional darkness as feelings of despair, worthlessness, and hopelessness run rampant—particularly with the teenagers. One of the ways he is living out his call is through working at a local high school. Through his work, he’s seeing more and more high school students warm up to him and be compelled by the good and beautiful God he serves.
2. Foster child reunites with family with help from Send Relief
Jay Watkins, the director of the Send Relief ministry center in Valdosta, Georgia, runs a family mentorship program that empowers parents with tools to reunite with their child (or children) in foster care. They recently witnessed a mother and father successfully reunite with their son after a year and a half in foster care.
“Teaching a parent how to parent breaks generational cycles of abuse and transforms lives,” Watkins said. “Jesus really can change hearts and, because of the gospel, we are seeing kids get to go home.”
3. Maryland church revitalizes, grows more than 1,200% in three months
Pastor Colin Pugh became the senior pastor of Clinton Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland, when the historically African American church had dwindled to just nine members. In three months, they went from nine faithful members to 60 and began averaging around 130 regular attenders each week. This revitalized church has found so many creative ways to serve their community and reach their neighbors with the gospel.
4. Montreal church sets up food bank in food-insecure neighborhood
Renaissance Church in Montreal, Québec, began a movement to help meet the food insecurity need in their neighborhood—a neighborhood that’s officially registered as a food desert and has one of the highest concentrations of government housing in North America. They brought different community members and organizations together to maximize their efforts in creating a monthly food bank that feeds hundreds.
“It’s been great to see that our partners and neighbors trust us now,” said lead pastor James Copeland. “The most exciting part for me was getting to meet a practical need like hunger and also have deep conversations and relationships sprout from this. The community knows now that we are not here to take, but to give and to invest in them.”
These stories are just a few examples of how God is working. I challenge you to look closely at your cities, neighborhoods, and churches and be encouraged by the ways He’s continuing to redeem and restore people and communities.
God’s goodness and work are all around us. And while we can’t get away from the pain and struggles we face, we serve a God who is with us in the struggle. And despite the challenges of the last year, He’s still moving right here in North America.