Churches reaching out to community

Twenty-one people travel with the Open Heart Assembly of God in Farmington in July on a 10-day trip to work in Plains, Montana. Members of the church learned about a soup kitchen and firewood ministry of a congregation there through a video produced by Convoy of Hope featuring the ministry. The Farmington congregation - along with nine other local churches - serve the community through Rural Compassion - a division of Convoy of Hope. On Sept. 16, video crews will come to Farmington documenting the work done here.

Doug Smith, Farmington Press

Melissa Davis says she knew there was a need in her community and she would be a part in filling that need…but was not quite sure what, or how.

Davis is the wife of Pastor Kevin Davis of the Open Heart Assembly of God in Farmington.

In 2013, the couple attended a training session for Rural Compassion - a ministry through Convoy of Hope to assist churches in rural communities with outreach.

“God kept speaking to us before we went to the training,” she said. “He kept speaking, ‘whatever I give into your hands, I want you to give out.’

“Before I went to the training, I didn’t know what it was all about…I just kept looking up to God in my spirit, pulling out my pocket with these tattered clothes – that’s how I felt anyway – and saying ‘I have nothing to give.’

“For six weeks (God) spoke that to me leading up the conference…I didn’t understand when He said ‘Give what I put in your hands.’ I didn’t have anything in my hands.”

Shortly after that training session, Davis and her family attended the Farmington Ministerial Alliance’s Community Thanksgiving Service at the Farmington Nazarene Church when Pastor Art Menard delivered a message heaven-sent for Davis.

“He said, ‘I know this is corny, but I really feel led for everyone to do this,” she said. “He said, ‘put your hands out in front of you and we’re going to see who’s got the whole world in his hands’…that was another (way) God was telling me he was going to put what was in my hands.”

Formerly known as First Assembly of God in Farmington, the church – along with nine other churches - are coming together for a day of celebrating making a difference in their community.

While the churches get together on a monthly basis – with the exception of July and December – Sept. 16 will mark a special celebration at the church.

How it all began

The training the couple attended in 2013 was designed to teach churches ways to reach out to the community. At that time, the church adopted Jefferson Elementary.

“We began to do that in November of 2013,” she said. “Within that year, we began having teachers from other schools come to us and say ‘Can you adopt us, too? We could really use some help.

“Over that year’s period of time, I had about five teachers from different schools asking me the same thing. I had one teacher come to me three times and she said ‘really, we need something’.”

Due to the results from the church’s participation, the couple were invited to speak during a Rural Compassion event in Washington, Missouri in 2015 about their work at the school – an event similar to the one they first attended when they found out about the ministry.

At that time, the two felt it would be beneficial to expand the ministry capability to multiple churches in the parkland.

The couple presented the program at one time to local ministers without much feedback. Then, one year later when asked back again, a majority of the churches at the meeting expressed an interest in the program.

In the spring of 2016, Open Heart – along with Covenant Bible Church, Memorial United Methodist Church, Nazarene Church, Christian Church, Solid Rock Fellowship, Farmington Presbyterian Church, Farmington Church of God, New Life Assembly and First Assembly of God in Park Hills – began offering services through Rural Compassion to other schools in the district, along with providing services to the Farmington Police Department and Farmington Fire Department.

A truck from the Ministerial Alliance makes the trip to Springfield each month for items to be distributed. And, Davis said, they never know what will come their way. One time, she said, it was stove-sized boxes filled with tuxedo shirts, ties and shoes.

“We’ve been getting quite a bit of food items like Little Debbie (snack cakes) and crackers,” she said. “We get a lot toiletries, sponges…you name it. We’ve gotten brand-new power washers before….school supplies.”

Items like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies are also available at the “teachers’ store” the church hosts – filling in the need for those teachers who spend thousands on their own for classrooms.

On Sept. 16, a truck from Convoy of Hope will deliver items at the event.

Davis said she’s noticed how the program has been able to grow from when it first began.

“(Contributions from) our church adds to (the teachers’ store) now,” she said.

Since other congregations came on board, schools adopted through the program include Jefferson Elementary, Washington-Franklin Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and W.L. Johns.

“There are some people who will go into a school that is not adopted,” she said.

The police and fire departments are also beneficiaries from this ministry.

Davis said the congregation is hosting the fourth annual cookout for those who serve the community on Sept. 11.

Products received through Convoy of Hope are handed out to local residential care facilities as well as other programs in the community.

“I could just go on and on,” Davis said of the programs reached through this ministry.

The Sept. 16 event is a time for the churches to come together and share a time of worship and stories of the difference this ministry has made in the community.

“That’s the purpose of this day – to have a reunion,” she said. “We are going to come together, share some of our stories, what we’re doing and how we’re reaching people…a reunion to share those stories.”

Officials with Convoy of Hope made the decision to visit Farmington when word of the growth of the ministry got back to officials in Springfield.

Spending the day in Farmington will be a camera crew, documenting what the local congregations have done. Davis admits thinking of a video shoot is “outside of my comfort zone”…but she knows the impact such a video will make.

“Once that story gets out, it is going to be worldwide,” she said. “That story will go out worldwide and, I believe that we will have teams of people wanting to come to Farmington to do outreach.

“I fully believe that, within the next year or so, we’ll have people coming to Farmington to say, ‘we want to help your town’.”

Davis is positive of that. This summer, 21 individuals traveled to Montana to assist a church making an impact in their community – a ministry they were made aware of through a video like the one to be made here later this month.

“(Members of the church) are the sole provider of the firewood for any single moms and all widows,” she said. “They also have the biggest soup kitchen in the county, food pantry. We went in there to help put in a new soup kitchen floor, help cut wood and many other things.”

Davis said the ministry being done is not about drawing people to their congregation, but more about showing love.

“And, hoping at some point, they will see that love and want that love,” she said. “It’s not about a handout. It’s about showing the love of Christ.”

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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