Last month in “The Connection” we shared a story with you about Pastor Kelly answering The Call to Ministry. Kelly officially graduated from Winebrenner Seminary on August 5, 2017, in Findlay, Ohio.
A passion of both Kelly and his wife Kris has been to reach out to young people ages 18 to 30 who no longer, or maybe never have attended church, or had any desire to live a Christian life.
Their passion became their vision to: “Focus and outreach ministry to the young adults in the Newville and surrounding communities to get them more connected with Jesus Christ.” Kelly shared there are young adults who want to make a difference in this world, and what greater way to do that than to get them connected with the Lord and making a difference for Him. This passion and vision is what led to the beginning of “The Gathering”.
The challenge of reaching this target group of young adults was where and when to meet, since many have never stepped foot into a church building or left the traditional church for one reason or another. The first meeting of The Gathering took place in the Hall’s backyard on July 14th, 2014 with 9 in attendance. Since then the bi-weekly meetings soon grew to an average attendance of 30 to 40 young adults . . . which included many children, something Kelly and Kris didn’t think about. Not only did they have to minister to the adults, but they had to care for the children as well.
As the group expanded a new meeting place was needed and also help was needed to care for and teach the children Bible lessons as well. The Gathering began to meet in the local parks and then into the Newville Community Center. Both areas provided ample space for children and adults to meet.
At the first meeting of The Gathering, it was food and rock-n-roll music, which gradually led to Christian music, short devotions, then to longer Bible studies. The group was hungry to find hope and meaning to life and life problems. As Kelly and Kris built relationships with these individuals, Kelly also shared more each meeting about the love of Jesus. In the past 3 years, young adults have built many new friendships, some have turned away from drugs and alcohol, marriages have found healing, some are now attending our church and other churches in the communities, and most of all, they want to learn more about Jesus.
In their meetings, The Gathering group is learning how to live a Christian life. As they do, they are also learning the importance of reaching out to others through various outreach ministry events. At Christmas, they participated in Operation Christmas Child providing many shoebox gifts for needy children around the world. Locally they purchased food and gifts for needy families. This past year they sponsored the First Responders Appreciation Breakfast for local EMT’s, fire personnel, as well as local and state police officers. All those who attended the meal were very thankful for the delicious food and the care and support shown to them (they are looking forward to the next time!). Most recently, The Gathering sponsored a “free” ice cream night inviting anyone they could find on the streets of Newville to enjoy a Jaymee Lee’s ice cream cone. A great night in the community. There are many other great outreach events and stories of how this group is making a difference in the lives of people.
As Kelly focuses on teaching the adults, Kris is quite busy with the help of many helpers loving and teaching the children Bible lessons, crafts, and playing with them. The children are learning the importance of prayer and how to pray. Kelly (who all the kids call “pap-pap”) shared how amazing it is to hear some of the heart-felt prayers from these children as they joined the adults in praying over Prayer Blankets to give to people in need! The children just love to be involved and to learn about Jesus. One child often refers to The Gathering as “his church” . . . and that really is what it is . . . the coming together of adults and children learning how to worship Jesus!!!
The Gathering continues to grow! Last week there were five new adults and children who attended the meeting at the Township park for food, fellowship, softball, and to hear about Jesus. The past few years have seen over 100 adults and children at the annual Christmas party where every child heard about the birth of our Savior and then received gifts from Santa Clause.
The bi-weekly meetings have expanded as a group from The Gathering were looking to go deeper into God’s Word and last year they began to meet during our weekly Connection Groups here at the church.
As Kelly answered The Call to the Lord to enter ministry, he never imagined the blessing God would bring to him and Kris in this challenging, but highly rewarding ministry. Many wonderful friendships have been made, many blessings seen as relationships are being built with Jesus and people around them.
Kelly and Kris are so thankful for the great support and help from many families and friends who share the vision for The Gathering and supply the hands and the talents to make it a great success. They are truly thankful for our church in providing financial assistance to keep this ministry growing. Most of all, they are thankful for the prayers for the ministry and the families who attend.
As with any ministry, there are always challenges, so it is very important for us to keep Kelly and Kris in your daily prayers. Also pray for their personal family, and “The Gathering Family” as it continues to grow.
In closing, we are very thankful that Kelly answered The Call, and said, “here I am Lord, use/send me”! And that is what God did! What a blessing it has been not only to Pastor Kelly (and Kris), but to many people in our church and in Newville and beyond!
Do you hear God calling you? You don’t have to become a pastor to serve God. There are many things each person reading this story can do to grow God’s Kingdom here on earth. Maybe you are feeling God leading you to serve in The Gathering Ministry. If so, contact Pastor Kelly and Kris . . . they will be more than happy to have you be a part of this exciting outreach!!! You can reach them at 717-776-6036 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.