BY TIM WARD
Pennsylvania Avenue Free Methodist Church, Ottumwa Iowa
No, that’s not the title of a new horror movie; it is ministry in action! It is how the body of Christ, the followers of Jesus, responds to a community’s need. It also is evidence of the fact that worship is not about music or sermons; worship is glorifying God and honoring Christ.
On Saturday afternoon, June 16, the Ottumwa area of southwest Iowa was pounded by an unexpected and ferocious storm packing torrential rainfall and straight-line winds of more than 70 miles per hour. Several hundred trees were either split and broken over or completely uprooted. Some of the uprooted trees were more than six feet in diameter. Much property loss was sustained, but with thanksgiving, there was no loss of life. Two motor homes at the city park were blown over, and there were reports of tractor trailers blown off the highways nearby. Power was out for about three-fourths of the people and businesses in Wapello County.
On Sunday morning, in response to the need in the community and even though power had been restored to the church facility, Pennsylvania Avenue Free Methodist Church canceled its worship service and asked its congregation to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The pastor invited members to join him in worshiping the Lord by helping their neighbors in need. Several people joined together with chain saws, rakes and encouraging words as removed community trees and debris that was potentially causing harm. Several others went to their own neighbors and through their own neighborhoods assisting in any way they could. As the crews were working, one of the congregation members said, “I think this is what Jesus would have done.
As we drove through the area after the storm, we marveled at the many near-misses where lives could have been destroyed or property more severely damaged. We saw several places, including the home of one of our parishioners, where trees were uprooted and fell right alongside homes and vehicles, and in places where people had been standing just moments before.
A friend of mine who does not attend church yet but is searching for meaning in his life was camping in the city park with his girlfriend when the storm approached. Sitting at the kitchen table of their travel trailer, he heard someone pounding on the door by the kitchen. He answered the door, but no one was there. A few seconds later, he heard someone pounding on the back door at the other end of the trailer. He answered it, but no one was there or in the vicinity of the trailer. He looked up, saw a tree coming down, and yelled out to his girlfriend to move. She dove out of the way just as the tree came crashing down through the kitchen end of the trailer, exploding the cabinets and table. She received bruises and some cuts from the debris, but could have been crushed. My friend admitted that it he thinks the pounding on the door was an angel of the Lord giving them warning. Praise the Lord for His presence and protection! I think God is trying to do some work in his life, and in the lives of those who live in the southwest area of Iowa.
The people of the Pennsylvania Avenue Free Methodist Church want desperately to be a people who are going where God is working and who are being the hands and feet of Jesus, serving a world that desperately needs Christ. Yes, this is what Jesus would do.