(Honestly, I tried to have a “Top Ten” blessing list, but I couldn’t cut out any of these happenings, so you get a top eleven blessings that I am counting in the pandemic this thanksgiving season.)
11. Picking the locations for two billboards in the upcoming Christmas season proclaiming the message of John 1:14. Billboard #1 (at Bristol Road): The Word became Flesh… (with a nativity scene pictured), and Billboard #2 (between Hill and Fenton Roads): …and moved into the neighborhood (with some iconic Flint pictures). Look for the billboards on Southbound I-75 beginning on Sunday, November 29.
10. The 2020 High School graduates paid a price for graduating in the Covid year. A lot of wonderful things were cancelled, but our church had a long car train that delivered a bag of goodies to our grads and a yard sign for their front yard to say, “Congratulations.”
9. The new sound system in the sanctuary. Last week, was its inauguration. Four words to describe it: Wow! Wow! Double Wow!!! But even better than the new speakers, cameras and projectors is our team of faithful volunteers and their great leader, Jordan Loudermilk. Usually the tech people only getting noticed if something goes wrong, but 99% of the time everything goes great and it’s because of their diligence to excellence!
8. Partnering with Flint Township. During our divisive national election, Central Church provided gift bags to the poll workers in our building and bottled waters and pre-packaged snacks to voters. We were thanking everyone for participating in the voting process. We love our neighbors!
Central Church is also teaming with Flint Township and the Meijer corporation hosting a Free Flu Vaccine clinic. (Happening TODAY, November 19 from 2PM to 6PM). We want our neighbors healthy!
7. Scholarships to Olivet Nazarene University! We loved having Arlene Chenoweth in service as we announced the newest Chenoweth Scholarships. This scholarship fund, which began with an initial investment of $165,00, has given out over 200 scholarships, with more than $200,000 awarded, and (here’ the cool part) there is even more money in that fund ($191,305.91) than when we started! Wow! This summer, we also established the Marilyn Faris Scholarship. Education major, Kelli Randazzo was the very first recipient.
6. Missions. Missions. Missions. When the Covid shut-downs started in the spring, Central Church’s medical missions team was in Panama. The Panamanian government also was shutting down and cancelled our last remote clinic day. What did the team do? They held a medical clinic for the hotel workers where teams have stayed in nearly all of the trips. What wonderful servants of the Lord! Also during the pandemic we gave $10,000 to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries following the devastating Beirut, Lebanon explosion to rebuild some Christian schools.
5. Wonderful unity in the pastoral staff and church board! Our pastors have made thousands and thousands of contacts during the pandemic. Twice a month they’ve attempted to contact every family that attended (signed in) last year at least three times. They’ve have all worked incredibly hard in trying circumstances. When the District cancelled its pastors retreat, we had our own in Traverse City. Dr. Dan Gildner (Jon’s brother) led us and it was rich and wonderful! Just before Covid shut down the world, Pastors Jon Gildner and Tyler Sauer, added the title “Executive Pastor” to their job description. They are terrific and lead our staff well!
Honestly, our pastors wouldn’t be half as good without our assistants in the office. They are terrific too! (No, my assistant Deb LaVictoire did NOT edit this list and add the previous sentence, I, Rob Prince wrote it with my own hand, read on…) Speaking of awesome, the Central Church Board led by board secretary, Mr. Larry Weber and church treasurer, Dean Weir, is a wonderful group of people. Every one loves Jesus, loves Central Church and are extremely supportive of the pastoral team during this very strange year.
4. Food Distribution every Tuesday and Friday helping hundreds of local families. Central Church has distributed (hold on to your hat) over 600,000 pounds of food in five months! There are nine such pods in Flint, but Central Church has disseminated 33% of the food. WOW!
3. Our facility crew for keeping our building clean and virus free (as much as we are aware, we have not had a single case of Covid from anyone in the building). Facility crew = heroes!
2. Eliminating over 9 million dollars in medical debt for 7,200 families in 9 counties in southeastern Michigan! The best way to be Jesus in a pandemic? Help eliminating crushing medical debt for thousands of people! This will go down as one of the most exciting things that any church I have pastored has accomplished.
1. The many people who have found Jesus and/or have moved forward in their relationship with the Lord during this time. People finding Jesus is always #1. It’s why our church exits!
Central Church is blessed. I am blessed to be the pastor of this wonderful church. As I begin my eighth year of ministry, I have a lot for which to be thankful, even through a pandemic!