Establishing Roots and Relationships
2011 was a pivotal year for our growth alongside our brothers and sisters in Allendale County. Grace members Joey and Joanna Espinosa, along with their three children, moved to Allendale and lived there for three years. God laid it on their hearts to work, worship, serve, and do life in Allendale, and he certainly prepared a way for them by providing Joey with a job through the Boys and Girls Club. Their presence in Allendale provided a vital connection for Grace Church to build relationships and establish credibility with the people and churches in the area.
When reflecting on the time their family spent there, Joey had this to say:
"In some ways living there seemed like something big, but it was just a step—just a part of how God has worked in our lives. And it wasn't just about us; so many people supported us and gave us this opportunity. The elders from Grace Church gave us a shot, and people in Allendale trusted us and gave us a shot. It was our adventure, but it is God's story. People used to ask us if Grace Church would still be involved after we moved away. We would answer that Grace Church was involved in Allendale before the Espinosas lived there, and Grace Church will be involved long after the Espinosas move. Even more, God was at work in Allendale long before Grace Church, and He'll be involved long after Grace Church ceases to exist. It was a blessing to have been a small part of what God has been doing in Allendale, and to stay connected to ministry there."
God is sovereign
Through our work in Allendale, God has shown us time and again that his plans are better and greater than our own plans. He uses broken people and seemingly broken circumstances to draw others to trust him more, from both Greenville and Allendale. Through the years of taking small steps and pivoting where needed, we’ve seen how the Lord has been faithful to guide us through his Holy Spirit, giving us the grace to see where he is moving and sometimes providing something different than what we asked for but exactly what was needed. As the ministry has grown, we’ve seen God provide more than we could ask for or imagine in this community.
God is faithful
Isaiah 62:2-4 says “And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth. The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see— a splendid crown in the hand of God. Never again will you be called ‘The Forsaken City’ or ‘The Desolate Land.’ Your new name will be ‘The City of God’s Delight’ and ‘The Bride of God,’ for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.”
If you listen to news broadcasts or read the statistics, you often hear the world describe Allendale County as a town that is forgotten about, a place left behind as history moved forward. However, as I’ve served in the community over the course of five years, I have become more and more confident that the worldly perception is not the spiritual reality. As I see college students give up their summer to serve at Camp Impact, as I eat dinner with the Espinosas and hear how they watched God move during their time living in the community, and as I serve alongside young adults who give up their Saturdays to serve on 15-hour day trips to Allendale in order to bring Men’s Roundtable and Ezer to middle and high school students, I am hard pressed to believe that Allendale County is a forsaken place.
I’ve watched campers get baptized, Junior Staff members graduate from Camp Impact to lead and serve their own community, and Forge students encourage each other during the hard moments of sacrifice on short-term trips. If there’s anything I am convinced of as a result of my time in Allendale, it is that God is our LIVING hope, active and moving and reconciling his people back to himself, all the while inviting broken people like me into the mission of redemption. Great is his faithfulness!