Read an article from the New Faith Communities latest newsletter. This third edition highlighted the M3 planting method with the Bladen Charge.
A Holy Mess
Written by Rev. Brock Meyer
If North Carolina has a Nazareth, it would be a place like Bladen County. Bladen County is a sparsely populated rural county, just east of Fayetteville. Large fields and huge expanses of wooded areas sprawl across the landscape. Nestled in the heart of northern Bladen County is the Bladen Charge of the United Methodist Church, a thriving three-point charge. The Bladen Charge has experienced powerful seasons of spiritual awakening, renewal, and revival. Over the last two decades, “The Charge” has grown to have an average worship attendance nearing 225 with missions and ministries that are diverse in outreach and expression. However, in the recent months a new mission and ministry emerged that has pushed the envelope, causing a beautiful and powerful holy mess!
Back in January, the people at Bethlehem UMC (one of the churches on the charge) met together and prayed for a “movement of God” to take place. With passion and energy, that vision of having a movement of the Holy Spirit was discerned and our hearts were burdened for the needs of the children in our community. We prayed about starting a van ministry and started to make plans to begin the ministry in the coming months. We got excited about what the plans would look like and then when the meeting was over, we all went home. I am not sure that we really expected our prayers to be answered. Two weeks later, three children from the community showed up at church on a Wednesday night. The children wanted to take part in the activities of the church and their mother asked if we could give them a ride home. That is how the van ministry began.
The following week, the van ministry awakened us to a movement of God that we did not expect to see. In praying for a movement of God, we did not anticipate the ways that our eyes would be opened to see glimpses of the world in the way that God sees the world. We did not anticipate that our hearts would break over things that pain the heart of God. It happened when we were having our monthly Wednesday night potluck. We sent the van out, and it returned for the meal with about six children and youth. We had a prayer time together and we helped each child through the line. Our hearts were broken as we witnessed the children fill, and eat, three and four plates of food. Tears filled our eyes as we realized that the children were hungry.
Bladen County is a county of high levels of poverty and hunger. The public schools receive federal funding and every student receives free lunch and breakfast. There are only a few grocery stores located throughout the county, which leaves large expanses of areas without a nearby place to buy groceries. These are dynamics of our county that we never talked about at Bethlehem until we met starving children. A few of the key leaders met together immediately following the meal that Wednesday night, and we prayed and discerned that God was calling us to have meals with the children. That night we formed groups and made lists of volunteers so that we could have breakfast every Sunday morning and dinner every Wednesday night.
Over the last couple of months, we have been eating meals with hungry children and youth from our community. The van travels into mobile home parks in areas that are forgotten about, and the ministry has grown. Nearly every time the van goes out it is quickly filled. Sometimes we have to make more than one trip to accommodate everyone. In our efforts to feed physical hunger we have learned that perhaps the thing that our neighbors are most hungry for is relationship. In our times of eating meals with the children, we have formed relationships with them. We know all of them by name, and each child and youth has an adult mentor that they sit with frequently. In the times of joining together in relationship we have learned many things. We have learned about the toxic stress that the children and families live under. There have been times of praying, in which the prayers lifted by the children were so powerful that by the end of the prayer everyone was on their knees. We have prayed for healing for a parent that is very sick with cancer. We have prayed for food and for God to feed our souls. We have even prayed for salvation as one of the children first learned that God loved them.
As I think about the power of this movement of God, I am starting to learn that perhaps God gave us his children of the community to awaken the church. If there was ever any ounce of spiritual apathy in my soul, I know that it is washed away when we get on our knees and the children lead us in prayer. We have had a holy mess. Sometimes the children run down the aisles and even jump over the altar rail. Sometimes pieces of paper fly across the sanctuary during worship. There are times when our plans get interrupted, and adults get disgruntled. Sometimes we are in deep water of dealing with things like racism that we didn’t know we had within us. But in the holy mess, God is changing our hearts. As the scripture says, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’? (Matthew 21:16)”
For more information, you can contact Rev. Brock Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the Bladen Charge website.