Spirit of Service: WV Church on Mission to Love Others
By Emily Kearney
This past Christmas was stuffed to the brim with blessings, thanks to New Beginnings Church of God in Kenova, West Virginia. Their outreach effort, which they called “Stuff a Bus,” was an idea that the church had as a way to help low-income families and those affected by job loss from COVID-19.
Toys were donated by church members, along with local community partners. A local restaurant also donated turkeys for Christmas dinners. The whole event was led by Pastor Bob and his wife Romy Ingels, their outreach team, and the #LoveKenova food pantry.
The heart of the outreach, according to Bob, was all about blessing local children. “We, as a church, believe in loving others as one of our core values, so we look for ways to show our community we love them and want to help them thrive,” he explains.
The original plan was to open a shop downtown, collect gifts, wrap them as a community, and then distribute them from a bus. Sadly, that was not possible last year with the virus, but the church was still able to organize everything in their fellowship hall and set times for families to pick up their gifts while being socially distanced. The outreach took place on Saturday, December 19, from 10:00 in the morning until noon. Even with the change in plans, “Stuff a Bus” was a big hit: “To see the joy come over families as they received the toys and turkey made it totally worth it,” Bob says.
Even though New Beginnings is a relatively young church (only three years old), they strive to embody the spirit of service that used to thrive in Kenova. “There once was [another church] here,” Bob explains, “but it closed ten years ago. In the church’s history, they were known for doing things to bless the community. We are trying to restore that and once again connect the Church of God to the city we minister to.”
The “Stuff a Bus” outreach is not the first time New Beginnings has stepped out in service to the community. Food insecurity is a major struggle for many families in the area, so the church started a food pantry by partnering with Feeding America. Thankfully the food pantry was able to stay open during the shutdown, and they were even able to help families pay their rent and bills through a partnership with United Way and with some grant money. For New Beginnings, outreach is more than just giving things away—they want to provide something meaningful that gives people a sense of pride.
The next Christmas season may feel like a long way off, yet “Stuff a Bus” is a simple but beautiful outreach that even more churches could plan ahead to meet the unique needs of their own communities. Bob breaks down the outreach in a few easy steps: “You collect toys for a few months before Christmas and look for community partnerships. If you don’t know the hurting families in your community, ask your local school to connect you to some. It’s all about making the decision to do something to be the church in your community.”
Let’s take advantage of the chances we get to step outside the walls of our church buildings, whatever that looks like in 2021!
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of recent crises:
Emily Kearney is an Anderson University alumna who grew up in the Dayspring Church of God (Cincinnati, Ohio). Today the former Church of God Ministries communication intern is a middle school English teacher at Cincinnati Christian Schools. Along with teaching and writing, she loves to spend time with her husband Derek.