The Story is Changing: Grant Gives Mississippi Ministry Boost
By Brian Ramsey
In the spring of 2020, during the early onslaught of COVID-19, the Church of God boldly made purposeful intentions to “change the story” that was unfolding. During perilous times, it is certainly normal for the focus to remain on the lead story of the news cycles, but the truth is that there were many other connected and already existing needs needing some ministry attention. Having formed the Change the Story initiative, Church of God Ministries empowered churches and their congregations to meet these critical needs and impact their communities for the glory of God.
Across the nation, in Barryton, Michigan; rural Kentucky; Queens, New York; and other places, churches rose to the call of battle to meet the needs of various age groups and situations. Children and seniors alike found congregations who were being the feet of Jesus by having compassion on them and actually giving them a much-needed resource to change their world. It is amazing how those opportunities can lead to the most important need—Jesus Christ.
One such church, Armstrong Street Church of God, is located in Batesville, Mississippi, and led by Pastor Terry Townsend. When Pastor Townsend formerly coached baseball, he saw the need for a program that would help the youth in the community. He launched a mentoring program from the church to help reach young people inside and outside. Though the ministry was moving, progress was slow—that is, until the grant from Church of God Ministries infused life and resources into it. The mentoring group has doubled since the initiative has come, and Pastor Terry has had a front-row seat to see how the church has “changed the story.”
The mentoring program focuses on after-school initiatives, such as snacks, tutoring, and overall providing a safe place for children to come and receive help. In addition, Armstrong Street has been able to deliver 200 backpacks to the children of three elementary schools in the area (two in town, and one rural). The community has noticed, and several other churches are now making plans to join the efforts of Armstrong Street Church of God to further expand the mentoring impact.
“I really appreciated the opportunity for our church to become more visible to the community, and many partnerships have now been created that may not have taken place before. I am a part of only a few Church of God pastors in the area, so it was nice for other churches and people to see what we stand for and that we truly care for others,” explains Townsend.
Like many churches, Pastor Terry had to hold services outside until the weather became harsh in December. The initiative helped people to understand that, though the building was somewhat closed, the church’s resolve to keep ministering to others would never cease. The church’s visibility in the community grew, and the congregation was inspired by the results—so much so that even the regular giving saw a significant increase. It is one thing to talk about impacting others, but when it happens, people begin to share the excitement with their time, talents, and resources.
Armstrong Street had planned a block party, and they were excited about spending time with the community when they received the news that Pastor Terry had tested positive for COVID-19. After a five-day hospital stay, Townsend turned a corner and has recovered now. The church plans to hold the party this coming May or June instead. Despite the tragic loss of his own brother to the virus, Pastor Terry does not cease in his labors to identify and meet the needs of his church and those who live close by. “The church must rise above the circumstances and reach beyond the four walls to people who are hurting,” notes Townsend.
An agenda item for the upcoming budget meeting for Armstrong Street will certainly be the idea of increasing the funds for the mentoring program based upon the results of this past year. Change the Story has infused some lasting energy in the church and others in the community so that they are able to build upon this foundational success and then replicate it this coming year.
“I am so thankful for the many who gave to this initiative. I hope they understand how those sacrificial gifts not only allowed us to minister to people but also helped our church to expand its vision of making a difference in Batesville, Mississippi!” says Pastor Terry Townsend.
Armstrong Street Church of God is one of several congregations to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of recent crises:
Dr. Brian Ramsey resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife of thirty-six years, Tammy, who has taught as a Kindergarten teacher at Liberty Christian School in Anderson for over twenty-five years. He has two married children and four grandchildren—all girls, and their wishes have absolutely no extra control over him. He currently works with his son who owns a magazine, and he writes for various entities. He is very involved in his church in the Soul Care Ministry, and he loves to read, watch and play sports, and teach college classes.
*Feature (top) photo: Pastor Terry (left) at a local school, delivering backpacks.