Local Church Becomes Center of Hope and Fellowship

Nov 18, 2002 03:00 AM EST

PORT CLINTON, Ohio – As the members of Erie Shores Assembly of God was holding church, an F2 tornado ravaged through the resort town of 8,700, on November 10, causing massive blackouts, and leaving many homeless. Since then, the Erie Shores Assembly became the center of hope for the broken community.

Gary Jones, Erie Shores Senior Pastor commented, "Last year, we had 20-people on the ground in El Salvador within a month of the earthquakes first hitting there. It's my goal to see that everyone in our church [goes] on a missions trip. But this time, the missions trip is at our front door," asserting that the 223 member congregation had long since been prepared for this kind of ministry.

This goal was achieved as the members united to serve in the local "mission trip." The church supported hundreds, providing food and shelter to the needy, and giving words of hope to the broken.

"Our sanctuary has been turned into a dining area," Jones said. "We prepare and serve hundreds of meals every day--delivering some to other areas of the community and serving three meals a day in the church."

In particular, Jones complimented the female members who arrived early to prepare meals, serve them throughout the day, and stay late to clean up and prepare for the next day. "They're remarkable" he said. "Thy have jumped in full force."

Although the church has received some support from outside sources, Erie Shores has been the main provider of the food prepared and served.

"I found out that our church is the biggest food distribution center in the county right now," Jones said. "I'm going to contact Convoy of Hope to see if they can assist us."

In light of their services, the Erie Shores congregation grew in numbers, as people entered the sanctuary after dinner.

"We had an extended praise and worship time, followed by a time of testimonies," Jones said. After sharing a message from the Bible, Jones had an altar call. "People who had never been in the church before got saved," he said. "We even had some people asking if we were going to be having special music tomorrow [Thursday]--I guess we will!"

Along with food, the church is also providing shelter for those displaced by the storm.

"We had some people within our congregation sustain considerable damage to their homes, but no serious injuries," Jones said. "I've been told some parts of the city won't have power for another 4 to 10 days."

Jones and his congregation views the storm not as a disaster, but as an opportunity to help people in time of need, and as chance to present Christ to those in search for comfort and answers.

"As the service was going on Wednesday night, I saw a couple come in the back and I could see several of our people go to them and start praying with them," Jones said.

The ministry will continue to grow, as the church plans for future events.

"Every year we have a big Thanksgiving meal here at the church," Jones explained. "Everyone who has come to the church this week has received a handwritten invitation to come to that meal--we may have half the city here for Thanksgiving!"

By Pauline J.