Following His lead: Minnesota church brings family to faith through community outreach

Fergus Falls, Minnesota

People stand in line to receive grocery shares during Fergus Falls Church of the Nazarene's first Ruby's Pantry initiative in October.

Fergus Falls Church of the Nazarene in Minnesota has always been active in its community, but in November when church leaders asked the congregation to give sacrificially for several community projects, the response went above and beyond all expectations. 

“We are very community-minded and are passionate about the people of Fergus Falls,” said Clay Mitchell, Fergus Falls senior pastor. “We simply want to serve our city because we love our city.”

At the close of a stewardship sermon series, the leadership team set a goal of raising $15,000 to meet three specific needs in the community.

“The first need we felt led to meet was to provide snow gear for every elementary school classroom in Fergus Falls,” Mitchell said. “This is Minnesota, and we have outdoor recess as long as it is warmer than -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Many students simply don’t have the proper winter gear to be outside and play in the snow, [so] we asked for $100 per classroom for a total of $5,000.”

The next project involved Ruby’s Pantry — a faith-based food pantry that serves Minnesota and Wisconsin. On the first Monday of the month, the church acts as a food distribution center where people can pay $20 to receive $120 worth of groceries for the month. There are no income or resident limitations to receive groceries through this ministry.

“The second need was to provide all of the December Ruby’s Pantry shares at no cost to the clients for Christmas,” Mitchell said. “We offer 400 shares, so we asked for $8,000.” 

The third community project was to rebuild the church’s benevolence fund.

“Our third need was for $2,000 to replenish our Community Care Fund, which we use regularly to help with rent, utility payments, car repairs, family crisis needs, etc.,” Mitchell said.

The congregation was so inspired by the goal that they raised nearly three times the $15,000 goal.

“Long story short, our congregation ultimately raised $41,000,” Mitchell said. “[Because of this,] we were able to meet a number of other needs as well. We donated funds to our local Christian crisis pregnancy center, two medical sites in Haiti that we helped establish and serve over the course of several mission trips, and we were able to bless our youth pastor, Joe Hauer, with an injection of start-up money for a church plant he began this January in South Dakota.”

The remaining balance of the donation was gifted to Ruby’s Pantry to fund shares in future months or to pay for any necessary equipment. 

Of the families and individuals the church blessed through Ruby’s Pantry, one couple stands out to Mitchell.

“One particular man, Philip, came to Ruby’s Pantry that night because a coworker [who is] a member of the church invited him to participate,” Mitchell said. “Philip and his wife accepted our invitation to attend our Christmas Eve service. They were blown away by the kindness and love of the people of our church. His wife wasn’t certain she wanted to return ‘because everyone is so nice! I’m not used to that!’ It was her idea to come to church the following Sunday to see what we were all about.”

Philip and his wife began attending every Sunday after that, and on 20 January, the church gave an invitation for people to receive Christ and surrender their lives to Him. 

“Philip said ‘Yes’ to Jesus,” Mitchell said. “We have no idea how God will continue to use this, but it continues to amaze me that He can and will do more than we ever ask or imagine when we open-handedly and open-heartedly follow His lead.”

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