The Far-Reaching Power of a Country Church
In our most recent issue of Country Matters, we shared about the effect of two Vacation Bible School programs held in our Village Missions churches this summer. Here, we share how the youth of Pine Valley Community Church are demonstrating the far-reaching power of a country church as they as they minister to the rural community of Colorado City. Jump in and check it out!
If you cannot access the Country Matters digital edition above, you can find a basic version below.
Shadows danced across the community basketball court as van headlights shone on the teenagers. There were more shadows than usual tonight, as the local boys shot hoops with some strangers from California. The visitors were fun, laid-back and played a good game of basketball. Most intriguing of all, they claimed to have a personal relationship with a loving God.
Pine Valley Community Church in California reached out to Village Missions in 1977. The church was made up of just a few families and needed leadership.
Upon receiving its first Village Missionaries, the church doubled in size, and within three years, attendance grew into the 70s. Over the years, the church continued to grow, now reaching into the 200s with current Village Missionaries Noble and Megan Weeks. The church became self-supporting and began to give support back to Village Missions in order to help other churches.
Out of this wonderful time of growth emerged a vibrant youth group as well, led by Youth Pastor Jeff Clabaugh.
A New Missions Trip
Jeff has led these youths on many missions’ trips over the years, but Colorado City has proven to be the most memorable. Largely controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), Colorado City, Arizona, is widely known as an oppressive place of polygamy, sexual predators and abusive church leaders.
Many parents of the Pine Valley youth group were well aware of the spiritual darkness surrounding Colorado City, but still they all felt it was exactly where their youths needed to be! After all, like their own little community, Colorado City was a forgotten mission field in America.
Mentored by a local missionary couple, the group was instructed to be very cautious in their first year. Instead of hosting a normal sports camp with music, sports and Bible time, the couple recommended eliminating both the music and the Bible.
Being raised in an extremely authoritative and oppressive religion, the people of Colorado City were very wary of “new religions.”
By simply playing sports and loving teenagers who had never experienced true love, these boys and girls from Pine Valley began to build trust and speak the same language – sports.
Former Pine Valley Village Missionary and current District Representative Joe Murrell was excited about this approach to ministry.
Through sports, the Pine Valley youth group was able to build trust so quickly that an official Bible time wasn’t necessary. Local youths began asking questions on their own about this strange relationship with Jesus Christ.
Continuing in Ministry
After a successful first trip, the Pine Valley youth would return to Colorado City twice more, each time building more trust and even adding music and Bible to the official program. Students were also able to share their testimonies in front of everyone.
Because of the work in Colorado City, many have left their formal cult and surrendered their lives to Christ. Entire families have escaped the clutches of oppressive leaders and excommunicated children have found new homes. Many of the youth still keep in contact with the teenagers from Pine Valley, who still pour into their lives through emails and phone calls.
Three sports camps didn’t just impact the people of Colorado City, however, it changed the entire Pine Valley youth group.
Many of these students have gone on to work in ministry. Some run ministries at church in Pine Valley, while others serve in Christian colleges, nonprofit ministries and sports ministry. Youth have gone from Chicago to Malaysia sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
There is even one couple planning to minister in Colorado City full-time!
With all the wonderful things happening in the Pine Valley Church, it’s amazing to look back and see how it all began. How was it that a group of teenagers found themselves playing basketball with complete strangers in Colorado City?
This is the power of a country church.
It began with one little church. Actually, it began with someone like you.
Village Missions is dedicated to keeping country churches alive, but that means much more than just being open every Sunday morning. When you support Village Missions, you help country churches begin to thrive–sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their own communities and to the other unremembered places around the world.