If you cannot view “When Hope Seemed Lost: An Answer for Rural Communities” you can read the article below.
Challenges Faced by Rural Communities
The teenage girl needed counseling. As she escaped deeper and deeper into herself, she came to a point where she could barely converse with her teachers. Unfortunately, tiny towns like Ewan, Michigan (population 601) don’t have school counselors. Sitting in Upper Peninsula of Michigan, three hours from the closest large city, the small school didn’t have any options.
In an isolated town, far from any place you will probably ever visit, all hope seemed lost for this teenage girl.
But her story was just beginning.
Hearing about the need for a counselor, local Village Missionaries Steve and Grace Washburn offered to meet with any students who needed guidance. That’s when they met the struggling teenager.
At first, she was quiet. All Steve and Grace could do was encourage and pray for her. But as she began to realize that this pastor couple cared for her, she began to open up to them. By the time the next school year rolled around, the Washburns learned the girl was fine.
“I figured she’d graduate and we’d never see her again,” said Steve.
But six months ago, that teenager walked into the small country church in Bruce Crossing and has been attending ever since. God’s timing is often different than what we would like, but His timing is also perfect.
That has been the case for many aspects of their ministry.
Village Missionaries Are an Answer for Rural Communities
When the town of Bruce Crossing couldn’t find anyone to coach the minor or major league community baseball teams, Steve agreed to coach both. As a staple activity for community kids each summer, parents were very grateful.
Steve and Grace were so excited by the relationships built with families that they decided to approach their first attempt at a VBS program from a different angle. They created an “Adventure Camp” that wove the love for the outdoors already in the Upper Peninsula with the gospel message, specifically geared toward unchurched kids.
The turnout was small, yet two of the kids who showed up were from the baseball team. Having never been to church before, they were able to hear the gospel presented clearly for the first time in their lives.
The list of opportunities to reach the community goes on and on.
In 2017 alone, Steve led over 10 funerals for church members, an unborn child, community members and even a suicide victim.
“I’m getting more and more phone calls from non-churched people, because I’m one of the few pastors full-time in this area and the only pastor that only has one church. It’s the hardest ministry I’ve ever done, but it gives me the opportunity to deeply help someone in the midst of their hurt.”
Steve also presents the gospel through his biweekly column which arrives in every mailbox in the area. He is even a substitute player on the local golf league. Grace helps host a ladies’ luncheon every year, reaching unchurched women from the area. These are in addition to teaching, mentoring, and preaching as a Village Missionary pastor.
“It’s been tough going,” Steve said. “This is hard, difficult soil. Our church is only 12 years old, so we’re still making a name for ourselves in the community. It’s a slow process, but it is really working. People are beginning to feel they can trust us to handle significant issues.”
Patience: Vital in Rural Communities
In rural communities like Bruce Crossing, the fruit from labor doesn’t appear overnight. It takes time, energy and patience. And those things are only possible with full-time spiritual leadership.
Village Missionaries not only pastor the local church, but they are also missionaries to the entire community or area. They can only have such a vital ministry because partners enable Village Missions to help with salary at a church that can’t fully support their pastor. They are an answer for rural communities.
“If there wasn’t a full-time pastor here, this community would be without a shepherd that could drop everything and be there when they needed. This last year, there may have been no little league. If I had to work a second job, I wouldn’t have time to counsel kids, and I definitely wouldn’t have time for non-church folk’s funerals.”
You may never find yourself in Bruce Crossing. The nearest Walmart or McDonalds is an hour away, Starbucks is two hours away, and a major shopping mall will take three hours to find. Yet, Steve and Grace answered God’s call to reach the people of this little town with the gospel of Jesus.
Stories like this one are only possible because of the generosity of thousands of people across North America. When you give to Village Missions, you help:
- Supplement salary and health benefits small churches cannot afford
- Recruit and send out Village Missionaries
- Keep country churches alive
- Transform lives through rural North America
Would you partner with us today, and help missionaries like Steve and Grace reach the unremembered places of rural North America?