Missions Conference impacts the Charlotte communityby Marty Simpkins
During the 2014 North Carolina Missions Conference, held at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., those in attendance participated in breakout sessions that gave them hands-on opportunities to engage in missions efforts throughout the surrounding community. These efforts were a new addition to the annual Missions Conference. The Missions Conference participants took part in some of the local ministries of the host church.
George Nervegna organizes a food pantry located on Hickory Grove Baptist Church’s main campus. Nervegna is the music director for the Latin American services at the North Campus of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, and he is the one who organizes this ministry. This ministry feeds about 80 families per week. Volunteers participate by sorting, storing and distributing food to needy people from the community who come to the church for assistance.
“We have been serving the community for 15 years, but now it is massive,” Nervegna said. “It is growing every day. For example, last month we were able to feed 85 families in one week. At the end of the month, these families come in and get the food they need after their food stamps and welfare run out.”
Through its partnership with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Hickory Grove Baptist Church Food Pantry has been able to provide food for the people in its community who need it.
Another opportunity for ministry that the breakout sessions provided was the Clothes Closet Ministry. Melissa Guinn leads this ministry. Not only is she the Clothes Closet coordinator, but she has also been a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church for 20 years. She felt led to begin this ministry through an experience in her own home.
“One night I was cleaning out my daughter’s closet and sorting through her old clothes, and I prayed about it and literally felt the Lord telling me that there is going to be a clothing ministry,” Guinn said. “So I came to the church, and I met with the missions people and told them that this is something that God has put on my heart, and I wanted to be obedient to what God was telling me.”
Clothes Closet has served 1,140 families since 2012.
“Now that we know how the system works, it’s been a good opportunity for us,” Guinn said. “We hope to not only impact the community but also encourage the local churches to go back home and do something similar.”
Missions Conference participants also participated in a session related to the efforts of Hickory Grove Baptist Church at the nearby Hickory Grove Elementary School. Mike Williams has been the children’s associate pastor for Hickory Grove Baptist Church for the past three years. During that time, he’s been leading the project at Hickory Grove Elementary School. This effort impacts the 1,300 students as well as their parents and the school staff through different types of service ministries.
“We use the school to strategically reach out to the families in the local community,” Williams said. “Our vision as a church is to reach out with the gospel and to reach the staff, the parents and the students here. The more we interact with them, the more opportunities there are for building relationships and to share the gospel both verbally and physically.”
Members of Hickory Grove Baptist Church have developed efforts to minister to the school on the school’s campus instead of requiring individuals to come to the church. In this way, the church has been able to connect with more families. Over the years, Williams has found that this ministry has formed a great relationship with those from the school, especially the parents.
“They have a huge single mom population here, so because of our efforts and because of the relationship we have with the school, we have a bunch of single moms attending our Sunday School classes and being a part of our single moms ministry, and we are able to disciple these people,” Williams said. “We want to make sure there is a long-term, ongoing relationship with these people.”
For more information on what your church can do to get involved in local ministries, contact Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can contact Steve Adams, associate pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, at email@example.com, or call him at (704) 531-4009.