Hueytown church gives Thanksgiving surprise to neighborhood in need, sees walls fallcomment (1)
November 28, 2013
By Grace Thornton
Judy McGhee said she’s got a lot to be thankful for this year, after Jesus and a new friend pursued her family by way of a big red truck.
McGhee, who lives in an area of Hueytown riddled with drugs, gangs and prostitution, said it was her daughter who first spotted the big red truck driving through their neighborhood.
It belonged to Mike Gordon, minister of outreach and evangelism for Valley Creek Baptist Church, Hueytown. Gordon had been driving through the neighborhood for more than a year, praying over each house.
Slowly he and other church members began to engage the people who lived there — many of whom wondered why he drove through there so much.
Friendships started. Gordon began picking people up for church on Sundays in his big red truck. And Valley Creek Baptist families began going over every third Saturday to have a cookout for the neighborhood, talk to residents and play with the kids.
“We just wanted to tell them that someone cares about them, that someone loves them,” Gordon said.
That sentiment made a connection with McGhee’s granddaughter, who struggled with a drug addiction.
“He met her first,” McGhee said. “He started coming to the house and checking on her, and we became good friends.”
And, she said, he always invited them to church.
Finally one day, she went, along with her 9-year-old grandson.
“I loved it so much, that’s all I talked about,” McGhee said. “I kept telling my family, ‘Y’all will love this church, you’ve just got to go.’”
Her oldest daughter finally gave in, and after she went, she joined the church.
And on Feb. 17, five members of the family were baptized.
“We love it. We love the church, and Bro. Mike has been really special to us. It’s been a godsend,” McGhee said.
She’s not the only one in her neighborhood who feels that way.
This year for the second time, Valley Creek Baptist members packed a bag with a Thanksgiving meal for every family in the neighborhood — 121 bags in total, Gordon said.
Church families adopt a family, then go buy all the items on the list for their bag.
“They have things in them like potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, dry milk, pumpkin pie and muffin mix,” Gordon said.
On Nov. 20, Valley Creek members of all ages packed the bags in assembly-line fashion, then the church members who donated each bag signed the bag and prayed for the family who would receive it.
Last year, when the families opened the door and saw what was being done for them, several of them burst into tears, Gordon said.
“God could take care of those people without our help, but He chose to use us to go — we’re just the hands and feet,” he said. “The whole thing is about servanthood. Jesus just asked us to trust Him, and He said, ‘If you lift Me up I will draw them unto Myself.’”
Gordon has seen it happen. Two young men who immediately come to mind are Jeremy and Tim, who “got radically saved,” he said.
“It’s incredible,” Gordon said, noting that one day both of the men came to church and began confessing their sins as people at Valley Creek prayed over them.
“When it was over, Jeremy said, ‘I feel so much lighter,’” he said. “Only God can do that.”
Gordon challenges his church members to connect on a personal level with members of the community when they go to distribute the bags of food, or when they go for a third Saturday cookout.
It’s a challenge they’ve accepted wholeheartedly.
“God has been opening our eyes to the people of that community,” Gordon said.
All kinds of stereotypes can hinder relationships in areas like the one they invest in, but “we’re seeing past that,” he said. “We’re not afraid of the element that’s there — we see the people who are there.”
Since they’ve been praying over the community, the drug dealers have gotten to know “Bro. Mike” by name, and one drug house has already been shut down, he said.
“There are prayers being answered ... but Satan rears his head there, too. It’s a constant fight in there,” Gordon said.
He’s burdened for the people there, he said. “They’re my sheep.”
It’s personal for him and for the rest of Valley Creek.
Church members “are completely encouraged when they see these families come in and they get saved and join our church,” Gordon said.
God has opened their hearts to love unconditionally, no matter what people wear or need when they come through the doors of the church, he said.
“It’s not about the addiction issues, the ripped jeans, the worn shoes,” Gordon said. “It’s about showing the love of Christ and His peace, joy and hope.”