Church grows in spite of thefts

| May 12, 2010

As a pastor, David Evans is no stranger to leading a congregation through the difficulties of life, but it is fairly certain he never envisioned the scope of hardship that would be brought to bear against his entire church family starting in December of last year.

For 10 years, Epiphany Baptist Church has existed in Springfield, ministering, as Evans says, to a non-traditional group of people. Gathering at the Springfield YMCA, they have grown enough to initiate a building program with the hope of having their own church building.

Those plans came to an unexpected and abrupt halt when last December a thief had been helping himself to the construction materials that were stockpiled on the church’s property. Steel beams, siding and girders were among the items that were removed from the site and then sold as scrap to local dealers.

While the thief was arrested, recovery proved impossible, resulting in the church being left without $150,000 of purchased materials.

As if a six-digit financial loss wasn’t enough, the group suffered again when its enclosed trailer, housing the equipment for services and worship, was discovered missing April 15. Total value of this loss was set at around $30,000.

In the space of three-and-and-a-half months, the members of Epiphany went from the excitement of growth and expansion to the painful reality of massive loss. Not only had they lost $180,000 worth of investments, but they also face the potential of having none of it covered by their insurance carrier who is presently contesting their claims.
The equipment loss included 250 chairs, a complete sound system, 1,000 Bibles, 2,000 tracts, all of their children’s worship materials, a pulpit, speakers and podiums.
“Is it inconvenient?” asked Evans rhetorically, “It’s a major inconvenience. People were sitting on the floor Sunday at both services.”

“God’s plans are not necessarily our plans,” he added, “but in His hands, it’s all good.
“If you ask me how I am,” he continued, “Jesus is still King, last week, today, and tomorrow. There’s no reason to doubt that. Epiphany is still a place where nobody stands alone, with or without stuff. Our mission is to share the love of Christ. We’re still doing it. We’re still going to. We’re just not going to be able to do it the same way for a while.”

Evans says that the church family, though shaken, is handling the crisis well, with their eyes still on God and others, rather than self.

“In our Bible study,” he said, “one of the prayer requests was praying for the person who stole the trailer. We spent more time praying for that person than we did praying for anything else. Praying, ‘Show us as a church how we can minister to this person’.”
Despite the emotional and financial setbacks, the church has continued its growth and outreach into a hurting community.

“We’ve had baptisms the last two weeks,” Evans said, along with a cookout for Springfield Fire Department personnel the Sunday after their trailer was taken.
“We’re here to share the love of Christ with or without chairs or equipment. It doesn’t change. Jesus Christ is still Lord.”

The church has also gone ahead with a planned stewardship drive, which began last weekend. Additionally, Evans said that several individuals and groups outside the church family have asked how they can be of help or assistance in getting the group back on their feet.

“Prayer is the best thing,” said Evans, regarding offers of outside help. “Praying for the ministry of Epiphany that it will not be deterred. Second, we need black stackable chairs. Third, we could use financial help, obviously. We’ve been planning this [stewardship program] for six months and we’re going to stick with it.

Although painful, Evans says the overall experience has strengthened the faith and resolve of most of his congregation.

“Most of our people come from troubled backgrounds,” he said, “and have had junk happen in their lives and realize the reality of spiritual opposition. To them, they see this as affirmation.

“I believe the Devil will not attack someone who’s not a threat to him. He’s not going to waste his time.

“It still hurts, it’s very tough. Obviously we’re doing what the Devil doesn’t want us to do and he doesn’t like it. But we’re not going to be defeated.”

Looking ahead, Evans says there is no timetable for any kind of progress for the moment but that the church will simply keep on doing what they’ve been doing.
“Gold is refined by fire,” he said. “No matter what happens, Jesus is Lord and He will sustain. We want people to know that.”

Epiphany Baptist Church meets at the Springfield YMCA each Sunday for two worship services.

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Category: Church Security