What would happen in your community if your church disappeared?
What if your church relocated to a different area of town?
Where would people find inspiration from the Word of God?
Where would people go to find a source for encouragement or to build life-long friendships?
Where would people go to be prayed for?
Where would people go for spiritual advice?
Where could they find a safe refuge from the storms of life?
Pastor Mark Scarr is the Lead Pastor at Woodvale Pentecostal Church in Ottawa, Ontario. In one of his Sunday sermons, Pastor Mark posed this question to our congregation and staff… “If we left the neighbourhood would anyone miss us?”
Every church, and the people that make up each assembly, are in a position to make a difference—a kingdom-sized difference. As one of the staff members at Woodvale, I see how our church desires and intentionally plans to impact our community. Part of church impact is community engagement. To be a “church in the community for the community” it is important to work alongside of businesses and local government. I have watched Pastor Mark intentionally build relationships with those in our community over the years. After several invitations one of our ward councillors agreed to meet with the Pastor. In that meeting, Pastor Mark expressed how our church didn’t want to be just a building that people visited on Sundays but that our church congregation desired to make a difference in the community. During this conversation Pastor Mark learned about a soccer club for young people right across the street from the church. An open door of opportunity literally before our eyes! Before long, some people from the church came alongside of this sporting organization and lent their support. Relationships were fostered. Pastor Mark again reminded this councillor that if there was anything that arose where they needed our help to not hesitate to be in touch as we were here to serve.
On September 21, 2018, a warm sunny Friday, everything changed. The sky turned a very ominous, greyish-green and clouds rolled in, hiding the sunny skies. Wind gusts picked up quickly and drastically, and before many had a chance to respond, the power of a damaging storm was upon us. Before long, news stations began reporting that a tornado had ripped through our suburban Ottawa area. The damage was very apparent on the street where Woodvale stands, and a large swath of devastation was evident in the surrounding area. Environment Canada reported that five tornados had touched down during the storm. The church phone began to ring with one call after another from anxious congregation members, families, and even a certain ward councillor.
Our church’s mens’ group had planned a get-together several months prior for Saturday, September 22. But now, considering all the activity and upheaval in our community, these same men now had a specific task … serving and loving on this community: anywhere, anyhow, and in anyway required. The church, virtually unscathed, aside from some redistributed debris and fallen branches, became a shelter in the storm for those who needed it most and also served as a ‘command post’ during this event. It has been said, “A hungry mouth has no ears”.
It was in this time of unsettled chaos, when people were in a state of shock and unsure exactly what to do or where to go next, that Woodvale—a community church— stood ready and eager to feed, help and show love to a community that was desperately in need. The people whose lives were impacted through the actions of a local church congregation who cared may not have heard the gospel message in words spoken from a platform stage, but they certainly saw a church demonstrate the love and mission of Christ in an amazing way!
Story told by Shelley Good of Woodvale Pentecostal Church in Ottawa, Ontario. Shelley has been Woodvale’s pastor of children’s ministries since September 2002. She has a heart and passion to reach and impact the children in her community, as well as their families.