PROVIDENCE FORGE, Va. — A pair of work boots sprayed with grey paint has become a symbol of renewal for the members of Emmaus Baptist Church, a congregation in New Kent County, Va.
“Emmaus Baptist Church is well known for helping others and for prayer,” said Vallerie King, its pastor for the past 12 years. “Even though we’re a small church, our gift is love for one another.”
The congregation is involved in a mission project every month and supports mission offerings and ministries, such as Operation Christmas Child, which take its witness around the world.
Yet King admits that challenges have been mounting for the small congregation with an average attendance of 30 members. When the Dover Baptist Association encouraged its churches to connect with people in their communities in new and creative ways, Emmaus Baptist chose to participate, said Steve Allsbrook, director of missions. The congregation also took the option of working with a church consultant.
In 2010 as the result of declining offerings, the budget was cut and adjustments in spending were made in hopes of stabilizing the situation, said King. A special offering was put in place to challenge members in their giving.
“While we thought we were beginning to work it out,” said King, in December 2011 the treasurer informed her that the general fund balance had reached a critical level. There were bills that needed payment for which there were no funds.
Since the steps taken had not solved the problem, the deacons decided to seek Allsbrook’s counsel, said King. He spent a Friday evening and Saturday with members of the congregation in February. On Friday he led a review of the history of Emmaus Baptist Church, a process started by the consultant.
“People shared memories of what it felt like at those times and how people worked together to make things happen,” said Allsbrook.
The next morning groups were formed to discern strategies and King said several good ideas surfaced. The church’s financial problems were highlighted and Allsbrook asked each one there to think of what they might do to respond to the pressing need.
“I was going to Peebles [a local department store] to buy a pair of grey boots,” said member Frances Radwani. “But God has led me to realize that I don’t need those boots. I’m going to put that money in the offering.”
King said the session concluded with determination to work together to solve the problem.
Radwani shared her testimony during worship in early March. King said as she took her seat another member came forward and said, “I don’t want Frances to have to do without her boots,” and presented Radwani with a pair of work boots that he had painted grey.
The next Sunday a deacon came to the pulpit and shared that he would tithe a recent tax refund. Other members also responded.
“We felt like we were on holy ground as God turned us around and pointed us in a new direction,” said King. “We are grateful to Steve and his leadership, but we believe this was the leading of the Holy Spirit and God.”
The grey work boots became a symbol of commitment as the congregation began a “Boots for Jesus” offering. A goal of $10,000 was set by Sept. 30, 2012. And King reports the goal was exceeded on Sept. 9 with total donations of $10,469. A goal of $10,000 has been set for 2013.
During the past church year King said 14 professions of faith were made and Emmaus Baptist Church has received an additional Dover Connections grant to provide funds to distribute materials to new residents in the Providence Forge and Quinton areas next year.
“The attitude of the church is entirely different today,” said Allsbrook. “God has transformed their difficulty into a powerful story of revival.”
“While members came up with the idea for ‘Boots for Jesus,’ God led us to say that we cared enough about our church to work to turn this around,” said King.
Barbara Francis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is on the staff of the Religious Herald.