By Ginger Springs
First United Methodist Church in Hemingway has undergone many transitions since I first joined its membership 49 years ago.
Our close-knit congregation has been consistently made up of members of this community, many of whom were relatives, and very few were not native to this area. We have been richly blessed with members, leaders and ministers who were dedicated in fulfilling God’s purposes in and through its services, youth programs, ladies and men’s groups, music programs and performances, missions and Bible studies.
But sadly, our membership has decreased greatly over the years with only an average attendance of 35 people on Sunday mornings.
However, our hearts for serving God and being mission-minded have not diminished. I’d like to share the following as an example of this strength.
On Wednesdays, many of our ladies from this community have traveled for as many as 14 years to Georgetown to attend a global non-denominational study called Community Bible Study. Some of us were called to be leaders, which meant also traveling to Pawleys Island on Tuesdays for Leaders Council to prepare for the Wednesday meetings.
Others in our community heard about this amazing study and desired to go, too, but were unable to travel the 70- to 80-mile round trip. And many were amazed at the dedication of those who were making these trips to study God’s word every week.
Last fall, God began to reveal a plan for CBS to come to First UMC, Hemingway. Sometimes, I just can’t help sharing about my special, Godly revelations, and this verse from Acts 4:20 exemplifies that. It says, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have heard.”
During my morning prayer, meditation and study time, God began to create a very unsettling discontent within my heart. I had just written in my prayer journal for God to help me to know what to do about these questions. But very soon—in fact, right in my next devotional reading—the answers began unfolding. The devotion from “Our Daily Bread” talked about unreached people not being limited to exotic locales, but often living among us. It inspires us to overcome the barriers in our own communities—someone right in our own neighborhood. And it asked the question, “How might God use you to reach out to others?”
Next, I was in a state of amazement when that day’s title of my “Bible in One Year” study was “Destiny, Defining, Decisions.” I called one of my best friends and prayer partners to help me pray about the possibility of having a CBS group in Hemingway.
It wasn’t even 24 hours before she called back with excitement and shared the following scripture, from Isaiah 43:19: ”Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Hemingway is certainly not a wasteland or an exotic locale, but it is a community along with the surrounding area that was definitely ready for this in-depth study of God’s word. And God was already preparing hearts and plans for this to happen.
Another remarkable example of God’s provision has been the way our church quickly accepted the request to be the host church for CBS. Our minister, Lou Perez, and district superintendent, Terry Fleming, have been our enthusiastic supporters.
To better meet the needs for our church family activities and for this Bible study, a decision was made to remodel our Fellowship Building. Because of its limited amount of use for many years, it had begun to deteriorate badly. It was an amazing privilege to see the dedicated love for our church and community in the generous donations that were made, as well as the men and women joining in with the workmen to accomplish all that needed to be done. Now we have a welcoming, beautiful building, a place to serve many who will come for various reasons and occasions.
It has been greatly obvious that this was God’s plan for not only meeting the needs of our church family, but also as an outreach mission for our community to study and share God’s word.
Many may have seen hosting a community Bible study as a competition with their own church studies, but CBS is designed to complement the local church congregations. As CBS leaders and members grow in faith and knowledge of God’s word, they have a responsibility to attend, actively support and become better servants in their own churches. The vision of CBS is to see lives transformed through the study of the word of God. And its mission statement is to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in our communities through this caring, in-depth Bible study.
So all people will be prepared to return to the 22 churches that are represented to better serve them.
One more last amazing example of God’s great plan is that new CBS classes usually begin with 15 to 20 people. But God knew this thirst for his word would bring a historical number of 88 to begin this group. Plans and studies are now under way for them to become an autonomous class.
What great and amazing things our God is doing in and through First UMC, Hemingway.