Friday, January 7, 2011

the story of Manchester, KY

NOTE: this is my journaling from a trip I took with some people from Martinsville and Henry County, Virginia to Manchester and Clay County, Kentucky.  Our prayer is that God will transform lives in our community and our community.

2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Our day started off pretty early as we drove the 6 hours from Martinsville to Manchester.  Excellent ride with 8 people.  3 police officers, 3 pastors, 1 ministry leader and 1 business man.


We arrived at noon and met at Starwood Restaurant.  We ate lunch with Pastor and Mrs. Abner as well as John who runs their TV station.  This restaurant started through the spiritual awakening that has taken place in this city and county.  Steve Collnett was with us too.  He shared how drugs wrecked his life and his wife's life and what God has done since then.  Their story is incredible.  Some of it is shared in "Appalachian Dawn".  The lady that owns Starwood, Teresa, and her son, Justin who is the manger, shared about their faith and doing business as Christians.  They are people of grace and second chances.  Many of the peple they employ come from Chad's Hope, a Christ centered rehab program also begun as a result of the transformation God broght to this community.  Their chef also shared his testimony of  how he was raised well and even spoiled.  He got in much trouble and ended up at Chad's Hope.  Great story.


After lunch, we went back to Community Church in Manchester and watched some of their story in the movie, "Appalachian Dawn", that has been put together about the transformation.  It is a moving story.  I got a copy of it.


The conversation after the movie was also so moving.  Pastor Abner shared about the way that churches came together to make a difference.  Government agencies also became a part of going after the drug problem in this community.  The change has had such an impact that the churches and government, schools and courts and more, are working together to bring about more change in the lives of people.


Chad's Hope is a the rehabilitation place that has also  come about through the changes.  God funded it through about 2.5 million dollars given by the state and federal government, and it is an unapologetically Christian treatment program.  It is run by Teen Challenge and continues to grow.  It is a one year long program that has about 30 people in it at present.  Only in the last quarter of the year are those involved able to go to work.  I'd like to learn more about how this start.


Moving further back to the changes that have happened, you have to hear from the local area pastors who said they became desperate to see change come about.  Clay County is right on the Wilderness Trail where Daniel Boone and travelers hundreds of years ago came through this area.  For about 200 years this area has been a place of constant turmoil and even death.  Drugs, violence and all kinds of evil had become common place in every day society.  Government and officials were corrupt. 


Since the changes have begun over 600 arrests have been made with people getting federal sentences.  Drug dealing and crime due to drugs was rampant.  Death due to drugs was common place with a few people dying each week.  Steve Collnet's story is a great picture of what God has done.  He and his wife were some of the most feared people in the area.  They were known for using, dealing and for much violence.  Their lives have changed in ways that people who have known them forever can't hardly believe.  Steve leads their teen drug treatment, and his wife works with the crisis pregnancy center and with rescued animals.  She says that the reason why she likes to work with the animals is that they are put out and she knows how they feel.  That is how she grew up.


As the pastors and churches started coming together, they would gather on Saturday mornings to pray and strategize about the changes they wanted to see in their county.  They met for a long time, and finally they planned a march that over 5,000 people came to and marched through the streets of the city.  The pastor of Manchester Baptist Church, SBC church, had a dream about such a march.  It happened and it brought a beginning to much of the change.


The newspaper after the march printing an appropriate article simple titled ENOUGH.  The people of this community said that they had had enough of the pain and heartache that comes with the problems in Clay County for so long.  This one event, the march, was a product of much prayer, sharing, planning and desperation.  So many pieces of this story I won't be able to convey in this journal entry.  But I am trying to share the pieces that stick out in my mind.


The government got involved in dealing with drugs from forming a task force called "operation unite", and this organization became instrumental in working with the churches.  This is still happening today.  When there is a drug bust in the area now, pastors are called to be part of the bust and to pray with those arrested. 


Changes that we heard about are almost endless.  They are continuing today.  There are other places in the world that this type of thing has happened too.  It is possible that in Martinsville and Henry County this could take place.  George Otis has chronicled some of these stories, and that is what brought about the movie "Appalachian Dawn".


Our prayer is that God will bring change to our community.  At The Community we continue to ask God to open our homeless shelter and transition program.  We believe that is what God has called us to do.  It is a part of who we are at The Community Fellowship.  Our call is to demonstrate the love of God to our community and to reBuild the dreams of broken people because there is hope and life in Jesus.  In the past few months we have seen God move.


As I listened today I hear about pieces of who we are and what God is doing  Our call is to mobilize Christians to have compassion and to help others find hope.  We are to connect the churches of our community.  We are to support one another and for no one to get the credit.  Yet these things will not happen until God's people are desperate for Him to move.  We must seek Him in prayer and beg him for a move that only He can bring.  Transformation can and will happen as God works.  It is time to seek the Lord.


It is time to believe God for the work, and it is time to let God do His part as we follow Him.  Don't get ahead of God.  Don't lag behind.  Seek God and watch the change begin.  The churches in our community need each other. 


A prayer meeting began in December 2010 on Tuesday mornings in our community where people are seeking God.  This is only the beginning.


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happy birthday, Julie

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