By Carl Stagner
Though the fourth Thursday in November hasn’t yet arrived, Church of God congregations across the United States have already pulled out all the stops to celebrate Thanksgiving. While it may seem that Walmart and the Hallmark Channel have bypassed this autumn holiday for its even more commercialized wintertime counterpart, churches from Washington State to New York City and in between still make it a big deal. From special worship services to massive community service projects, Thanksgiving, for the Church of God, means giving life from a heart of gratitude.
This is the twenty-sixth year that Refuge Church of God in Brooklyn, New York, has welcomed neighbors to a free community meal. Tatum Osbourne, executive pastor, reports that last year they served 427 meals. As the cost of living rises in New York City, she expects the number of meals served this year will also climb.
Mountain View First Church of God in Mountain View, Missouri, has also hosted a home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day for a couple decades. While Thanksgiving is known for large family gatherings, it can be easy to forget the vast numbers of people who simply do not, or cannot, get together with family. In Mountain View, the Church of God congregation annually feeds 200 people.
The Thanksgiving season breaks down barriers and pulls people out of their comfort zones in Hutchinson, Kansas. The ministry of First Church of God known as LIFE Outreach addresses the needs of the “underprivileged and homeless” on Sunday afternoons, but it was no ordinary Sunday afternoon on November 24. LIFE—which stands for “Lifting Individuals from Emptiness” not only filled empty stomachs but also empty souls, as the congregation and the underprivileged from the community came to the table as one.
In Centralia, Washington, Church of God people delayed their trip to the buffet after the worship service was over. They had something much more important to do—form an assembly line and pack 160 “Thanksgiving Care Totes” full of basic necessities, everything from food to paper towels. Through delivery to schools, charities, and the local college, these supplies will end up in the hands of those who need them the most.
The host church of Church of God Convention 2017 and General Assembly held nothing back in their efforts to give life to their community this season of thanks. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 400 volunteers from Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas, gave away 2,500 Thanksgiving meals and an equal number of Bibles! Through the massive effort that lasted well into the darkness of evening, the church shone the light of Christ, praying for numerous individuals and families, and saw God’s love touch the hearts of multitudes.
Across North America, and around the world, the Church of God is taking back what hell has stolen. Join the movement. Give life. Donate today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/give.