"We have born our bur-dens in the heat of the day, but we know the Lord has made a way. We've come a long way, Lord, a migh-ty long way." - African-American Spiritual
From Pastor Jeff:
It has been over a year since our last annual meeting and the day when our congregation made a bold decision. The loss of the old New Horizons Daycare meant the loss of over $100,000 a year in our annual budget. We knew we would have to invest with resources that we didn not currently have in order to stay afloat. The decision was daunting and the future unclear. But instead of becoming paralyzed by fear, we stepped out in faith and trust. We voted to venture into the unknown, somehow create our own daycare, and invest even more deeply in our community called the Gethsemane parish.
And the Lord found a way. We were approved for a building loan from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund. With the help of mission partners and individual donors, we raised over $110,000 in revenue support in 2016 to cover our budget and leave us financially in the black. Through creative vision, faithful prayer, and a multitude of volunteer hours, our daycare, names Camden Kids, opened its doors in September 2016. After only four months of business, Camden Kids now has 24 children enrolled, a wonderful staff, a quality faith-based program, and a great director in Carrie Asanji If we continue along this trajectory, we will reach our target enrollment of 60 kids before the close of 2017 and once again have a stable revenue stream to support the ministry here at Gethsemane from 2018 and beyond. Not only are we grateful for the renewed financial security, but for the ability to once again minister to our parish's children.
Our community footprint deepened considerably this year in other ways. Gethsemane, along with NuWay Missionary Baptist and Living Word, gave away over 2000 toys to 480 families in December. Our partnerships with Second Harvest Heartland, The MN Food Group, The Camden Promise, and sister churches now support food distributions four days a week and community meals twice a week. We gave out over 30,000 pounds of food and made over 600 meals in December alone! Our Thanksgiving meal was again huge and a well-attended event. Our youth served the community across our nation on their "Random Acts of Kindness" Mission Trip to Florida, handing out cold bottles of water and blessings to people at rest stops along the way.
In November, our dear friend and my colleague Roxi Mork died unexpectedly of a rare and fatal illness. We are still grieving her loss in our lives as wife, mom, fiend, youth director, and in the myriad of hats she wore in our congregation. While we consign her to the grace and love of God, her presence seems to linger here in the huge influx of community members stepping up to use their gifts in service. I also find myself, in moments of doubt, hearing Roxi say to me what she often said, "God has got this."
Though we have borne our burdens during this time of uncertainty at Gethsemane, God still is finding a way with his "church on the corner" and our community. From a dire situation, we were called to look outside of the box, to adapt and try new things in order to expand our boundaries and fully embrace God's people. We ask God to continue to stir in us the desire to serve, to follow God's lead, and to use each of our unique gifts within our church and community. We thank God for weathering the storm with us in 2016 and honing our discipleship skills as we look forward to the year ahead with hope and new purpose.