Donna Schultz, Interim Pastor at Grace Church, Port Hope, was startled as she looked back through her journal and read her own recorded prayer, ‘God, just have people start calling the church.’ Seven months later, He had done just that.
It started one day in November 2020 when the admin assistant at Grace Church, Port Hope, Ontario answered the phone. On the line was a young woman who had accepted Jesus earlier that year and wanted to be baptized. Church buildings had been closed so she hadn’t been able to come to services. It turned out that she had attended Sunday School at Grace as a child. Now, churches were open again and Donna arranged to meet her after the service. As Donna was talking with her, she indicated she had been in touch with a second young woman who had just come back to the Lord and was attending Grace church with her boyfriend. She had attended the church a few years in her teens and just started attending Grace again after it opened up in September. The two women had been acquainted in school but did not know each other well. That was about to change; God has His ways. As the conversation progressed, Donna felt led to ask if they would like to do a Bible Study with her.
Later, as Donna was telling Sr. Pastor Jeff Knott about this, they talked about what would be a good place to start. “How about Alpha?” said Pastor Jeff. Donna recalled that another young man associated with the church was away at College. Since Alpha was going to be online she contacted him, and he also was interested. And so, they began in November with four young, eager new believers.
In January, a friend of one of the young women got in touch saying she just committed her life to Christ but had no church. Could her friend recommend one? She also joined the Alpha group, which Pastor Donna affectionately called the ‘A’ Team. They completed Alpha together. None of them had been baptized and were all enthusiastic about taking this step. “Never before had I seen people so excited about baptism,” says Pastor Donna. They planned for Easter Sunday in 2021, but just days before, word came that the churches had to close down once again. They were baptized on Good Friday instead, each one giving clear testimony of vibrant faith in Jesus.
As church services continue, whether in-person or online, Pastor Donna is meeting with the group, discipling them using thematic Bible studies that speak to expressed needs. Last winter when groups meeting indoors was prohibited, they met outdoors in the snow, huddled around campfires, talking about Jesus. Covid is no hindrance to God’s ongoing work in open hearts. Before one new Bible Study topic was about to begin, Pastor Donna’s husband struck up a conversation with a young man in a parking lot. He subsequently joined the group too.
A few have moved away, but a core group of the young 20-somethings has remained and is helping out at church where they now attend and continue to be discipled. They are inviting friends for an in-person round of Alpha and although they have no takers for this yet, friends have expressed interest in the online Alpha. Online has two advantages: First, distance from the church is no hindrance, and two, it is less intimidating for people not comfortable in the physical church setting. Leaders are finding that participants are less shy about sharing when they attend from the comfort of their own personal space.
Pastor Donna emphasizes how important it is to have an expectant heart when we pray. How often do we present our request and then go away and forget about it before the answer comes? Or how often do we give up?
We have an amazing God. This was really all Him. We did no campaigning. When God brings people, He does an amazing job. Hungry hearts showed up wanting to know Him.
The congregation at Grace, Port Hope continues to do their part, praying for and loving the new believers.
For those considering Online Alpha, visit their website. Although Donna is a Pastor, no special training is required to facilitate an Alpha Course. The website provides good instruction for leaders and offers questions to discuss after the videos. Pastor Donna’s group even found a way to build in the refreshment time, usually a part of in-person Alpha Groups. They simply decided on a particular snack for the following session, each bought their own and enjoyed it together online.
This article is featured in the Winter 2022 edition of The EMCC Together newsletter
Download a PDF copy of the newsletter and view previous EMCC Together publications here.