The congregation in the Adventist church in Oxford, Maine, is not a large one. On a good Sabbath, as many as 30 people might be in attendance, though the number is usually closer to 20. The congregation also skews toward the grey-haired side—most members are retirees living on a fixed income. But what this small and resource-limited congregation has managed to accomplish in the local and global mission field is truly inspiring.
The church operates a food bank for the community, and while the ministry has been an important service for many years, it is a critical resource during the COVID-19 era. Food bank ministry leaders saw many new faces and much longer lines as unemployment and hunger became a much larger phenomenon in the community. But the church soldiered on, dedicated more resources to the ministry so that more food could be purchased, and, with a little help from the Northern New England Conference, kept serving all who came. It took faith to keep on serving while their balance kept dropping, but serve they did.
Just serving the local community wasn’t enough. Early in the year, their pastor at the time, Leon Twitchell, challenged them to take up a project that would help truly vulnerable people. The church members thumbed through the annual ADRA gift catalog and decided they would fund part of the cost of a new well for a village in Africa. The thought of the women and children who had to walk one or more miles each way to fill up water pails touched their hearts. Church members started finding ways to set money aside for the project.
Pastor Twitchell, however, set an even higher goal; he challenged the church to raise $10,000.00 during the year—enough to complete one well for a village! Church members responded by steadily donating money. A table was set up in the sanctuary, and, each time the fund grew, bricks were placed on it in a circle, eventually forming a very convincing facsimile of a well. Some members gathered returnable bottles and cans, while others cut down on purchases or ate cheaper food. Everyone found a different way of sacrificing to meet the goal. Even after Pastor Twitchell transitioned to focusing on digital evangelism and church planting in Western Maine, church members stayed with the project. By November 2020, the church had raised the whole $10,000.00 to send to ADRA.
While the church was celebrating what they were able to give, they got some joyful news—a check had come in the mail! The check for $315.00 came from the Grace Lutheran Church in the nearby city of Auburn. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Grace Lutheran was not able to hold their annual Thanksgiving meal-packing event and had instead raised money to donate to food banks in the region, including the Oxford food bank. While the church members were focused on completing fundraising for the well, the Lord was arranging a blessing for their food bank!
For many, 2020 was a miserable year they can hardly wait to forget. And while the members of the little Oxford church also struggled, they will remember 2020, in part, as the year they both gave and received in support of Christ’s ministry of helping the vulnerable.