MOUNTAIN GROVE – Sometimes the road to church revitalization is less a road and more of a potato field.
A year ago, Mountain Grove Family Church, a once-thriving congregation here in south central Missouri, was stuck mid-stride in a stalled building program, with just six or seven members paying the church’s expenses out of pocket to keep the doors open. The church sought help from the Missouri Baptist Convention, which paired them Westside Baptist Church 90 minutes north in Waynesville as potential mission partnership.
It soon flowered beyond that. Mark Fugitt, Westside’s worship pastor, had been sensing God’s calling and preparing him to lead a church as senior pastor.
“I was hearing about this church that needed a restart, and then I heard where it was at,” Fugitt said.
He grew up a few miles from the Mountain Grove Church and had considered planting a church, but the doors never opened for that opportunity to take root.
“God was pushing this direction and we moved home,” Fugitt said.
The official re-launch will be March 29, but growth has been steady the past year. A few families from Westside also caught the vision and moved down to Mountain Grove to join the faithful core and now they are up to 75-plus people on a Sunday morning. They are working on completing the stalled building program, including work from volunteers outside the church who have seen the congregation’s heart for service.
One of the key areas of service is in how the church aims to feed those in need in this economically depressed area. Fugitt said 47 percent of the people who live within five miles of the church building do not have a job, and not having enough to eat is a pressing issue. People would stop by the church needing food, but they did not have the funds to make that happen for everyone in need.
But Mountain Grove Family Church sits on seven acres of land, so they decided to turn a portion of that into a giant garden to feed the community. Last year, they gave food away to more than 100 people with food grown from donated seeds.
“We plant it, we grow it, then give it away,” Fugitt said. “This year we doubled the size of it to more than half an acre. Just the other day we planted 575 feet of potatoes,” Fugitt said. “It’s something our people can connect with.”
“We are just really excited about the way God is going to use it this year and how God is going to use the church in the community,” he said.