24 Apr Road trip to a forgotten place
The primary purpose of the Catalyst movement is to reproduce and plant churches. Having been in the Lower Anthracite Coal Region for 11 years, I have become aware of a spiritual vacuum in the area between Shamokin and Hazleton.This area is filled with many small coal villages that have been deteriorating for decades. Places like Ringtown, Sheppton, Ashland, Frackville, Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, Hometown and Gilberton. They constitute a forgotten region, but are still populated with tens of thousands of souls. My research indicates that the Pentecostal witness in these towns in almost non-existent, and the church as a whole there is desperately ineffective in presenting the Gospel. The darkness and misery are almost palpable. Our hearts should ache with missionary zeal for these folks.
I recently received a call from a Christian man in one of these towns (Macedonia?) on an unrelated matter. When he realized I was a Pentecostal pastor he began to share his frustration in being unable to find a healthy spirit-filled church anywhere near his home. I knew of some good churches, but they were at least a half hour away. He and his wife are disabled.
Our Catalyst group will be taking a road trip through this region in May. We’ll be piling into our church van to chase a dream that God would send someone to break some new and difficult ground. The purpose of the trip is to birth vision and hear from God as we pray and take in the view. We will see abandoned coal structures, blighted cities, and we may even see a place that is literally burning underground (Centralia). We will engage the people and begin a conversation to get a sense of the cost involved to break the stronghold there. Darkness retreats when faced with the light.
Resources, human and otherwise, are hard to come by in these parts. The brain drain that Pennsylvania has experienced for the past decade or two began here in the 1960’s. The outlook is bleak and a church planter looking for obviously fertile ground will not find it here. Breaking through will involve toil, commitment, sacrifice and wisdom.
We tend to see white harvest fields where the population trends are moving up. I wonder is that what God sees? I am of the opinion that God delights to show Himself in such places. Where is the light more appreciated than in a desperately dark place.
I am pleased that Rodney Murphy in Hazleton shares this burden and will be joining us on this trip. He attends another Catalyst group and his church is located on the other side of this forgotten region. We seek a partnership and are asking God to send a team to discover and break the missional code for this part of the coal region. I will update this blog when we return from the trip.