Following God's road map
WAYLAND, MI – My wife, April and I married 24 years ago have four children, from the beginning we were following God’s road map and didn’t even know it. For the first 11 years of our marriage, we lived in Grand Rapids and did not attend church. I had been raised Catholic and April was not raised in church at all. I stopped going after I graduated from high school. In 2003, we moved to Mancelona, Michigan where my family is from and we were invited to church by a coworker of mine. My wife really loved the church. It was new and different, inviting and real. We went back a couple of weeks later for their Fall program. We each received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior a week apart in 2004. This was a life/eternity changing event, and we were baptized a few weeks later.
Shortly afterwards I was called to the ministry and enrolled in Baptist College of America where I received my Master’s of Ministry. I became the Assistant Pastor in my church where my training continued until 2009. I was then called to be the Lead Pastor of Abundant Life Baptist Church in Midland, MI. In 2014 we moved to Wayland, Michigan in order to help take care of April’s parents while they were going through some health problems. We rented a trailer in a trailer park, because it was close to her parents’ house, with plans to move out and buy our own home after a year. However, God worked on our hearts and we fell in love with the residents of the trailer park, so we stayed.
Our ministry is to reach the underserved residents of the trailer parks in the Wayland area. These residents have a wide variety of economic conditions, varying from retired people to young single parents that can barely pay their bills. One thing they all have in common is feeling hurt from being marginalized by society. This hurt and marginalization has resulted in the trailer park residents having some of the lowest attendance in church.
Wayland is a small town with only 4,206 people living inside the town lines. However, there are 13,500 people that live within a 5-mile radius of Wayland. Within that 5-mile radius there are over 1000 homes in 4 separate mobile home parks. Since door knocking is not allowed in mobile home communities we plan on reaching the community through missional communities and family events such as BBQs and block parties. Our goal is to find a “person of peace” in each of the parks and begin a small missional Bible study group. It only takes one person to start.
Once we have established 3 small groups in a community we will rent a space for group worship services. Our ministry is a missional style of church which fits perfectly with the trailer parks. This style allows us to build relationships first to overcome the lack of trust the communities have for churches.
We fully intend to be co-vocational for our entire ministry. By doing so, it will help us build relationships inside the community and help us to show that we not only preach the word of God, but we live it every day. Our jobs give us the freedom to have church and study groups at night and on the weekends. Amazed by God’s timing and leading we are where we know He wants us, serving in communities that need the Good News.
It’s a long way from where we started as a unchurched, young couple, but we can see now that we are exactly on the road where God sent us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Gates is the Outreach Pastor at Anchor Community Church. He has served as an associate and lead pastor, and has a Masters of Ministry from the Baptist College of America. He and his wife, April have been married for 24 years.