Sept. 3, 2004
By John Gordon*
KENOVA, W.Va. (UMNS) -
Motorists stung by record-high gasoline prices are praising a small
church’s efforts to bring some relief.
|A UMNS photo by John Gordon
Members of Ceredo (W.Va.) United Methodist Church offer to pump gas as part of an outreach ministry.
"This is totally great," said Ronald Burke, who filled his tank for 25 cents a gallon less than the normal price.
the preacher at the pump, the Rev. Ron LeMaster of Ceredo (W.Va.)
United Methodist Church, found it to be a much better way to invite
people to visit his congregation than knocking on doors.
"It has been amazing," LeMaster said.
United Methodist Church members arranged with the C-K Mart in nearby
Kenova - near the borders of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio - to sell
2,000 gallons of gasoline at the reduced price. The church used
donations to reimburse the station for the difference.
Cars began lining up quickly after the price signs were changed, dropping regular unleaded to $1.64 per gallon.
bargain-priced gas was sold in two hours on a Saturday morning. The
"full service Christians" also pumped the gas and cleaned hundreds of
"Not working right now, (with) one income, it helps a lot," said Angie Richards, a Kenova resident who stopped to fill up.
Other drivers were equally appreciative. Some said they had cut back on their driving because of skyrocketing fuel prices.
|A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
Pastor Ron LeMaster talks to a motorist while son Casey, 8, cleans the windshield.
"It’s just wonderful. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before," said Kevin Moore.
Church members also invited drivers to visit and passed out cards with worship service times.
was a time when you could open the doors of the church and people
came," LeMaster said. "People aren’t coming to church like they used to,
so we thought we’d go out and find them. Everybody uses a gas station."
has led the church and its 70 members for a year. Before trying the
gasoline ministry, he used more conventional methods, such as yard signs
in the neighborhood, to draw visitors to church.
are a million things out there competing for people’s time, from the
television, entertainment, all these things out there in the modern
world," LeMaster said. "We need to do something different to get their
price drop did get the attention of Lloyd Ford, who stopped to fill up
when he saw the price sign and cars lined up at the station.
"I believe that they’re doing a fantastic job today," he said. "You know that God’s up there to help us poor people."
Church member Sonja Jolley said the unusual outreach could help attract new members.
had several ladies that have already told me they were looking for a
church," she said. "So they’re going to be in church Sunday morning. So,
you know, it’s really worth it."
resident Frank Jarrell was surprised by the gasoline sale and the
dedication of the church members, pumping gas and washing windshields in
90-degree summer heat.
"Let me tell you, these people are fantastic," Jarrell said.
"I wish more churches would get involved like that. They need to," Lee Adkins added. "It makes it good for the community."
small in number, members of the Ceredo church seldom miss a chance to
volunteer. The church also operates a thrift store to help pay for the
addition of a fellowship hall and education wing.
The church has a long history, dating back to 1858. The original sanctuary is still in use.
area was one of the last stops in the Underground Railroad before
escaping slaves reached freedom, prior to the Emancipation Proclamation
and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
selling God and gasoline," member Bill Spencer said. "If we just get
one new face in the church, it’s worth everything we’ve done."
gasoline sale was so successful, church members are considering doing
it again. Next time, they plan to have more cards to hand out. They ran
out of the 200 they had printed.
else out there is getting creative in reaching out to people," LeMaster
said. "And I don’t see any problem at all in being creative in our
approach and finding new and different ways to share the love of Christ
would encourage other churches to try to find a way that they can reach
out to their community, maybe in a way that nobody else has."
*Gordon is a freelance producer residing in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.