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|Pastor Todd and Jennifer Jones|
It was the summer of 1934. Assemblies of God Evangelist Morris Plotts was holding a tent revival service in Montezuma, Iowa. The services, which ran from 8 p.m. to as late as 3 a.m., were large and loud affairs - and ended with Plotts being jailed for 30 days! While Plotts was charged with disturbing the peace, he had numerous defenders who claimed town officials were prejudiced against the newcomer. Although Plotts would continue holding services from his jail cell, when he left the city, it is said he symbolically "shook the dust" from his feet. Yet, he remained regretful that he was never able to establish a Pentecostal church in Montezuma.
Seventy years would pass since Plotts left Montezuma behind, with no AG church ever planted in the community. But then God stepped in in an unexpected way - He worked in the hearts of 12 people who began meeting in a basement of one of their homes. The small group began to grow, so they contacted the Iowa District, wanting to affiliate with the Assemblies of God. An interim pastor was named and the newly formed church quickly grew to 70 strong in just a year.
Todd and Jennifer Jones, the young adult pastors at Berean Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa, were offered the position of senior pastor at the young church in Montezuma, population 1,452. There were those in the Des Moines church who still remembered the Plotts incident and the almost eerie lack of a full gospel/Pentecostal presence in the community since that time. Based on this history, they warned Jones to not go to Montezuma.
Todd Jones chuckles when he recalls the well-intended advice, choosing instead to trust in God's direction, provision and timing. And whatever struggles Montezuma has had in the past, Jones and the members of Community Hope Assembly of God are not experiencing the same.
"When we moved here in 2005, a year after the church's birth, it already had a really good foundation - they had some tremendous people," Jones says. "And in the past 8 years, we've already have had three building projects."
|Every Sunday morning, 250 people attend church in Community Hope's new facilities.|
Jones says that the church is heavily invested in the community, with a focus on building a bridge into and assisting the local school.
"We have a food pantry that serves 400 people from all over the county each month," Jones says. "We also partner with the school, opening the church and providing kids breakfast and a program each month when the school has its late start day."
Jones says that with the help of Rural Compassion, they hold a back-to-school lock-in as well as distribute backpacks with school supplies to students each fall. The church also does its best to honor teachers, reaching out to them and providing gift certificates to each teacher on Teacher Appreciation Day.
"In a small town, you get to know everybody," Jones explains. "For us, it's just building relationships with people - community leaders, teachers, families - and people come to trust you and know they can call on you when they need help."
The result of Community Hope's efforts has led to 12 teachers - including the high school principal - who now attend the church as well as 50 of the approximately 80 junior high-aged school children who attend the church's Wednesday evening youth group service.
Jones says that the growth of the church has been phenomenal. Its first building was an old drywall store. Then they added on, purchasing the concrete store next door. And two years ago, the church built a new 15,000-square-foot facility, which happens to share a property line with the school.
"We have 250 who attend on Sunday mornings," Jones says, "and we were able to build the new facility debt-free!"
Whether it's delivering cookies to local businesses, holding special kids events, having summer family movie and popcorn nights, creating a bridge to the school and teachers or whatever the need, Jones says that the church's DNA is all about being a blessing to people outside their doors.
"We're big into missions," Jones says matter-of-factly. "It's a priority for our church - globally and locally."
Even the name of the church - Community Hope - intentionally reflects the church's focus, Jones says. And with the community focus, the church has grown in size and influence in the community. However, Jones is quick to deflect credit, explaining that God has blessed their efforts, with many of the ideas for reaching the community coming from church members who see a need along with his staff, including Youth Pastor Tyler Sanchez, Children's Pastor Ross Keegan, and his wife Jennifer.
|Children are an important part of Community Hope's ministry focus.|
Jones says his staff hasn't always been so large, but God continues to bless the church. He explains that until last year, Jennifer had been leading the ministry to children. But with five children, ages 13 years old to 7 months, Jones explains his wife is happy for the blessing of a full-time children's pastor and just assisting in children's ministries.
Whether it's the pastoral staff, Jones' family or a member of the church, Jones says the focus is all about being involved and demonstrating God's love to their community. "People get plugged in and mature in their faith as they allow God to work through them," Jones says. "And as we celebrate what God is doing, it creates momentum for others to get involved in some way."
Jones says that a quote from Christian author Andy Stanley inspires him to keep Community Hope looking outwardly.
"Stanley asks, 'If your church closed it doors, would the people outside of your church miss your church?'" Jones restates. "That thought is something that has always stuck with me and continues to be in my heart."
For more information about Community Hope AG, see its website. To read the full two-part story of Morris Plotts' experiences in Iowa as documented in the AG Heritage magazine, click here (part 1) and here (part 2).
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