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Pettis and his wife, Brenda, have served as lead pastors for the past 20 years at the 500-strong Evangel Church in Marianna, Florida. Convoy of Hope in April had a semi-truckload of fresh pineapples and called Pettis to see if he could arrange distribution of the tropical fruit.
“We ended up being given the opportunity to receive three semis for a total of over 30,000 fresh pineapples,” says Pettis, who is a sectional presbyter for the Assemblies of God West Florida District. “We never say no to an opportunity to minister.”
Pettis credits Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries Kim and Laurel Harvey, who serve with Missionary Church Planters & Developers and are assigned to Rural Compassion, for instilling a mindset: “ministry is all around you; you just have to partner with the stakeholders in your community.”
In some cultures, the pineapple is seen as a sign of welcoming, hospitality, and friendship, “so that became the force behind the outreach,” explains Pettis, 57.
Besides Evangel, six other West Florida District AG congregations in the rural area took part in the unique giveaway.
“Our AG churches did not shy away from an ordinary product to do extraordinary ministry,” says Pettis, who also serves as a chaplain for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol.
Steven Subel, pastor of Welcome Assembly in Dellwood, accepted a pallet of pineapples. He transported the fruit once it had been loaded into a small trailer that weighed down its tires.
“All I could think was Man, what have I gotten myself into? That is a lot of pineapples,“ he recalls. “We parked the trailer under a fig tree at church and within six hours all of the pineapples were gone. Church members came and told their friends to come.”
Subel soon discovered that pineapples open doors for the gospel message in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We brought pineapples to people and told them Jesus loved them, “ Subel says. “We began to build and even rebuild relationships.” Welcome Assembly distributed eight pallets of pineapples in 10 days.
“We saw smiles on faces of people who were discouraged,” Subel says. “Some were moved to tears, and some happy to see something new and different happening.”
Pettis also became a fan of pineapple evangelism.
“We find all throughout Scripture that ministry can be done during difficult seasons,” Pettis says. “Instead of COVID-19 becoming a problem, we decided to make it an opportunity.”
Evangel Church had “Prayer and Pineapple” at its campus, with the opportunity for volunteers to pray face-to-face with recipients during distribution.
The church also hosted “Pineapple and Prayer” at Jackson Hospital, giving away the fruit to every employee. In addition, Evangel Church set up a “comfort station” on its campus for medical professionals to receive products such as sanitizing wipes, bleach spray — and pineapples.