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Ferguson Experiences "Day of Hope"

Forty area churches and dozens of community and health agencies joined together to provide thousands of people in Ferguson, Missouri, with a Day of Hope on Saturday, July 25.

According to AG Pastor and Executive Presbyter Brian Schmidgall, there are two Fergusons in Missouri: the one the national media portrays; and the one the people of Ferguson know.

On Saturday, July 25, the people of Ferguson came together to enjoy a Day of Hope together. Forty area churches, 22 community agencies, and 12 health agencies joined together to bless and "love on" the people of Ferguson.

Nearly 3,300 attended the Ferguson Day of Hope held at Forestwood Park. Schmidgall, the event coordinator, says the day's statistics provide a glimpse of what he calls a "day that couldn't have gone better" and a day he prays will continue to be impacting as the anniversary of Michael Brown's death and the subsequent riots approaches.

Eight hundred volunteers worked together to distribute more than 30,000 pounds of groceries, give away 1,539 pairs of women's shoes, provide 150 haircuts, take 191 portraits, operate bounce houses and games, help 84 people write their resumes, pray with 2,616 souls, and lead 55 people to accept Christ as their personal Savior. In addition, guests were provided with a free lunch, smoothies, and nutritional kits.

Schmidgall says that the image of Ferguson being a place filled with racial hatred, thugs, and violence doesn't accurately reflect the city's true nature. He readily agrees that there are issues to be resolved, but says there is possibility, hope, and healing to be had and the Church is leading the way.

"Some of the people who were involved in the original protests were part of our team of volunteers," Schmidgall says. "And they were there, working with the Ferguson police who were there to keep the peace."

However, Schmidgall says there is a silver lining to the unrest that resulted following the shooting death of Brown. "Churches and organizations, that really never had any contact before, are now working together," Schmidgall says. "All kinds of people, all different races, neighbors helping neighbors -- all rallying for our community."

The variety of people attending and volunteering for the Day of Hope reflected the leadership for the event.

The Day of Hope Steering Committee was purposefully a multiethnic, multidenominational grouping, and included: Bishop Larry O. Jones, Greater Grace Church; Bishop Lee Scott, Lively Stone Church; Pastor Brian Schmidgall, Middletree Church (AG); Pastor Jack Hembree, Bethel Fellowship (AG); Pastor Jose Aguayo, Dorea Ministries; and Chana Wooden, Greater Grace Church.

"I was ecstatic how the day turned out," Schmidgall says. "There were no problems at all. Even the weather, predicted to be hot, turned out to be overcast with a cooling breeze. And I constantly had people expressing their appreciation."

And even after the event concluded, Jon Shirrell, administrative pastor at Faith Community Church (AG), sent an email out sharing how they had about 2,500 pounds of groceries left over, so they donated it to a local pantry. The donation filled the pantry's storage room. The "miracle" of the donation was the pantry was down to just one bag of food and had been praying for God to provide!

Schmidgall says that sometimes people not in difficult circumstances forget or don't even know what it is like to struggle to have food on the table or to pay their bills. An event like this helps make the reality of true need -- and the power of prayer -- evident.

Although the Day of Hope was filled with many highlights, Schmidgall says one incident helped define the day for him.

"There was a lady on her way out, and I just asked her how her day went," he recalls. "She responded 'Oh, it was great, it was super,' and I was like, 'Oh that's great to hear that,' and I prepared to move on."

The woman then surprised Schmidgall, emphasizing with her tone and look the genuineness of her response. "No," she said "this really makes a difference . . . and the spirit here . . . ."

"That's the moment I realized, man, this really does make a difference in people's lives; this wasn't just handouts or helping someone for the day," he says. "There are people out there praying, 'God are you there? Have you forgotten about me?' Things like this are a reminder that God has not abandoned people and that He's there, He's hearing those pleas, and He's using the Church to answer those pleas!"

Photos courtesy of Jon Shirrell, Faith Community Church (AG)


Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.