On Thursday morning, June 13, a small team of nine CATC Covenant Members departed DFW Airport on a plane to the Mecca of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our church partner, Flourishing Grace Church, sits in a city called Bountiful, just outside of Salt Lake. The agenda for this trip was not the usual, see-a-need, fill-a-need style mission trip. There was no painting fences or hosting Vacation Bible Schools. Their goal was to establish relationships, to meet with and encourage our partners in ministry, and to simply pray.
Living in the southern “Bible Belt,” our own members don’t have much interaction with the LDS church. Traveling from a community where there is a protestant church on every corner and only a handful of LDS churches, to a community that is literally the opposite can be a complete culture shock, like traveling to a foreign land. Josh Gardner, who was recently sent from our church staff to start a student ministry at Flourishing Grace, describes Bountiful as a place where “there is more movement in the gospel than ever before, in a community that is in desperate need of disciple-making disciples.”
They broke bread together, and fostered a friendship that evening with someone who thinks totally different from themselves.
One night, our team shared a meal in the home of Josh Knight, the Lead Pastor of Flourishing Grace. Their special dinner guest was the bishop of the LDS ward located in the same neighborhood as Flourishing Grace Church. Pastor Knight has established a strong friendship with this bishop over the course of several years. Over dinner, the bishop explained to our team more about what the LDS church believes. He shared personal stories about himself and his family. Our team listened, learned, and loved. They broke bread together, and fostered a friendship that evening with someone who thinks totally different from themselves. They set their differences aside and heard this man's heart.
This is everyday ministry for our partners in Utah.
This is everyday ministry for our partners in Utah. In Bountiful, the Christian stands out by wearing a cross necklace or even sipping on a hot cup of coffee. This is a place where the evangelical Christian is in the vast minority. Living a life of Christian faith means being marginalized and often alone. It was the Church Father Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Our team prayed.
At Church at the Cross, one of our mantras is that prayer precedes power. We will prayerfully seek the Spirit’s presence and power as we live in missionary communities formed by the gospel. Our partners in Bountiful understand the power of prayer in Utah. They literally have it written on the walls of their worship gatherings. Pastor Knight is currently running a prayer initiative where his congregants write a person’s name on the wall whom they have committed to pray for every day until that person is saved by God’s grace.
A city like Bountiful, Utah, where Christians are few, may seem intimidating for a follower of Jesus. However, our team returned with new vision and determination. Some are prayerfully considering joining the Gardners’ in packing up their families and moving to Utah. Where does this courage come from? The soul mission of helping people and places encounter Jesus - the true Jesus Christ, the son of God who gives us all the power we need to accomplish his mission.
To check out how God is using Flourishing Grace Church everyday, click the button below.
Images submitted by Anna Sercey, Christina Barthlemew, & Geoffrey Bertram.