By Stan Friedman
IRVINE, CA (June 22, 2012) – One million dollars.
That was the amount written on the check that Ray Johnston, pastor of Bayside Church of Granite Bay, handed to President Gary Walter this morning to support Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision.
The presentation came at the end of Walter’s report to delegates during the 127th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church and was met with a prolonged standing applause.
Johnston said Bayside is thrilled to participate in the Covenant Kids Congo project. “I have never in my life – our staff, our church – have never been more proud and more humbled to be part of a denomination,” he declared.
Covenant Kids Congo is the historic undertaking by the Covenant, World Vision U.S., World Vision Congo, and the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) to direct millions of dollars in Gemena, Democratic Republic of Congo. The funding will enable a holistic ministry that will include initiatives focused on water, health and hygiene, food and agriculture, education and literacy, and economic development.
Walter described the project as “an unprecedented partnership for an unprecedented need.” Other organizations around the world are watching to learn from the partnership.
The gift comes as part of Bayside’s Compassion First capital campaign in which it is giving $2 million of the first funds it raises to other ministries. Today’s donation was the first the church has given from the fund.
Johnston had brought Walter together with World Vision leadership after Walter had returned from a trip to Congo. The president told Johnston he had been overwhelmed by the suffering and hope he had seen in what is considered the world’s poorest nation, but he wasn’t sure how to respond.
Johnston told delegates that child sponsorship has been an important ministry in his church for the past six years. Bayside became involved after Johnston read in the book of Acts how the early disciples sold all their possessions and gave to others as there was need. He said the verse struck him as never before.
The pastor believed that neither he nor the people in his church had lived that example. He decided child sponsorship would be the best way to make the change, and the church responded with a fervor that has spilled over into other areas of ministry.
Six years ago, the church was known in the community for its building and attractive campus, but now is known for its heart of compassion, he said. Johnston noted, for example, that a teenage girl in the congregation is not buying a car during her teenage years because she is sponsoring 14 children instead.
Lincoln Brewster, Bayside’s worship leader, joined Johnston on stage. He told the gathering that having a heart for Jesus and a heart of compassion are inseparable.
Tears of compassion had been shed on the stage even prior to the presentation. Walter had choked up and was momentarily unable to speak as he shared about what he experienced in Congo.
Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission, also struggled as he told delegates about his grandson who died days after being born with a terminal illness at UCLA Medical Center earlier this year, despite having the best available care. It was the kind of care the people in Congo could not even dream about, he said.
Following the presentation, Reesheda Washington, project leader and associate director of Mission Mobilization and Connection for Covenant Kids Congo, reminded the attendees that all churches can play a vital role in changing the lives of the Congolese regardless of the congregation’s size. She noted that God most often chooses to work through the least to bring about the greatest changes.
Beginning October 1, Covenant congregations across the United States and Canada will participate in Hope Sunday. It will give all individuals and families the opportunity to sponsor one or more Congo children.