Centerville church provides Thanksgiving meal to needy

November 21, 2012 

CENTERVILLE -- Three weeks ago, Mike Vinson got the idea of putting on a Thanksgiving banquet.

Vinson works at Robins Air Force Base but serves as youth pastor at First Christian Church of Centerville on Collins Avenue. He knew he had only a little time, but he and fellow church members accomplished it Saturday.

“This came from studying the New Testament,” Vinson said. “I was looking at everything Jesus said with an attitude of, ‘Why don’t we just do it?’ I want to take Jesus at his word. In the Gospel of Luke he said if you give a banquet, don’t invite those who can repay; invite those who can’t. That’s what we wanted to do.”

Vinson said members invited a variety of people, including residents from area shelters, transitional programs and other programs. He said he went door-to-door through many Centerville neighborhoods inviting people.

“There are so many less that came than we invited,” he said. “I guess that’s like with Jesus as well. He invites people, but some won’t take advantage. The main focus is we want to express God’s love to people, not necessarily grow our church. Hopefully, the word will get out, and other churches will join in. I hope we can do this every year or maybe more often and see it grow. I know a lot of great churches are doing similar things. We just want to do our part.”

First Christian’s efforts didn’t just include the Thanksgiving menu with trimmings. Gifts were also given Saturday, and for many that included free shoes provided at a discount to the church from Shoe Carnival. On Thursday, women from Grace Village, a homeless shelter in Perry, and other ministries were treated to hair and nail makeovers at Middle Georgia Technical College.

Latoya Wright, of Grace Village, is on the verge of completing the ministry’s three-month program.

“The cosmetologists were really good at the school and did a great job,” she said. “They were excited about what they’re doing and really seemed to enjoy working with us. It was a real blessing.”

Tonya Alexander, a leader at Grace Village, had nothing but good things to say about what the church and Vinson did.

“That Mike, I call him a walking Bible,” she said. “He’s not just hearing and talking about what the Bible says, but he’s a doer. He’s reaching out to the down-and-out and outcasts.”

Florence Smith, who is new to Grace Village’s program, had one word for both Grace Village and the church: life-giving.

Willie Crosby, pastor at First Christian, said it works both ways.

“Mike had the idea with the economy being as tough on people as it is,” Crosby said. “I think the real blessing has been to our members. Being a small church of about 50 or so, it’s really something for us to see what can be done when we put our efforts together. It’s really been a kind of revival for us.”

Vinson couldn’t agree more.

“I’m tired,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it. Even though our guests come in and get dinner and gifts, I think the greatest blessing has been on our end. One of the ladies whose door we went to and invited wasn’t able to cook because her stove was broken. We got to deliver a new stove to her Saturday morning. It’s been pretty awesome getting to do this.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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