When Pastor Glenn Coblentz received the challenge from God, he had to admit it seemed a bit overwhelming.
But the senior pastor of North Clinton Church in Wauseon felt compelled to share the challenge with his congregation: Donations of 500 coats and 500 pairs of shoes to share with the less fortunate in the community. And a collection of $10,000 separate from the church budget to spread far and wide among various ministries. All on Christmas Day.
As stunned as Pastor Coblentz was by the prospect, he was equally flabbergasted by the congregants’ response. “They didn’t bat an eye,” he said.
The result is a giveaway of heaps of coats, shoes, and boots collected by the church’s members and members of the community who caught wind of the challenge. The items will be distributed at the church, 831 W. Linfoot St., to those in need on Thursday, Jan. 5, from 5-8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 6, from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 7, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The cash donations, which surpassed the goal and now total over $13,000, will be distributed to ministries North Clinton Church is connected to across the county, state, country, and world. “We can’t be everywhere throughout the world, so we want to connect with people who make a difference,” Pastor Coblentz said.
“I was floored by the challenge to start with,” he added. “Our people responded in a powerful way. I’ve just been blown away at how people have responded to the challenge we received from God.”
The actual number of coats and footwear received, some new, some used, hasn’t been determined, and as of last week more were arriving. Members of the church’s outreach ministry volunteered to sort through the donations and prepare them for the three-day distribution. Any items remaining after the distribution will be offered to other help organizations.
“Our people are passionate about making a difference in our community,” Pastor Coblentz said. “We want to be God’s hands and feet in our community, to spread the message of God’s grace and God’s love.”
Church Administrator Audrey Rupp will be among the volunteers sorting the donated items. She said once word of the challenge got out the response was bountiful.
“It’s gone beyond our congregation,” she said. “People within the community called or showed up with coats in hand. I’m just overwhelmed with the generosity of people. (They) care and want to help, they just need a way to do that. It’s a tremendous outpouring of caring and sharing.”
To say she was surprised by the challenge is an understatement, Rupp admitted.
“I think my jaw dropped. I was surprised, yet challenged and encouraged,” she said. “Why wouldn’t we share with our neighbors in need? This is what God called us to.”
She doesn’t know if the challenge will become an annual holiday event, but “if this fills a need, I’m sure this is something we’d consider.”
Pastor Coblentz said the church wanted to challenge its followers to live out their faith.
“The goal is to help people that have needs. We want to make a difference,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.