About a decade ago, a dying church in New Port Richey reinvented itself. It became a community mission that has now served more than 50,000 meals to the needy, proving that even tiny efforts can make for mighty ministries.
Community United Methodist Church closed its doors one day and opened the next as Joining Hands Mission Church. Pastor Mary Ashcraft, who is also pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, took the lead.
With only about ten people, the tiny mission swings open its doors to the community every Sunday morning. The homeless and single elders come in and order their breakfast from menus created each week. They can choose include pancakes, eggs, fruit, French toast, waffles, cheese grits and tater tots.
Mission member serve them at their tables. Others wander the hall chatting with those who come.
“We have people who come to breakfast, then go to their own church, or stay and attend our worship,” Jimmy Ashcraft said. He serves as transportation director but also does a little bit of everything.
Guests can also fill out prayer requests. There is no sermon, just socializing.
Pastor Mary makes several trips through the dining hall as the meals are served.
“They began as a church that was falling apart and going broke, closed their doors and re-opened as a mission,” Pastor Mary explained in a this youtube video
“Their mission was to make a difference in their community and that is what they continue to do. When we come here to worship on Sunday, we invite everybody, anybody. It doesn’t matter how they dress. They come for the breakfast, they stay or leave.”
The missionaries are acting out of love.
“What we do is something nobody else is doing,” she said.
The mission also serves as a cold-weather shelter for the homeless and those who do not have proper heat.
“We also have a program where we work with the Pasco County school system,” Jimmy Ashcraft said. “When kids move and the buses take a few days to catch up, we go pick them up and get them to school.”
The mission also has an active youth ministry, which draws about 20 kids on Wednesday nights for worship services and classes. On Sunday nights, there is a youth hangout.
The youth give the church plenty of feedback, especially about Youth Pastor Jason Korsiac, who Jimmy Ashcraft called a Godsend.
About a dozen people donate to the mission regularly, and the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church has helped, but Ashcraft said the mission soon must become self-sufficient.