Maranatha SDA Church located at 4210 Virginia Loop Road, Montgomery, Alabama, offers a variety of opportunities for ministry. The Mobile Food Pantry frequently serves food delivered by a tractor trailer to 151 households with a team of 25-32 volunteers at least quarterly. During the government shutdown, Ann Williams, Community Services Director, was contacted by Montgomery Feeding America about an extra unscheduled distribution date, January 28, to assist those in need. The Free Clothes Closet opens biweekly on Sundays.
In February, Maranatha hosted Paula and Curtis Eakins’ South Central Conference Healthy Heart Conference. Over 100 people (mostly non-Adventists) attended the PREA Training on March 23 for prison ministry. Most had never stepped foot inside of an Adventist church. Children’s Ministries directed by Jacqueline Foster provides Christ-centered, exciting programs and service opportunities for the children. The Blue Ridge Nursing Home Ministry led by Elder Felix Moorer, Bro. Wayne Moore, Sis. Gloria Jean Nettles, and Sister Dot Peten faithfully ministers to seniors the first Sabbath of every month. Sister Sheryl Mims always has interesting and relevant Health Ministries in progress throughout the year. These are just some of the ministry opportunities offered by Maranatha SDA Church.
When God’s people are involved in service, the devil is definitely not pleased. Maranatha’s 2nd Annual Back-to-School Health & Family Fair was cancelled as key pieces did not seem to be coming together. The Holy Spirit would not allow First Lady Annette McMillan to sleep at night. She woke up her husband, Pastor Clifton McMillan, sharing things that had been impressed upon her–names and ideas that would work on a shoestring budget. As they prayed about it, key team members were contacted. It was agreed that God wanted Maranatha to move forward in Jesus’ name.
WSFA TV station contacted Pastor McMillan about a live interview to air on Friday, August 9. Pastor McMillan and his wife, Annette, were scheduled to arrive by 10:45 am. Remember the Battle is Real! Elder Charles Shuford called Pastor McMillan a few hours prior to the interview to inform him that Maranatha had been vandalized and robbed. Even the devil had to confess “God is with you” because someone spray painted those words on the front door. Unfortunately, some vulgar words were also painted on the ground and the church bus. Members began to gather and a police officer arrived.
Noah’s Ark is the name of the children’s classroom. A large wagon overflowing with backpacks, more school supplies, and the children’s money jars were all stolen. They [the vandals] ate and drank the snacks as well as dumped food and drinks all over the room. Food was removed from refrigerators and freezers left to spoil and/or melt. The kitchen was spray painted as well. They broke into the treasurer’s office, clerk’s office, and the pastor’s study. Hallelujah, at least 30 members rallied together and cleaned the mess.
Please refer to the WSFA TV interview with Pastor Clifton & Annette McMillan. https://www.wsfa.com/video/2019/08/09/sickle-cell-foundation-river-region-nd-annual-health-fair/. Anchor Tonya Terry was amazed that the McMillans and Maranatha were praying for those involved. Pastor McMillan had been contacted by WSFA TV for the interview when they learned that the Sickle Cell Foundation was one of the participants. The McMillans met a lady who was helping with the aftermath of the tornado in Lee County. When she heard the testimony, she took out her checkbook and wrote a $50 check to help replace some school supplies. Bethany SDA Church, the sister church in Montgomery, donated $250 to help. God uses people and circumstances for his glory. The next day, Sabbath, August 10, 2019, Elder Dana Edmond, Director of Office for Regional Conference Ministry, preached “God of the Graveyard Shift” and presented a workshop entitled “Look How Far You’ve Brought Us”. He and his wife, Former First Lady Jill, were amazed at the church’s appearance just a few hours following vandalism.
On Sunday, August 11, the Back-to-School Health & Family Fair was held. Participation was wonderful. All 130 packages of school supplies were distributed. Sickle Cell Foundation offered testing and Life South received blood donations. Deshon Delbridge and fellow barber, Jason, from Freshcuts provided free haircuts using actual barber chairs. Alabama Genomic Health Initiative, Communities of Transformation, Council on Substance Abuse – NCABB, Recovery Organization of Support Specialists, Salvation Army, Kids Eat Right, Franks Foundation, Maranatha Ministries Health Screenings (blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight) participated. Jasmine McMillan, University of Alabama preschool/childcare consultant, offered tips. Annette McMillan shared academic tips with students and parents. Montgomery Fire & Rescue Engine 13 C Shift was on hand with their equipment and literature. Participants enjoyed food and drinks. Deacon Anthony Franks organized a fresh market where people were able to shop for free. The free Clothes Closet remained open.
Pastor McMillan informed the congregation that all ministries would continue. Prayer Warriors continued to intercede. The next two sermons were entitled “Ministering in Adversity” and “Not in my House” (dealing with domestic violence). On the very next day, August 25, Sunday, Maranatha’s sanctuary was trashed. WSFA arrived and filmed the destruction. They entitled this story “Montgomery church vandalized second time in 2 weeks”. The link for photographs and the story is https://www.wsfa.com/2019/08/25/montgomery-church-vandalized-second-time-weeks/ Pictures tell a story.
Pastor McMillan often advises Maranatha that “the devil’s not pleased when you sincerely follow God. He won’t give you a get out of hell party and celebrate your choice. He will fight you. Expect it.” Maranatha witnessed it. Members began to realize that their ministry was more effective than previously realized because of how angry Satan was. Yes, tears were shed and agonizing sobs at the sight of destruction, but then the saints began to rejoice. Monica Smith and Tiffany recorded detailed videos for the insurance company. The detective on night duty responded to an audible alarm and forced entry to discover three teenagers still inside. Sound equipment was torn from wires and thrown from upstairs down into the sanctuary. The pulpit and communion table were knocked over and broken. The organ was tampered with and drums were broken. Flag poles from Adventurers, Pathfinders, and the American flag were damaged and used to break ceiling lights and tiles.
We still wonder how people can be so enraged. “Hurt People really do Hurt People”. The teens had escaped from a group home. Yes, we’re still praying for them. Some members want to reach out and minister to them. The damage was so unbelievable that it remains difficult to assign a dollar amount to the destruction. Yes, the Battle is Real! However, Maranatha will continue to move forward in Jesus’ name. Jesus is coming soon and these attacks simply remind us of how high the stakes are.
God’s people rallied together although this time the sanctuary was devastated so that Sabbath Services were held in the Prayer Room and the Fellowship Hall on August 31. The saints even surprised their pastor with lunch and a birthday cake. On September 7, children honored the seniors with “Serving Our Seniors” and a Senior Jamboree on Sunday as scheduled. Bethany’s Senior Choir blessed our souls on Senior Appreciation Day.
Men’s Ministries weekend was held the next weekend, September 13-15. Elders Emmanuel Chester, Reuben Griffin, Tim Allston, and Robert Mann, Jr. shared powerful testimonies and workshops from Friday Vespers through Sunday’s Prayer Breakfast. Prayer Emphasis Weekend was September 27-28 led by Elder Clementine Collins, Light My Path Ministries. The Mobile Food Pantry served over 151 households on September 30.
Yes, the Battle is Real!! But God’s power never fails.
By Annette D. McMillan