Church works to ‘make this place a better place’

Glenwood UMC dedicates service to homeless shelter

By Beth Lawrence

* Video – a clip of the Christmas drama

ROCKINGHAM — Christine Cloud knows she made a series of poor choices. And those choices had consequences.

She lost her job. She lost the home in which she and her four children lived. Then a helping hand came along in the form of a friend, who directed Cloud to Place of Grace Rescue Mission. The homeless shelter on Airport Road in East Rockingham doesn’t have a long history, but it has a solid start on helping people get back on their feet.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

“He found favor on all of us,” Cloud said Tuesday night after the Community Christmas Service at Glenwood United Methodist Church in Rockingham.

“He,” of course, is God. And God took center stage during the hour-long program that told the parable of a man who had nothing left to lose, then found his faith.

Pastor Joel Perry, of Glenwood UMC, said each church’s charge should be to “make this place a better place.” Tuesday’s program, dedicated to Place of Grace Rescue Mission, aimed to do just that. Perry wouldn’t let much get in the way of the celebration — not the dismal weather, which included a cold, steady rainfall, and not the less than stellar turnout that was likely caused by the weather.

Perry, who thanked everyone for coming in spite of the dismal weather and joked that the sprinkling rain should remind Methodists in the audience of their baptisms — but told the Baptists that they might want to stand outside a little longer to re-live the baptismal experience.

Perry said that Place of Grace was “one of the most important ministries in the community” and that it is “important to remember folks.”

* * * 

The turnout of approximately 75 people included multi-generational and multi-racial as well as multi-denominational audience.

Kevin Spradlin |

Kevin Spradlin |

The hour-long service opened with “Birthday of the King” sung by Kim Sweatt, Karen Beniost, and Kristen Perry, and was followed by Donnie Hogan who gave a lovely rendition of “O’ Holy Night” in the vein of Southern Gospel which set the peaceful mood for the rest of the service.

The evening’s speaker was Pastor Gary Richardson, founder of Place of Grace Rescue Mission and pastor at New Life Church in East Rockingham. It was on church-owned property that Place of Grace opened in June as a tent ministry. Thanks to generous donations, officials, who later merged with the Richmond County Rescue Mission just before Thanksgiving, managed to lease a building a short distance down Airport Road. The goal is to buy the building.

Richardson spoke of the difficult situations that life sometimes presents to us which no one but God can help solve.

He stated “The world’s not going to see the power of God when he comes back. They need to see it now; they need to see it in us,” and tied that back in to what Place of Grace does for the community.

The Reverend told the story of a young man whom he had helped, talked to and prayed with who later called to say that he “might need a place to stay,” to which the pastor replied, “I may just have a bed for you.”

That bed, of course, was inside the Place of Grace Rescue Mission.

Richardson is not opposed to bringing his own life experiences to the pulpit. He did so again Tuesday, and like the man in the parable, Richardson was once at a point where there was nothing left to lose. In January 1999 in Ellerbe, Richardson visited a man named Rudy — a drug dealer. Rudy took all the money Richardson was willing to give.

“It nearly took my life,” Richardson said. “I was in a place where no man could help me.”

Enter God. By his grace, Richardson said, the Lord spoke to him. In tears, he pulled his car over. He promised to do better.

Following the sermon, Glenwood’s Youth group performed an on-stage interpretation of Matthew 2’s visitation of the Magi and King Herod’s command to kill all male babies set to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells.” The cast included Jerry Lynne Porter, Steve and Kathy Porter, Stevie Porter, O’cean Bennett, Abbie Blackmon, Kaili Sweatt, Allie Murray, Jordan Lambert, Ty Murray, Justin Mabe, Cameron Caraway, Cameron Mabe, Crystal Cottle, Keaton Sweatt and Emma Forbis.

Staff writer Kevin Spradlin contributed to this report.

Previous Place of Grace coverage on

* Dec. 3: A man named James – becoming homeless saved my life
* Nov. 23: Place of Grace, Rescue Mission merge
* Nov. 6: Place of Grace moves out of tents, into building
* Nov. 3: RCC students donate to Place of Grace
* Oct. 7: Grace period for tent city ministry
* Sept. 21: ‘It works, it works, it works’
* Sept. 5: Volunteers spur opening of tent city


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