Michigan church replant launches fruit basket ministry to ‘build bridge to community’

Children’s Missions Day (CMD), an annual missions emphasis promoted by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), has the potential to generate missions projects that reach far beyond a single day.

Such projects can be as practical as assembling and distributing fruit baskets to show appreciation to military veterans, firefighters, law enforcement officers and others in a local community. At least that’s the case for True North Community Church in Petoskey, Michigan.

The next generation

CMD, held this year on Feb. 15, is designed to prepare the next generation to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ — both today and in the future.

For Rick Bristol, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter at True North Community Church, participating in a partner church’s CMD project led him to launch an ongoing community outreach program through his own congregation. A WMU leader at Orchard Church invited Bristol to speak at Orchard’s CMD because he is a military veteran and their project focused on honoring vets for their military service.

In addition to speaking at the event where the children assembled fruit baskets for veterans, he was asked to find an appropriate location to distribute the baskets. Contacting his county’s Veterans Affairs office, he offered to deliver the gift baskets.

Bristol noted that the VA official’s immediate response was something like: “Absolutely, the vets need all the Jesus they can get!”

Based on the success of that experience, Bristol approached his True North congregation about continuing the fruit basket ministry on a weekly basis.

“I said, ‘Hey listen, church, this is something we did for the Orchard. … I think we could do it here. I think it’s something we could do fairly often. I want to try it once a week. Can we make seven baskets a week?’” he recalled asking. “So that’s what we did. We came together and it’s been a growing process and a learning process.”

Sharing fruit baskets is one of several ministry projects Bristol and his wife, Katie, have launched over the past couple of years.

Their primary ministry efforts are aimed at replanting True North Church after the previous congregation gradually declined to only six active members.

The Bristols and their growing congregation continually are looking for new avenues of ministry and spiritual impact. Bristol said one of his first goals as a replanter was “looking at turning our building inside out” to help meet community needs.

That’s where the church’s fruit basket ministry comes in. Besides taking baskets to the VA office to “recognize the sacrifices of the former military members,” Bristol said the church quickly expanded the community appreciation initiative to include law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Expressing appreciation

He contacted Fire Chief Al Welsheimer and explained that True North “just wanted to show our appreciation for your men and women who are willing to run into a burning building to save a life. Can we give you these baskets to show how much we love them and how much we’re praying for them?”

Expressing appreciation for the church’s initiative, Welsheimer said, “I think one of the important things is it really shows the kids at a young age the importance of sharing and giving back. It’s not all about getting things; it’s about giving back to your community. As we know, that’s what Jesus did. He gave back, He gave everything.”