Community Pulls Together to Reward Minister in Tangible Fashion
(AgapePress) - A Georgia pastor and his family received the surprise of their lives last week when they returned from vacation to find that the community had renovated their house. And the coordinator of the bigger-than-anticipated makeover testifies that the effort not only strengthened her faith in God, but also demonstrated to her how God works through caring people.
As a young man, wrestler Nate Carr brought home two Big Eight titles and three NCAA titles while at Iowa State University, then capped off a noteworthy athletic career by winning the bronze medal for his country in freestyle wrestling in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Now, however, Pastor Nate Carr wrestles not against "flesh and blood," but against the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness.
Carr shares that when he gave his life to the Lord, God told him He wanted him to be a "champion for Him -- and then to produce champions." He testifies that "just as hard as I went for the [Olympic] medal and winning championships, that's how hard I go out to win people for Christ -- to impact them for all of eternity." And continuing the wrestling analogy, he says he can attest to the fact that "the spiritual wrestling is a lot tougher than the physical wrestling."
The beneficiaries of Carr's efforts in the spiritual realm include the citizens of Gray, Georgia. To demonstrate their love and appreciation for his ministry, more than 300 people in that community recently spent two weeks and the equivalent of $100,000 to make over Carr's house while he and his family were on vacation. The renovations included a new roof, new appliances, and $30,000 worth of new furniture -- not to mention a car donated by a local businessman to be used in Carr's ministry work.
While the pastor suspected something was being done to floors in the house while they were away, Carr says he had no idea beyond that. Suspense was added to the homecoming when he and his family were met at the end of the street by friends and then led blindfolded into the house. He admits that when the blindfold was removed, he was "brain-dead pretty much" in his reaction to seeing cameras and a crowd in the house.
"It was just overwhelming. I actually wanted to disappear and hide [because of the crowd] ... and for sure, more than the floor was done," he says, laughing. "It was just unbelievable." A further tour of the house revealed that many other members of Carr's family were present, including his parents -- who he had just left in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Chris Smarr, who coordinated much of the effort, is giving all the glory to God. "I had a small dream," says Smarr, "but God knew what needed to be done, and He brought it to fruition." She explains that a prayer partner of Mrs. Carr initially suggested the idea. That friend, according to Smarr, shared that she really would like to do something to bless the Carr family "because they've been such a blessing to the community." But what needed to be done to the house was more than a one-person job.
"As she talked, I just really felt in my spirit that she needed some help with this project," says Smarr, who regularly does mission work. But the Lord, she continues, made it clear to her, through prayer, that her "mission trip" this year was to be done in Gray instead of leaving the state or the country. As she began to share with others the idea of blessing the Carrs, people began to get excited, confirming for Smarr that "we can do this."
"We just started having meetings and planning what we wanted to do," she recalls, "and the more we met and the more we planned, the more people came and the more money we got pledged to it and the more workers we got, and we started lining up churches and civic organizations to come every day and feed us."
One thing led to another, she says, until it just "turned into a huge makeover." According to Smarr, donations from individuals, churches, and others grew the project from a $10,000 project into more than $100,000. "Only God could do something like that," she states. "Everybody just wanted to bless [Pastor Carr], so we had people coming out of the woodwork."
The inside of the Carrs' house was demolished in three days, leaving 13 days to accomplish the makeover before their return from vacation. Smarr shares that a contractor told her that under normal circumstances, he would have allowed three months to complete the work.
Carr shares that a year ago his daughter, after watching a television show, had asked if they could apply for a home makeover. But Carr's wife, Linda, said that other families were more in need and that they should trust God for a makeover. And Carr says while his family did not pray specifically for a makeover on their home, God still honored their desires. "It was just totally amazing," he says. "God can do exceedingly, abundantly above all that you ask or think."
According to the pastor, the makeover "spoke volumes of how awesome God is" to his seven children. Carr says his two older children were "just totally blown away" and cried after seeing all the work that had been done on their house. He is using the renovation to teach his children to trust in God.
"My children will grow up knowing that God is real, God answers prayer -- and [that] He can do some amazing things," says the pastor.
Carr and his family were not only ones to be blessed by the makeover. Smarr says the effort broke down boundaries in the community, involving members of different denominations, as well as blacks, whites, and Hispanics.
Smarr says she benefited from the project in a way that probably otherwise would not have happened. "I was allowed to bond and form a relationship with some awesome people that I would not know if it wasn't for this," she says. "I can't tell you how many people came up to me after this was over and hugged me and thanked me for the opportunity to serve God."
She continues, saying: "I've always had a huge amount of faith in what God can do -- but this project restored my faith in what mankind can do. It just really blessed me."
The number and diversity of those who participated in the makeover also had an impact on Pastor Carr. "To me that's God just ministering to the hearts of people, just using them as instruments to be a blessing to others," he observes, "and we just happened to be, on this occasion, on the receiving end."
And more than a home makeover occurred, he says. "At the same time, [God] mended and brought people together," the pastor comments.
Smarr shares that the volunteers were so blessed by the work, they plan to take on similar projects in the future. And while she says "God has not told them" what the next project will be, she knows this: "It's going to be somebody who needs us; it's going to be somebody that God wants to bless; and it's going to be somebody whose life will be changes because of what we put into it."
It is likely Pastor Carr would agree. "I think God has used this as a catalyst to impact more people and to show the people in the community that God is alive, that Jesus is alive, and that He's moving in the hearts of people," he says. "It just shows how awesome God is, how much Jesus loves us, [and] that He answers prayers."
© 2006 AgapePress all rights reserved