November 8, 2013
The fellowship building of University City United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C. was abuzz with conversation as volunteers hurriedly—yet enthusiastically—replenished desserts and coffee.
Across the room, others set up the extra chairs and tables needed to accommodate the overflow crowd.
Nearly 200 people, including 25 “Matthews,” gathered to watch the My Hope program, “The Cross.” Each “Matthew” hosted a table, where they shared their faith stories and answered questions from the guests.
“When My Hope was first brought to our attention, I thought it might be something we should do,” Pastor Ron Smith told the crowd before the program began. “Now, as I look out into your faces, I know this is what we are supposed to do.”
As it turns out, many of those faces were of people who were responding to a ministry call, each in their own unique way.
Near the front of the room, 15-year-old Drake sat with his grandmother, Loretta.
Loretta has trouble seeing to drive at night. She asked Drake, who has a learner’s permit, to drive her to the My Hope program viewing. Although he was not enthusiastic to be there, he sat with his grandmother and watched the program.
When the program ended, his table host began to share her story about coming to faith in Christ. The walls around Drake’s heart began to crumble.
“Even though I have known God since I was younger, I prayed to renew my relationship with Christ,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears. “I have been taking Him for granted. I don’t want to live that way anymore. I want to be a light.”
Two tables over, Mark Cook shared the story of God’s intervention in his life through his future wife Raina.
Just a few years ago, he hatched a plan to commit suicide.
But God had other plans—plans that would later include Mark coming to Christ at the Billy Graham Library.
“I just broke down. I felt completely vulnerable and gave myself to Christ,” Mark recalled. “Everything Billy Graham was saying, everything I was seeing and reading seemed directed toward me.”
Since Billy Graham was a key in his conversion, he wants to be able to share Billy Graham’s new message with others so that they can experience new life.
Meanwhile, near the back of the room, Andy and Joy Dillon hosted a table as they prepare for a home viewing with some atheist friends—a married couple recently on the brink of divorce.
When their marriage was miraculously pieced back together, they decided to give God a try. They will be watching the program with the Dillons on Friday night.
Incidentally, the husband’s name is Matthew.
“I see a continuation of this journey for them,” Andy said, with a lump in his throat. “And down the road, I picture my friend Matthew standing there for someone else along the way.”
Tammy Cline, evangelism director for the church, says that My Hope could not have come at a better time for this congregation.
“We’ve spent a lot of time this year helping our members put their faith story into words. We want to be a church that truly reaches out,” she explained. “And this is perfect timing for us.”