In January 2020, pastor Ryan P. Nissley and the congregation of Grace Church Michigan held a 21-day prayer and fasting event. As some participants prayed, they felt God telling them, This is your year of double.
Grace Church paid back its initial Church Multiplication Network Matching Funds in record time. Leaders looked forward to purchasing or constructing a facility to accommodate more ministry opportunities. The church has been meeting at Flat Rock Community Center. But two months later, as COVID-19 limitations hit Michigan, it didn’t feel much like a year of double.
“The community center where our church meets was shut down,” says Nissley, 41. “Livestreaming from a basement was not the word I felt God had given. But I continued to encourage our church from those basement services that this was our year of double. We cannot live by what we see, but just hold onto the promise of God.”
Flat Rock offered little land for sale, and properties available had an exorbitant price. What Nissley describes as “a dream spot,” less than a mile from the community center, featured two parcels of land. One, slightly over 20 acres and already under consideration by another buyer, had a valuation of more than $1 million. The church had a $450,000 budget, from which leaders hoped to purchase the other tract of 10 acres. But as the congregation continued to pray, God provided a miracle, even during pandemic limitations: the 20-acre parcel became available and the church bought the property within its budget — the “double” God had promised.
Also during the pandemic, the Flat Rock police and fire departments asked Nissley and two other area pastors to become chaplains. This open door has created new ministry opportunities in the city of 10,000. Grace Church recently provided lunch for police and fire department personnel, and the church has started a birthday recognition program for all the city’s first responders, with gift bags and gift cards for an area restaurant.
“Police Chief Glen Hoffman and I saw our workforces getting much younger, and with the normal stress of a first responder added to the COVID pandemic, the idea of chaplains just clicked,” says Flat Rock Fire Chief James Katona. Marathon Oil Company provided a grant for training and uniforms, and the chaplains are now included in the paging system for emergencies, as well as providing spiritual advice, particularly following traumatic calls.
“Ryan has bonded well with our firefighters,” says Katona. “He comes in and talks, jokes, and really checks on the mental health of our guys.” Both department chiefs look forward to Grace Church having its own facility and continuing to work together for the community in the future. The church, now meeting in person again, has added adherents.
“I remind myself continually that as a pastor, faithfulness is my job,” Nissley says. “And fruitfulness is God’s job.”