From Near Death to Gospel Impact
In 2013, the leadership of Valleyview Alliance Church in Vestal, New York, began fervently praying for God to show them a way they could be used more effectively to do Kingdom ministry within their own community. Their desire was to begin a non-traditional ministry that would meet off-campus from the church and stretch their faith as a congregation. They were tired of being comfortable and complacent.
As Valleyview’s new vision for ministry emerged, the Alliance congregation in nearby Johnson City recognized that its ministry as a church was nearing an end. Its dwindling, elderly congregation could not afford to continue, and they were no longer having a Gospel impact on the diverse, underprivileged community around them. On April 1, 2014, the two congregations unanimously voted to merge, and the official launch of “The Bridge Community Center” (The Bridge) was planned for that summer.
According to Neighborhoodscount.com, the neighborhood surrounding The Bridge has a per capita income that is lower than 96 percent of U.S. neighborhoods, and 43 percent of the children live below the poverty line. Johnson City is safer than only one percent of the cities in the U.S. The county’s drug-overdose death rate is four times higher than the state and national average. And, as is often the case in this type of neighborhood, churches have fled to the suburbs, leaving The Bridge as virtually the only evangelical presence left to share the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Arnie Buehler says, “How could we, as God’s people, stand before Him, knowing that we left a community without access to the Gospel when we had the power and opportunity to bring the message of His hope to a dying people?”
The Valleyview congregation began regular prayer walks throughout Johnson City to seek God’s direction. The need that God made clear to them was to provide programming for the large population of children and youth living in the neighborhood surrounding The Bridge. Their first effort was to provide a free four-week summer camp, which was attended by 60 students. Many parents were overtaken with the generosity displayed by the church.
The church has since added weekly “Family Nights” in an effort to reach parents and guardians. They have also added an after-school program, supplying tutoring, a snack, and a safe place for kids after school hours. Because of the potential for outreach, Valleyview decided to move both the church’s youth group and children’s program to The Bridge, and in 2015, the attendance within these ministries exploded.
Over 200 kids have heard the Gospel, and at least 20 now attend Sunday services at Valleyview, with members of the congregation providing rides each week. The police department, community groups, other Northeastern District churches, and the school district have jumped on board to further impact this neighborhood.
A church desperate to be used by God and a dying church offering up its resources was the perfect combination for God to begin an amazing work!
Editor’s note: The Alliance Development Fund partnered with The Bridge to provide a new heating system for the building.