Columbus congregation gives car to teen
Epworth UMC youth minister Adam McNeil, Audrey, and Epworth UMC pastor Rev. Crosby stand in front of Audrey's new 2013 Ford Focus
By Kara Witherow, Editor
Epworth United Methodist Church in Columbus is a small church making a big impact.
When church members learned that the transmission in 16-year-old Audrey’s* 2002 Jeep Liberty had blown and her family couldn’t afford to have it fixed they jumped in and offered to pay for the repairs. When it was determined that the repairs would cost more than the vehicle was worth, $2,500 was given toward the purchase of a new car.
Audrey, now 17 and a standout rising senior at Columbus High School, has a job at Burger King and needs a car to get back and forth to school, work, and church. She was also the only family member able to drive, and provided transportation for errands, to doctor’s appointments, and everything else.
Word of her need quickly spread through the congregation and more money poured in. Checks for $50, $100, $350 and more arrived on Rev. Tony Crosby’s desk, and he was amazed at the outpouring of support and love.
“It wasn’t just four or five people who did this,” he said. “This was a lot of people that together made this happen.”
Enough was raised to buy a decent used car, and a few folks volunteered to begin the search. After exhaustive online searching and a trip to Atlanta they decided that a few thousand dollars more were needed to get the kind of car they wanted Audrey to have. Several more donors gave generously, and when all the money was counted it totaled $9,550.
On Wednesday, June 14, Audrey, Rev. Crosby, and youth minister Adam McNeil visited Rivertown Toyota Used Car and handed Audrey the keys to a sporty, red, 2013 Ford Focus with 30,000 miles. The reliable and new-to-her car will help Audrey safely get back and forth to school and, in the near future, college.
“Epworth did something radical,” Rev. Crosby said of the congregation raising nearly $10,000. “Epworth UMC is an awesome, generous church.”
The congregation came to know and love Audrey and her family when they met and welcomed them more than a year ago. First-time guests just a few weeks before Easter 2016, they were warmly embraced and quickly included in the life of the church.
The parents became involved in a Sunday school class and Audrey is active in the youth group. The church has loved and supported the family, especially the children, through an incredibly rough season in their lives, Rev. Crosby said. He preached a recent sermon on Romans 5 and used this story and the congregation’s response as an illustration.
“God has proven his love for us,” he said. “The world needs to see that we are what we say we are. This is how Epworth UMC shows how God loves.”
Rev. Chuck Salter is ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, a member of the Florida Conference, and president of MissionInsite. He and his wife, Terresa, a member of Epworth UMC, were touched by Audrey’s extraordinary achievements amid her challenging life situation and wanted to help support her in her parents’ absence.
“God has blessed us to be able to be a blessing … and this was a humbling and significant opportunity to share in concrete ways what we say we believe about the love of God present in the church,” he said. “In over 30 years of ministry as a UMC pastor I have never experienced the kind of love, generosity, and grace that Epworth church has demonstrated. This was Christ in action, transforming the world one person and family at a time. Amazing.”
With her father incarcerated in April and her mother imprisoned in June, Audrey and her older brother now live with an uncle. The car gives her independence and the opportunity to focus on her future, which includes attending the University of Georgia and becoming a veterinarian.
“It’s such a blessing to have a new car and to have a church that’s so caring and loving,” Audrey said. “I’ve never heard of a church doing anything like this.”
*Audrey's last name has been omitted for anonymity