I moved to Mattawan in March of 2009 with a focus on planting a church in this community. My wife and I were joined by a handful of couples who had a passion and desire to see the Kingdom of Jesus Christ growing, and we were sold on the idea of church—planting as a vital component of that expansion of the Mission of Jesus.
We had already done our homework. We knew Mattawan on paper. We had studied the demographics. We had prayed for the community with nameless and faceless requests for grace, joy, peace, and faith.
I remember the first time I went to a Mattawan football game and realized just how few people I knew in this community. Linda and I even had a discussion about this afterward. We came to that football game as strangers who knew very little of this community.
What I once prayed for in a faceless and general way, now has overcome my heart with a real burden for real people. I once prayed without knowledge. I now pray with an informed love. I pray for people by name. I pray for the community with understanding. And when I go to football games I now know so many people that have been so welcoming.
So here are 5 things that I love about this community that God has seen fit to call me to serve.
1. The Mattawan Consolidated Schools
Over the years, it has become obvious that the schools are the heartbeat of this community. Many move here simply because they want their kids to receive a great education. The program is academically rigorous, and the teachers have exceeded expectations despite the facilities that they have been strapped with over the years. There have been so many opportunities to serve this community through the schools. From serving on the Later Elementary Parent Association, to working concessions for the band boosters, to supporting the annual walk-a-thon, the schools have been an open door of service to the community. And it goes without saying that we have been blessed as a church with the permission to rent the later elementary cafeteria for the past four years. The superintendents have been a pleasure to work with.
2. The Mattawan Area Pantry
I was invited to be on the founding committee for the Mattawan Area Pantry that provides a shopping experience for those in Mattawan who are going through a tough time. I am so grateful for a community effort to help those in need, and the pantry has been an excellent opportunity for people at ReCAST to get involved in the community. Over the years I have had various levels of responsibility with the Mattawan Area Pantry, and I am planning to jump back into board responsibilities there in the new year.
3. The Java Joint
Coffee. People. People and Coffee. I used to come and hang out at the Java Joint BEFORE we even moved to Mattawan! This place has moved and changed ownership over the past 8 years, but even as I type this here at the Java Joint, I have stopped to speak to two people who walked in and wanted to talk. Having a nice atmosphere where I can run into people from the community is key to knowing what is going on and just being available. I love my office away from the office. And I am thankful for good coffee in this small town.
4. Small Town Feel Close to a City
I was born in a small town. And I was raised in a small town. A small town means that I get to know my pharmacist. I know the guy who owns the coffee shop. I have been on a first name basis with the police chief, the superintendent, and the other local pastors.
But Mattawan is close enough to Kalamazoo to allow for routine enjoyment of the city. Kalamazoo is no Chicago (which isn’t that far either), but it has great restaurants, brewpubs, summer festivals, and an outdoor mall that is done up well over the holidays.
5. Mattawan is Growing in Faith . . .
Lastly, I have had an opportunity to see this community growing in faith. We have seen a numerical growth over the past eight years of ReCAST church that has been great. But just getting people to attend ReCAST has never been a particular focus. Seeing people grow closer to God in faith has always been the point. And I have had an opportunity to see many lives move one step closer to God over the course of my time as a pastor in this community.
I rejoice in this community. I love this community. I pray over this community. Mattawan has become a part of my calling. And I am so glad to have been called to love the people in this place. So I mentioned five things . . . And I didn’t even mention how close we are to Lake Michigan or Chinn Chinn Asian Bistro . . . Maybe I shouldn’t have limited myself to just five.
What would you add or what do you live about your community?