By Ron Yost
Cumberland Community Church started out as a dream. I was wrapping up the planting of another church in Farmington, N.M., in 2002 and getting ready to turn it over to a mission pastor.
My wife, Terri, and I contacted the BCM/D in early 2002, were assessed as meeting the requirements to come to Maryland and were invited to start a new church in Western Maryland in the late summer of 2002.
I originally devoted my time to repairing a broken church plant in Hagerstown, but eventually helped everyone recognize that it was not fixable and stayed until it was buried. I began to focus on planting in Cumberland in March of 2003. By the end of March. we had a Bible study started with another family in their home.
In June of 2003, we had grown from four adults and five kids to a group of about 30 people meeting at the chapel of Grace Church in Cumberland. We were joined in June by the 12 folks left at Bedford Road Church, who closed their ministry and agreed to let the building stay vacant until we could remodel and reopen. During the interim, we met at a bingo parlor of the Bedford Road Volunteer Fire Department. We reopened the church building under the name Cumberland Community Church on Nov. 15 and 16, 2003, with 189 in attendance and seven baptisms.
In the past five years, the ministry has continued to grow, reaching predominantly unchurched folks. On our fifth anniversary, Nov. 16, 2008, we had 300 in attendance and baptized seven college students from Frostburg State University (FSU), where we had started a new ministry to students.
There had been a longstanding Baptist Student Ministry at FSU that we heard was going to cease to exist. Because of my evangelistic tendencies and the fact that our church is always looking for new ministry opportunities, we contacted our local director of missions, Kenny Heath, in November of 2007 and informed him that we as a church would be interested in taking over the ministry since it was losing its funding and would probably cease to exist.
It was determined that we would begin to lead a new ministry in the spring semester of 2008. Limited funding from the BCM/D was available since there was no paid staff. Our church began to pray that God would open the doors necessary to reach the young people there at Frostburg State.
We started with two students our first night in January of 2008. By the end of the semester in May, we had 40 plus students participating. They were reached by word of mouth from the students whose lives were being changed at this new group we called G.I.G. (Generation Investigating God). We provided a safe place where students who are open to spiritual things could come whether or not they were Christians. Each week we provide a meal before our worship and study time. That’s because we have learned that the way to a student’s heart is through their stomach.
The local students asked if we could keep the group going through the summer, and they invited their friends who had gone elsewhere to college and were home for summer break. We averaged 18 through the summer of 2008. We went bowling, camping and did other activities together as we waited for the fall semester to begin.
On our first meeting in the fall, we had 30 plus students (seven had graduated in May), and by the end of the semester we had 70 regular participants. Seven students made decisions for Christ in the fall and we baptized them on Cumberland Community Church’s (CCC) fifth anniversary as mentioned above. We baptized a total of 10 students in November of 2008, and a total of 12 for all the ministries of the church.
I have always said that I would preach for free if that’s what God had in mind for me. I have never regretted the fact that I receive no extra compensation for this ministry that takes one third of my week because it helps lost students escape the prospect of a hopeless and Christless eternity. We have six adults from CCC who help every week (with no monetary compensation, but with the reward of seeing lives changed right before their very eyes). Without their help and that of those in our church who provide food, prayer and support, this ministry would be what it was when we took over – on the way to oblivion.
We saw an opportunity to take Christ’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness to a people group that has been given up on by most churches.
They have no large amounts of money to give in our church offering. They work and take classes, so they don’t have lots of free time to serve or give a return in the investment we are making there. They’re only local for part of the year, and eventually move somewhere else.
However, we see this ministry as having the potential to be the largest missionary sending organization in the BCM/D. These students will leave Frostburg and go back home, to new jobs in new locations and will eventually raise families. If we can continue to reach them for Christ and journey with them toward spiritual maturity, then God can use them wherever they go.
We went on our first mission trip as a group over spring break this year. From March 13-21 we were in the Bronx, N.Y., working in a soup kitchen, helping in an after school program at a local elementary and doing other servant evangelism outreach. We want these students to know that the salvation, grace, love and mercy they have received through the sacrifice of Christ is not just for their benefit. It is to be shared with others who might miss out on the ultimate blessing of God and an eternity with Him.
We have a group page on Facebook (BSM/GIG) and I can be found there also. It’s amazing that late teen and 20-somethings are drawn to a student ministry led by a 45-year-old “redneck mountain man” as some of these kids call me. Some also look to me as a surrogate dad who really cares about what is going on in their lives, and for that I am truly honored.