ALVATON, Ky. (KT) – When the coronavirus made its unwelcome visit back in March, it spared no one.
No church, no community, no person. Everybody was equally in its path when the world hunkered down. Jobs were lost, family businesses were destroyed, and lives were lost.
But when Pastor Ron Wells looks back on the nearly six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, while admitting many of those days were difficult, he counts it all joy. He does so with a smile because God showered blessings on little Bays Fork Baptist Church even during one of the worst times in history.
Not only have church members kept up financially with regular tithes but they also managed to pay off a building project. Wells saw churches come together, brother helping brother, developed an online following that wasn’t there previously and has even seen a couple of people come to know the Lord.
“It pulled our whole community together,” Wells said. “I feel like this is the greatest time in my life if we, as Christians, live our faith and will be seen and observed more than we ever have.”
Wells has experienced great times as a pastor of 41 years, but what he’s going through now at Bays Fork ranks among the best, he said.
Not long before the coronavirus hit, the church had a building project where they were trying to connect the educational wing and a fellowship wing. They had bid out the project to a construction company owned by a young man who was a grandson to the church organist, Wells said.
“We had half of what it was going to cost in hand,” Wells said. “We’d already built a pavilion/storage building. We have a giving church.”
When the coronavirus hit, the church made the decision to do a drive-in service on the parking lot. That was on a Wednesday. Two days later, a deacon called Wells and told him they weren’t going to be able to have the drive-in service on the parking lot because construction materials had been delivered and there wasn’t room.
And then God provided again, giving the church a place on the Hardcastle farm to have drive-in services.
It was perfect. The owner of the property had built an auction cattle barn and in front of it, just west of the building, was a 100-foot square paved area.
He had another friend of the church who volunteered to bring his new haywagon to serve as the platform. They used borrowed speakers for the first service but later teamed with a small church on an FM transmitter so everybody in the community could hear services.
“People could tune into the radio or watch it on Facebook Live,” he said. “We had church from in front of the barn and everybody loved it.”
The crowds grew and so did the offerings so much so that they were averaging about $200 more per week than they did when they were inside.
“The Sunday we got back inside the building we had more than enough to pay for the rest of the construction cost,” Wells said. “We had people giving above and beyond. We were very grateful that we got to worship and didn’t have to stop even for one Sunday. God provided a way and we reached a lot of people.”
When they get back inside the building, the church voted to purchase better cameras because their digital ministry had grown so much with about 300 additional hits per week, Wells said.
“When the church leaves the building,” the pastor said, “it gets stuff done.”
Wells said one man who he had tried to get to come to church for nine years never missed a drive-in service. The pastor said he was also empowered to share the gospel in the community at a far greater pace simply because of being where God was working. He was encouraged when a 33-year-old woman and a 48-year-old man with cancer came to know the Lord recently. The man was facing chemotherapy and surgery and it didn’t look good. But when doctors did the surgery, the tumor was miraculously gone.
“The Lord saved him and then healed him,” Wells said. “He goes back to work a week from Monday.”
Although Wells didn’t know it when he came, the church where God had called him in Alvaton would share some history with him. Wells said he grew up in Owensboro with an alcoholic and abusive father. His mother worked three jobs to keep food on the table for him and his younger brother. His mother told him about the Lord at the age of 5 and he was saved at 7. A couple took him and his brother to church because his mother was always working.
He said God was “calling me to something” even at that tender age of 7. It turned out to be a life in the ministry. After being at Bays Fork for three months, he greeted some visitors who were family members of the now deceased couple who had taken him and his brother to church so many years ago. It was a blessed reunion, he said.
Wells said the pandemic hasn’t been easy on anybody, including Bays Fork Baptist Church, but he has witnessed God’s light in the darkness and.has watched God’s provision day by day by day.
“I’m preaching Sunday out of the first chapter and first 12 verses in James,” he said. “Count it all joy.”