Local Church Decreasing Crime
In the city of Columbia, there are many churches of all denominations trying to spread their religion and values. Grace Church of Columbia, located on 2710 Harrison Road in the Forest Acres area of Columbia, is an evangelical church centered in the Pinehurst community which is between Forest Drive and Two Notch Road. Grace came into existence following a split from Kilbourne Park Baptist Church in 2005. The church is led by Pastor Jonathan (Jon) Weigel as well as the pastor of discipleship John Cromer. The church has been working with the Pinehurst Community, especially the Four Seasons Apartment Complex, to try to get involved and make a true difference in the community. The Pinehurst community has been a poor area where crime has been abundant. Sydney Allsbrook, a member of the church since its founding had this to say about the situation: “We’ve been working with the Pinehurst community for probably 3 or 4 years now. The whole thing started by simply picking local kids up for a free Wednesday night dinner and church service and grew from there. It was Pastor Jon’s vision to see our church reflect the people in our community. It took some getting used to for a lot of members, with some members deciding to leave. The involvement in the community and people we were different than was something that was difficult to get used to. It has certainly opened my eyes to how we are all people and everyone has a desire to be loved.”
The church has seen a massive growth in attendance since its start of only 30 people. Now the church has on average 100 people each Sunday, with sometimes more. When I spoke to pastor Jon Weigel about the differences his church has made in the community he had this to say “We are a diverse body of people who are committed to loving God, loving people and living authentic lives” a line that can be found on the church’s website. “What started with a simple pickup for dinner has grown. Now the parents of these children are getting involved and coming. We try to help them with counseling and life decisions, let them know that people care about them,” says Weigel. The church has certainly done so. With statistics from Raidsonline, the crime rate in the community has dropped while the church has flourished. With only 5 recorded break ins and burglaries since the start of this year the church has managed to make an impact in a once crime flooded community. With over 80 recorded crimes in 2011 the church has slowly created a different environment for the people. “The people of this church remember moving here. It was a scary transition leaving behind the safety of our old family at Kilbourne for Pinehurst but, we felt it was what God wanted us to do. God certainly has provided for us here,” said John Cromer. Cromer himself is the drummer of the praise band at the church.
The church’s newest helping project however is even larger, that being becoming sister churches with Ban Sila Baptist Church in Prachin Buri, Thailand in 2012. While staying two weeks over Christmas last year on a mission trip, the church decided to make plans for “at least one trip a year, over the next several years to Thailand” as stated by the website. Also, the church will begin a partnership with the Oliver Gospel Mission in the near future.
While Grace Church may not be the biggest church in the city of Columbia, they appear to certainly be making a big difference and accomplishing their goal.
Grace Church can be found on Harrison Road in Columbia, between the major roads of Two Notch and Forest. The church’s website can be found at www.gracechurchcolumbia.org with biographies of the pastors as well as the list of sermons taught every Sunday. Regular service hours can also be found on the site with Sunday school from 9 to 10:15 and Fellowship from 10:30 to 12. Contact the church at firstname.lastname@example.org