2002: The Original Vision, Creation and Early Days of Mission Central

God moment 1:    (Psalm 23:3)

God had a hand in the creation of Mission Central.  Bishop Irons had a vision of a warehouse used for missions.  He presented his ideas to the 2001 Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference.  The Conference attendee’s honored his ideas and assigned a 32-member task force representing the United Methodist Church to construct a plan for: a warehouse, to search for land to build, to set a timeline for construction, and to submit an estimated price for the entire package.  They met every Wednesday evening to pray for guidance for the mission warehouse project.  Once a month they would meet to perfect the plans for Mission Central.  There was an architect on the task force; he drew a plan for the warehouse.  The taskforce estimated costs, the size of the warehouse, estimated the amount of floor space they would need, and the amount of time involved to build the warehouse.  They even had land selected near the conference office building.  The projected size would be 24.5 thousand square feet.  The cost was estimated at 3.5 million dollars.  The time frame for completion was 2004, and the task force wanted to have one million dollars in hand before they started the project.  The warehouse was to be used for “Mission Outreach, Disaster Response, and Mission Education.”

God had another plan…

A few weeks before the 2002 Central Pennsylvania annual conference Bishop Irons had to take a detour to get to his office.  The bridge was blocked, so he had to take an alternate route to his office.  The Conference Building is located on Mulberry Drive in Mechanicsburg.  He had to take Pleasant View Drive to get to his office.   On the way to his office, Bishop Irons passed a warehouse for lease.  He phoned the Realtor; the warehouse’s former tenant was a printing company.  He asked the Realtor if his task force could look at the building and proceeded to tell the Realtor of the plans for Mission Central.  The Realtor permitted the task force to tour the building.


When the taskforce toured Mission Central they entered the building through the glass door at the parking area.  They entered into the kitchen/snack area and they were amazed!  The kitchen /snack area was the same size they had on their plan!   The task force proceeded to the warehouse area and was amazed again; there was a workroom exactly the size of the workroom on their plan, the warehouse had the same number of overhead doors they had on their plan, including the door with a ramp for pick-up trucks and vans.  The taskforce liked the entrance area where the offices were located.  A representative of the taskforce talked to the owners, he asked if they would consider selling the warehouse.  The owners discussed selling the warehouse and agreed to sell because they liked the idea of a warehouse for missions.  The selling price was 2.5 million dollars exactly one million less than the projected plan.  The warehouse was 48000 square feet.  Almost double the size of the warehouse on the original plan.  It would be ready for use immediately!

But God didn’t stop there…

The owners were Christian men; they wanted to tithe ten percent of the purchase price.  The tithe, $245,000, would bring the purchase price to two million.  Another company owned the shelving in the warehouse and they donated the shelving.  The shelving was worth fifty thousand dollars!  The Global Board of Ministries gave $200,000 toward the project, enough to obtain a mortgage!

The Taskforce presented the two ideas at the 2002 Annual Conference.  At Annual Conference all agreed to move ahead with purchasing the warehouse on Pleasant View Drive instead of going ahead with constructing a building.  Purchasing the warehouse saved them $1,550,000.  They were also years ahead of schedule.

Mission Central opened its doors in June 28, 2002 with a lot of prayers and anticipation.  We started with a few ideas and God has led the way for us.

God has continually been sharing “moments of grace,” since we first opened the doors of Mission Central.

 

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Following God’s Path:
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:6

Mission Central

Since the inception of Mission Central, God has been guiding our path.  From the very beginning when the warehouse was just a divine inspiration, we have been led.  The miracles he provides are very humbling.

Our doors opened June 28th 2002–two years earlier than anticipated—without an action plan and with no details worked out.  We wanted Mission Central to represent mission outreach, mission education, and disaster response.  From the beginning God was leading us.  As usual His plan was more than we had envisioned.

We didn’t plan to be ecumenical.  We didn’t contact any ministries before we opened Mission Central.  We had communicated with UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) one time before we opened our doors to tell them about our warehouse.  At that time we hadn’t built a working relationship with them, so they were cautious in dealing with our warehouse.  We have earned their trust and have a very good working relationship by sending them excellent UMCOR kits.

Our in-house ministries found us through word of mouth.  Bethesda Ministry was one of the first ministries to contact us in July of 2002. In October they moved their non-perishable food ministry to Mission Central.  We were open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  When Bethesda started working with Mission Central they wanted the warehouse to be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  By joining us at the warehouse, they enabled Mission Central to have its doors open five days a week in five months.  By November, we were open on Saturday too!

We found out–by following God’s path–we needed to throw away the list of things we thought we were going to accomplish.  His vision is so much greater than ours.  We were not going to accept clothing for ministry.  God didn’t think that was a good plan.  The first year we were in operation, the Girl Scouts contacted us.  They had conducted a clothing drive to collect clothing to donate to children in Russia.  They collected 120 boxes of clothing, and then came to the realization; they couldn’t afford to ship the materials!  The Girl Scouts contacted Mission Central to see if we would take the clothing.  A few weeks after we received the clothing we received a call requesting the clothing to be sent to Belarus, an orphanage in Russia.  The clothing was sent where the Girl Scouts had in their hearts to send it!  God had fulfilled the Girl Scouts mission, and answered the needs of the children of the orphanage.  The clothing is one example of how God uses people and obstacles to broaden our vision and our perception of the path to follow at Mission Central.

Our volunteers have been a blessing to us; they are a variety of people.  Church groups, school groups, people required to do community service hours, alumni associations, individuals, people with mental and physical challenges, all sharing their love of God by being his hands and feet through acts of service.

The first five years took our original vision and broadened our view.  God’s path is ever-changing. Through challenges to our thinking, we have been given strength to think “outside the box,” when God gives us a new lesson to learn.  We have learned stewardship and fellowship are an integral part of our ministry.  Another aspect of our ministry is the networking that happens within the warehouse and with the local outreach ministries we help to serve.  We went through a tremendous growing period and circumstances changed and God challenged us to embrace the change and have faith in Him.  Patience is not earned, it is learned.  When we keep God in the center of our Path, He will lead us.

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Bethesda Mission
God Moment 22: Bethesda Mission is the first mission that requested warehouse space in the Mission Central building.  Two months after Mission Central opened; Bethesda Mission contacted us and requested warehouse space.  Bethesda wanted to operate Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.  These days were the days opposite the days Mission Central was operating.  By renting space to Bethesda Mission, we were able to have a fully operational warehouse five days a week.  Bethesda also had a forklift, and at that time Mission Central didn’t have a forklift!  Bethesda is the only Mission that rents space at Mission Central. Currently, they use 10,000 square feet of the warehouse.  Mission Central rents to Bethesda “below market price” for warehouse utilization.  Bethesda was the first Mission where we started to work together on tasks and materials for many missions.  Today, we work with all that contact us where possible!  Two months after we opened we became ecumenical.  We are very fortunate to see God’s people working together.  God has a plan!

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Mural

God Moment 23:      (Luke 22:17)           Mission Central sponsored a mural contest for the youth of the United Methodist Church when we initially opened our doors.  The youth were asked to design a mural representing missions.  They had to incorporate into the design: Mission Outreach, Mission Education, and Disaster Response.  All of the groups who submitted a design were welcomed to paint their mural in the warehouse.  One youth group used a goat in their design, and as you can imagine, the design was beautiful.  We asked them to change the goat to a V.I.M. symbol.  The youth group changed their design as we requested, and each person who worked on the mural signed it at the top.  If you look carefully at the signatures, you will see a little goat saying, “baa!”  The mural is in our Kitchen/Snack Room.  The same youth group designed a second mural, and that mural is in the workroom.  If you look carefully in the lower left corner, you will see the same little goat saying “baa!”

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Clothing
God Moment 27:     (Acts 2:7)

When we started Mission Central, we said we wouldn’t collect or receive clothing.  But as in all things, God doesn’t think as we do.  A Girl Scout troop collected clothing to send to Russia.  They sorted, boxed, and inventoried all the good clothing they received.  Then they learned of the expense to send the clothing to Russia.  They called Harry, and asked if Mission Central could use the clothing.   Under the circumstances, Harry agreed and the Scouts delivered the clothing to Mission Central.              The inventory sheet for the clothing was lost.  Volunteers at Mission Central re-inventoried the clothing.  Mission Central received a call two days after the clothing was finished being inventoried.  Belarus, Russia requested 150 boxes of clothing.  The clothing was going to an orphanage.  How amazing can this initiative be ?  The clothing was shipped to where the Girl Scouts originally wanted the clothing to go!  All things are possible with God.