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Charles “Sonny” Williams, Pastor
Teays Valley, West Virginia

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Pastor Sonny Williams and the Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene members wanted to share JESUS with the community. Free pizza, a 2-liter of soda, and a JESUS Film DVD were the way they chose to touch their community.

Putnam News
Church spreads ministry through pizza and movie giveaway

Oct 19, 2007 @ 12:48 AM
Putnam Herald

TEAYS VALLEY -- Workers driving home Monday, Oct. 15, in Teays Valley between 4 and 6 p.m. got a nice surprise as they made their way down Teays Valley Road. It was "Pizza and a Movie" night at the Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene, and the first 100 people to drive through the parking lot were rewarded with a medium pizza, a 2-liter soft drink and a DVD.

Would people actually get out of a line of slow-moving traffic for free food? They most certainly would and did. Droves of them.

The premise was a form of evangelism for church members. They wanted to hand out the JESUS Film, a DVD about the life of Christ based on the gospel of St. Luke, to motorists, but people needed something to motivate them to stop. There's nothing like free food to accomplish that purpose. The aim was to hand pizzas to the first 100 people who drove through. Forty-two pizzas were handed out within the first 22 minutes, and then Graziano's worked desperately to bake the pizzas and deliver them hot.

They succeeded mightily, although some people had to wait about 10 minutes until a new batch of pizzas arrived. Although a few didn't want to wait, they were still given the 2-liter bottle of soda and the packet with the movie that included a list of the ministries provided by the church. By 6 p.m., 101 pizzas had been distributed along with plenty of soft drinks and movies.

Pastors come up with a lot of attention grabbers to invite people to church. Where did this one come from?

"It was a God thing," said Pastor Charles "Sonny" Williams of the Teays Valley Church of the Nazarene.

A month earlier, church members had handed out hot dogs, canned sodas and a packet listing church ministries as a Sunday school effort to connect with the community. The food giveaway was very successful, so when Williams felt impressed to hand out the JESUS Film, he needed to once again get people's attention. The idea of giving 100 pizzas and a movie began to tug at his mind, but there was just one problem: There was no money in the budget for the event.

"God impressed on my heart that evangelism wasn't about money. It's about being obedient to spreading the gospel," Williams said. He began to make it a matter of prayer.

One day as he was in the foyer of the church talking to church member Terry Wells, Wells asked when the pastor was planning to do something like the hot dog giveaway again. He explained to Wells his plan for the movie and 100 pizzas.

"How much will that be?" Wells asked, and then gave him $500. When Williams told Philip at Graziano's Pizza that he needed 100 pizzas and he had $500, Philip agreed to supply the pizza. Williams then set up a day and time with Graziano's.

Next, he would have to find a way to buy the DVDs. The JESUS Film is produced by a group called Campus Crusade Ministries, which is based in Florida. Williams ordered it from JESUS Film Harvest Partners a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene. After nine calls to four different institutions, he found one in Orlando that would give him the DVDs for $5.50 each instead of the regular price of $12.95. Another church member, Susan Thompson, stepped in when she heard what he wanted to do and gave him $300.

"I knew for sure it was a God thing," he said. He still needed $270 plus shipping and handling. When he visited church member Charlie Webb in the hospital and told him of the plan, Webb gave him the $270 plus the shipping and handling money. All that was left were the soft drinks. He made an announcement in church and asked the congregation if they would help supply the beverages. He received 126 two-liter bottles of varying brands of soda pop.

That is not the end of the story. The DVDs were supposed to have arrived from Orlando at noon on Monday. The giveaway was scheduled at 4 p.m. The Internet listing said the movies had been loaded onto the truck at 8:45 a.m., but had not reached the church by 12 p.m. Williams waited 45 minutes, and then went to “Goin' Postal.” He found out later that the DVDs had gone to the wrong address. The church would receive them between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

"Once again, I made it a matter of prayer," Williams said. Someone he knew at Fed Ex called the gentleman who had the route. He was on a ridge in Mason County. He said Williams could meet him and pick up the movies, but Williams didn't think he could find the ridge.

"I told the Lord, 'I know you will get them here on time,' "Williams said. The DVDs arrived at 3:05 p.m., 55 minutes before they were to be handed out. It turned out the Fed Ex man was a fellow Nazarene. The effort to find the movies and get them to the church was well worth it, however.

"The response was phenomenal," Williams said. "It was not just about reaching sinners, it was about impacting the community with the gospel. There were people who shared their difficulties and their need for prayer. They were very grateful for the gift of the 2-liter and the pizza" he said.

Judging from the response, most people were very grateful. The only hitch was that making 100 pizzas and getting them to the church still hot was difficult, but Graziano's persevered, and recipients loved it. Two soccer coaches said they were quite grateful for the pizza because they wouldn't have to cook.

Michelle Stevens said this church had her favorite church signs and she was reading them as usual on Monday when she saw the free pizza giveaway. She was taking one home.

Mary Lou Oxley lives across the street from the church and when she saw what was being offered, she got her daughter, Kandy Jividen and granddaughter, Malia Jividen and came right over.

"Anything free -- I think it's wonderful," Oxley said.

Lauren French of Cross Lanes and Rhonda Young of Thomas Drive said they were very appreciative.

"I read about it Sunday. I've been in Princeton all day so this is wonderful. My kids will like it," Young said.

More than one family was on their way to get flu immunizations when they saw the signs. Was that a God thing?

"I was on my way to get a flu shot; my daughter saw the sign and called me," Criner said.

The pizza was a nice reward for having to get the unpleasant injection for some young brothers. Zach, Dean, and Dylan Orenstein were in the car with mom Nancy when they saw that they could get free pizza.

"We were on our way to get the flu shot and he (Zach) was hungry and he saw the sign," Orenstein said. Although one pizza wouldn't go very far, his mother said she would add it to what she had already planned.

"Wherever there is food, we'll go," she said.

Church member, Doris Holmes said it was a good form of outreach.

"We're trying to build the kingdom. We wanted to hand out the JESUS Film and present the gospel to the community. It's been successful. No matter how many you have to hand out. We had a hundred. We could have given out 300," she said.

Pastor Williams was very thankful to Graziano's and Philip, who was esponsible for making the pizza.

"I was so grateful to Philip who hand-made 100 pizzas over a two-hour period. They were hot -- they have awesome pizza," Williams said. He said he was also thankful for the help of the church people who so enthusiastically handed out the food and movies.

"I was overwhelmed by the spirit of it," he said.

Other people noticed, too. A Presbyterian minister from out of town who was next door at Chapman Funeral Home brought his family over for the dinner and movie. He thought his church might try the initiative.

Williams is glad he was obedient. "I was so pleased. I feel like God was in this from the beginning. The apostle Paul said, 'Some planted, some watered, but God gave the increase.'"

Copyright © 2007 The Herald-Dispatch Some Rights Reserved.


The Community Day-Pizza Giveaway was a very thoughtful event. I enjoyed the pizza and soda, but I must say I enjoyed the movie even more. It was truly an awesome gift. Thank you very much. I enjoyed it so well I shared it with my oldest daughter. I also am sharing it with one of my clients; I work as a caregiver for the disabled and elderly. The client I am sharing it with, is struggling with her faith. She is searching for answers about what she should believe. We have many discussions on our beliefs and our religious upbringing or lack there of.

I try to live by the Ten Commandments, everyday I struggle with the one about the Sabbath. I know I should set aside time for God as he set aside time during the creation. I know God knows all about this, too and in time I will come full circle and give God what he requires of me. I take care of the sick and needy, I have raised two children by myself since their father died. I also take courses online for a Bachelor's degree in Healthcare Management. I hope to build a care home so I can care for more people at a time and give them the kind of care they deserve. I joke about having my own "little village" one day. I picture 3 or 4 buildings where the elders can come to live and still have a quality life, with flower beds everywhere and a space for a vegetable garden for the ones who can tinker in the dirt and also have top qualified people to assist them.

I am sorry for going on so here, but I wanted you to understand that God gives me the strength everyday to pursue this goal. Without God, I would never set a goal so high as the "little village" on my own.