PONCA CITY—Donnie Hazlewood grew up in Ponca City. His early impression of Ponca City, Longwood: “It was the church that was a little outside of town I thought nobody went to.” Now he has a different perspective.
“God is doing something remarkable through Longwood Church in Ponca City,” said Hazlewood.
This is something that has been repeated over and over again by members of Ponca City, Longwood. Founded in 1896, the church is considered to be the oldest church in Kay County, but this body of believers is having an impact on its community today.
More than 30 people have joined the church since September 2012 (15 since October 2013). That might not sound like a large number, but for the people of the church, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
In September 2012, Longwood called Hazlewood as its pastor. God is using him and the people of this church to be a light in Ponca City. With the new members and those who are visiting each week, the church has more than doubled in size. The church has hired two part-time staff members, and has seen the youth ministry grow from an average of 3-4 students to nearly 20. They even had to knock out a wall between two Sunday School classrooms to make a youth room large enough to hold the students.
The church also has found creative ways to minister and take the Gospel to Ponca City. One of these ways was an answer to a problem.
“Last spring, we faced the fact that we didn’t have the number of children to justify having a Vacation Bible School (VBS) on the church campus. God provided a solution that has led to an amazing ministry to the community,” Hazlewood said.
The decision was made to have a “backyard Bible club” or “backyard VBS” in a neighborhood in the town. Almost 30 children attended the three-day event. Church leaders led the children in games, fed the children lunch and shared the Gospel through the willingness of its members to be used by God.
“This ministry was a resounding success, but no one could have imagined what would happen next,” the pastor said.
As the summer came to a close, the church decided to canvass the same area of town where the VBS took place. This time they had a back-to-school block party, where they served the community hot dogs, played games with the children, passed out school supplies and shared the Gospel.
“We sacked up 25 bags of school supplies, thinking that would be enough,” said deacon Butch Hiatt. “We had no idea God was going to answer our prayers to reach our city like He did.”
Before the evening was finished Longwood had almost 200 people in the neighborhood playing games, eating food, and hearing the Gospel preached.
“It was an amazing evening, but once again the church had a really good problem,” Hazlewood said. “We had prepared 25 bags of school supplies for children, but that need had swelled to more than 75.”
The next day at church, a special offering was taken to offset the cost of purchasing the remaining school supplies for 50 children. The money given was almost exactly the cost needed to purchase the remaining supplies.
“We had $2.18 left after buying the all the supplies,” Hazlewood marveled. “As we look forward to what God is going to do next, we can all safely say, ‘God really is doing something remarkable through Longwood Church.’”